NVIDIA has always had the strong arm when it comes to graphics performance and a sign of this dominance was them forcing companies to only enable SLI on their chipsets. For years if you wanted to run SLI, you had to run on an NVIDIA platform, but that seems to be coming to an end very soon. This year has been very tough for NVIDIA and this move shows just how tough it really has been.
At the end of last year, NVIDIA was named Forbes Company of the Year and was dominating the graphics card industry with video cards that no one else could touch on the performance front. When it came to stock market performance, shares of NVDA were trading at ~$36 and everyone was happy. Then came a series of issues that NVIDIA just couldn’t hide. The lack of competition from AMD/ATI made NVIDIA drop their guard and just a couple months ago NVIDIA lost the performance crown to AMD. NVIDIA was then faced with a $150 million to $200 million charge against cost of revenue to cover anticipated customer warranty on failing notebook graphics cards. To top all this off it is rumored (here and here) that many desktop cards face the same issues. All this in a time of a weakening desktop PC market has been tough on NVIDIA. How has this impacted the company as a whole? Well, the stock price today is just $13.14, which is over a 60% drop from the end of last year.
What can NVIDIA do to gain momentum and get back on track? NVIDIA decided to host a visual computing show called NVISION 08 since the graphics industry doesn’t have a show. At the end of this show the marketing team dropped a bomb shell that is sure to be the biggest news story from NVISION 08. It is well known that NVIDIA will not be producing a chipset for Bloomfield as they don’t have a license to do so from Intel. With Intel dominating the CPU market when it comes to performance this meant that NVIDIA SLI wouldn’t be able to run on the upcoming platforms and that AMD’s CrossFire technology would. This put NVIDIA in between a rock and a hard place, to put it nicely. NVIDIA came up with a solution though; they would allow the nForce 200 chip to be implemented by motherboard manufacturers for SLI support. NVIDIA did this on the Intel Skulltrail platform that we wrote about here. In order for this to work motherboard makers would have to use the nForce 200 chip, but that took space on the board, added heat and increased the price of the board. Many of the Intel X58 platforms that we have seen (Intel DX58SO and Gigabyte X58-DS4) haven’t been using this chipset and were not supporting SLI. This was bad news for NVIDIA and they had to do something about it before the boards were released to consumers.
NVIDIA has finally allowed for SLI to be supported on Intel chipsets, which confirms that it could have been all along if they would have allowed it. This is honestly the right move to make and NVIDIA got the announcement made before Intel releases the Intel X58 Express chipset and Bloomfield processors, which is huge.
NVIDIA is allowing Intel X58 Express chipsets to support SLI graphics right out of the box!
That is a huge announcement!
This means that there no need for an extra nForce 200 chip unless you want to run four x16 PCI Express slots! All this is made possible by a new SLI licensing program that is currently only available on Intel X58 Express chipsets. This makes sense as NVIDIA already has the nForce 790i SLI motherboards on the market to compete with the older Intel chipsets. This is great news for those that wanted to run SLI on Bloomfield chipsets! Let’s take a look to see how this is actually going to work.