NVIDIA GeForce FX5900 Ultra (NV35)
Knock, knock, knocking on ATI's door
They say that fortunes can change in the blink of an eye. While that's an exaggeration, the fortunes of any company in a fast-paced environment can change markedly in a very short space of time. The graphics card industry is a case in point. ATi have managed to steal a lengthy march on NVIDIA by releasing potent video cards at a) the right time b) with the requisite power c) with excellent driver support and d) with a number of partners.
Each of those criteria applied to NVIDIA just 18 months ago. The ill-timed NV30, with its huge potential castrated by a 128-bit memory interface, couldn't manage to stave off the challenge of ATI's now flagship 9800 Pro. The 9800 was born from the fruits of the card that put them back on track, the 9700 Pro.
Having the ultimate performance leader not only provides a company with a certain degree of kudos, it also provides a platform to launch cheaper, limited feature models. These are the cards that will make a company the majority of its earnings. The NV30 had enough technical excellence to do well, but the outrageous cooling solution, high manufacturing cost, and meagre bus width stunted performance and production. It's doomed to be a collectors' card, unfortunately.
There was a lot of good in the NV30, there's little doubt in that. But, in Yoda speak, a lot of good does not a good card make. NVIDIA have sought to extract the good from the NV30, add what should have been incorporated in the first instance, and sprinkle in a couple of technologies under new, flashy names.
Will the FX5900 Ultra, code-named NV35, bring back the performance crown to NVIDIA? What can it offer the consumer that ATI's flagship can't? Most importantly, is this a step in the right direction for the Californian giant? It's time to take the wraps off one of the most hush-hush releases in recent times. ATi, arguably, sit atop of the performance heap right now. The NV35 is here to put that right, or is it?