nVidia has announced a new version of its low-end GeForce 6200 graphics card, called the GeForce 6200 TurboCache. This new card low-cost card will sport only 16 or 32MB of memory but will be able to access system memory to create a virtual 128MB card. This will enable nVidia to bring its DirectX 9 features, including Shader Model 3, to absolute entry-level price points. Cards based on the GPU are set to compete with ATI’s Radeon X300, and X300SE parts and Intel’s integrated Extreme graphics.
Graphics chips that access system memory resurrects the AGP port's DIME, direct memory access technology. This was rarely used however, as accessing memory over the standard motherboard bus was slow, limiting performance. This isn’t a problem now however, as nVidia is making use of the bidirectional nature of the PCI Express bus, which has a bandwidth of 8GB/s. In combination with the local memory this will give the 16MB version of the card memory bandwidth of 10.6GB/s, while the 32MB version will have access to 13.6GB cache. The core and memory clocks are both 350MHz.
nVidia says that it has made architectural modifications to a variety of pipeline elements to handle the increased latency that occurs from accessing memory across the PCI Express bus. A TurboCache Manager (TCM) dynamically allocates memory depending on the demands of an application to optimise system performance, while intelligent software algorithms maximise application performance.
nVidia’s own figures show that the chip will outperform an ATI X300SE in 3DMark03 by 60 per cent at 1,024 x 768. The chips have the advantage of only requiring passive cooling and will also offer low power consumption, which could have a big impact for notebook graphics.
What we can't help but wonder however, is why anyone who cares enough about graphics would want to specify one of these boards in a new PC, as whatever the benefits over integrated graphics it still won’t be that fantastic for playing games. We worry that manufactures will use it to shift PCs by to unsuspecting buyers who may not be technical but might have heard of the GeForce brand and thus believe that they’re be getting a high performance machine. Indeed the Register has dubbed the new part the ‘TurboCash’. We think they may be on to something…