Will The New Pascal GPUs Extend Nvidia Corporation's Leadership?

  • Nvidia has launched Pascal-based GPUs that offer superior performance but at much lower price points.
  • The new cards appear to be a pre-emptive strike against AMD's upcoming Polaris cards.
  • Nvidia appears well-poised to extend its GPU leadership for a couple more years.

Just one month after the launch of its first Pascal-based graphics cards Tesla P100 which is targeted at HPC server accelerators, NVIDIA (NSDQ:NVDA) has now revealed high-end Pascal desktop GPUs, GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070, that will retail at $599 and $379 respectively. Those price points make the new cards slightly more expensive than the ''Founders Edition'' that Nvidia plans to launch a little down the line.

Nvidia says that the two GPUs will outperform the company's Titan X cards which were built on the older Maxwell architecture and retailed at $999. The company says the 1080 will be available on May 27 while the 1070 will be available on June 10. Both GPUs rely on Taiwan Semiconductor's (NYSE:TSM) 16nm manufacturing process compared to 28nm for older Maxwell chips. 1080 contains 7.2B transistors and will deliver 3 times the power efficiency of Titan X. Both 1080 and 1070 cards rely on GDDR5X and GDDR5 memory by Micron (NSDQ:MU) rather than Fiji's HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) which accompanies AMD's (NSDQ:AMD) most powerful cards. HBM is a relatively new technology and was in short supply in 2015 which led to a severe shortage for high-end Nvidia GPUs.

Meanwhile, Nvidia has said that it will use simultaneous multi-projection, a new technology that will help improve VR and multi-monitor gaming performance, in its new cards. Other features include spatial hand controller feedback for VR headsets and Ansel, a solution that allows users to capture screenshots on ongoing games from different scenes at resolutions of as high as 4.5 Gigapixels. Nvidia says Ansel will support VR-friendly 360° panoramic screenshots as well.

Nvidia's latest GPUs represent a serious step-up in specs and performance compared to the previous generation cards but at a much lower price making the two cards a real bargain. Also notable is the fact that Nvidia unveiled the two cards well ahead of AMD's launch of its next-gen Polaris GPUs expected to hit the market sometime in mid-2016. Polaris GPUs will use Samsung Electronics (OTC:SSNLF) and GlobalFoundries' 14nm manufacturing process and support HBM and GDDR5 which AMD promises will deliver big improvements in performance-per-watt. One notable difference between the two and one that might give Nvidia a decisive edge is that Polaris GPUs won't target high-end desktops but will instead target notebooks and mainstream desktops. AMD says that its Vega architecture, due for launch in 2017, will target high-end desktops.

Given the prevalence of PC gaming, one suspects that Nvidia has an excellent chance to gain an upper hand over AMD. Aggressive pricing of Nvidia's newest high-end GPUs, coupled with the fact that AMD won't have something to fully match them until 2017 will give Pascal a clear opportunity to gain proper traction in the market. We do not yet know the VR capabilities of the upcoming Polaris cards. Nvidia's previous-generation cards were already reputed to provide the best VR performance in the market as evidenced by Facebook's (NSDQ:FB) recommendation to pair up the Oculus Rift with high-end Nvidia GPUs. GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 feature VR capabilities well ahead of the older GTX series. It will be hard for AMD to top this.

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Source: PC World

Investor Takeaway

Nvidia's latest GPUs have raised the ante, and it will be an uphill task for AMD, the company's biggest GPU rival, to clear the bar. AMD promises to use 14nm manufacturing technology instead of Nvidia's 16nm so the die shrink might give AMD an edge. But right now it appears as if Nvidia is well-poised to extend its GPU leadership over AMD for maybe another year or two.

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