Nvidia’s Pascal Doesn’t Disappoint

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang introduces the GTX 1080

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang introduces the GTX 1080.

MAY 9, 2016 • Nvidia Corp.’s first GPUs based on its new Pascal architecture were unveiled on May 6 and the firm demonstrated performance specifications that exceeded its $1,000 top of the line TITAN X from last year. GTX 1080-based GPUs are slated to arrive at retail late this month, with the more affordable $379 GTX 1070s following two weeks later. A single GTX 1080 is more powerful than two GTX 980s working together in SLI mode, while the GTX 1070 is about 75% to 80% as fast as the GTX 1080. Pascal is the first of Nvidia’s consumer GPUs to utilize the16 nanometer FinFET manufacturing process. Previous chipsets have been manufactured at the 28nm process for the last four years. The more efficient architecture permits the GTX 1080 to push 9 TFLOPS (trillion floating-point operations per second) from 7.2 billion transistors compared to the TITAN X’s 7 TFLOPS from 8 billion transistors. The GTX 1080 comes with 8GB of GDDR5X memory, a superior version of GDDR5 memory. The GTX 1070 uses standard GDDR5 memory.

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Impact: These new Pascal GPUs are a huge value to PC gamers. The performance increase from jumping to 16nm is amazing. For a $50 premium over the GTX 980, the GTX 1080 delivers a punch that would have cost $500 more last month. Nividia has not disclosed full Pascal specifications, but the firm did demonstrate the GTX 1080 using the latest iteration of the FPS Doom by id Software running at full graphics detail never deviating from 60 frames per second. Doom is normally capped at 60fps. When the cap was turned off, the game ran at 200fps. AMD is soon to introduce its own 16nm Polaris architecture for its Radeon GPUs, which we expect will push similar numbers. It is a very good time to be a core PC gamer. Nvidia said it spent several billion dollars developing Pascal. This is not only a bet on traditional PC gamers, but also on bringing down the costs of virtual reality. In one fell swoop 16nm slices off $500 from high-end VR rigs. This does not negate DFC’s position that VR is a pricey proposition most attractive to a subset of the core segment. However, powerful new GPUs such as these are a major step in the right direction toward wider consumer adoption. Overall DFC is forecasting major growth in high-performance hardware targeted to a game audience and VR is only one portion of this growth. Nvidia is looking to be a leading driver of VR but it is really about PC gaming in general being driven by high-end performance at a significantly lower cost. Major performance jumps such as this make core computer gaming a more equalitarian opportunity, which can spur all kinds of other component and software sales. It cannot be emphasized how important moving to 16nm is for the game industry.