Gamers get dual graphics chips

Taiwanese graphics card makers are targeting gamers with dual chip graphics processing.

Taiwanese graphics card makers have taken the dual-processor philosophy to a new playing field, putting two graphics processing units in systems for extreme gaming in personal computers.

Giga-Byte Technology, one of Taiwan's big four motherboard and graphics card makers, has already started shipping the GV-3D1 graphics board, which holds two Nvidia Geforce 6600 GT graphics chips. The dual-GPU (graphical processing unit) card is about twice as big as a standard graphics card, and will only fit on motherboards used in midsize or large tower PCs, according to Hunter Lee, a product manager at Giga-Byte.

The company's newer card, the GV-3D1-68GT, carries Nvidia's Geforce 6800 GT graphics chips and will begin shipping this month, he said. It can drive up to four displays at one time.

Both cards use Nvidia's SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology for communication between the two processors. The older card must also be plugged into an SLI-ready motherboard with Nvidia's NForce4 PCI-Express chip set, while the newer 68GT model works in any PCI Express graphics-capable motherboard.

Both of the graphics cards were on display at Computex in systems with Athlon 64 processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).

Asustek Computer, the world's largest motherboard maker, has not yet started shipping its first foray into dual GPU graphics cards, but the company is starting at the top by offering a system with twin Nvidia Geforce 6800 Ultra chips.

The EN6800 Ultra graphics card will be available next month and cost around US$800 to US$900, according to Rick Yu, project manager for Asustek's multimedia business division.

Micro-Star International, another of Taiwan's big four motherboard makers, was showing off the NX6800 dual GPU graphics card, also using Nvidia chips, but said it developed the boards only for show.

"We're not going to make these. We only did this to show off our technology," said Ryan Hung, a senior engineer at Micro-Star.

To be sure, all the companies said they expected the dual GPU cards to sell almost exclusively to gamers, a relatively small crowd in the overall PC market. PC retailer Acer said it had no near term plans to market a dual GPU system.

But some specialty PC sellers were showing off dual GPU systems at Computex.

Shuttle scaled down the dual GPU idea to fit into its shoebox-sized PCs by keeping them on separate graphics cards. The company wired two cards together for its XPC SN26P computers, and used additional heat pipes instead of fans for the cards, ensuring quieter play.

The PCs use Nvidia Geforce 6800 GT chips with an NForce4 PCI-Express chip set on an AMD Athlon 64 processor.

The high end PCs will sell for around US$3,000 and will start shipping in July, according to Shuttle's James Lin.

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