nVidia NV40, NV41, NV45 & Co. Informations
The decision to equip the NV40 with internal AGPx8 interface was probably made at an early developement stage - and this cannot be changed in a rush, at least not without a substantial time delay. Furthermore during the planing of the NV40 there couldn't be foreseen, when the age of PCI Express would begin. However we know now, that Intel will start it with the mainboard chipsets Alderwood and Grantsdale on 28th of March 2004.
Here nVidia surely doesn't want to stay behind and so they developed a PCI Express Bridge, which is soldered as an extra chip on the graphics board. This converts the AGPx8 signals of the graphics chip in PCI Express x16 signals - with which the graphics board can have a PCI Express x16 interface, even if the actual graphics chip is AGPx8. This chip is ready at nVidia and will be used for the current AGPx8 graphic cards to make them capable of PCI Express.
However the nVidia-graphics chips, which will be equipped with that PCI Express Bridge, get special code names, even though the graphics chips remain the same. The code name of the NV40 with the PCI Express Bridge will be NV41. This chip will be entirely identical to the NV40, with nVidia only adding an extra PCI Express Bridge chip to the graphics board manufacturers' delivery.
All succeeding chips of the NV4X-series will carry only internal PCI Express interfaces, including the NV45, which will be the refresh chip of the NV40/NV41 chips. With the delay of the NV40 the NV45 will come quite fast after it into the market, supposedly in the first half of the year. This will probably result in a similarity of events compared to the original GeForceFX series, where the NV35-chip (GeForceFX 5900 /Ultra/XT/SE) came also only a few months after the NV30 (GeForceFX 5800 /Ultra) into the market ;-).
Larger technical changes at the NV45 are not to be expected though. Technologically nVidia can hardly go beyond the feature-set of DirectX 9.0, since this would make little sense: New features could not be used for effective marketing without DirextX support and additionally they would also hardly be accepted by game developers. And since DirectX10 ist still at the far horizon, nVidia has to live with the features specified in DirectX 9.0 and for which the NV40 will probably already have complete support.
In addition nVidia will introduce new graphics chips from the NV4X-family for the mainstream and low-cost segment in the course of summer. Planed for the mainstream segment is the NV43 chip at the end of the second quarter, which will succeed the NV36 chip (GeForceFX 5700 /Ultra). This chip probably will still be based on the NV40/NV41. This indicates the market entrance of NV43 and NV45 at the same time - cause nVidia having a stripped-down variant at the time of the market entrance of the original chip is rather unlikely. But contrary to NV40/NV41 the NV43 will already be equipped with an internal PCI Express x16 interface, like all further nVidia graphics chips after NV40/N41 too.
The NV43 will primarily be a stripped-down NV40/NV41-chip. Wether nVidia realizes this by halving or quartering the original design, remains the big question: First would result in a really impressing mainstream chip, which could match the current high-end chips of nVidia with the right clock speeds. The second solution would be not really inspiring of course, because then one could almost only exceed the level of the current mainstream chip NV36 (GeForceFX 5700 /Ultra) with higher clock speeds.
Furthermore known is the NV42-chip, which is to come into the market in the third quarter and is apparently intended for the low-cost segment. This will probably still be based on the NV40/NV41, but is supposed to have an internal PCI Express interface yet. With the NV42 one can expect even more explicit savings than with the NV43, similar to the NV34 chip (GeForceFX 5200 /Ultra), which was clearly stripped-down compared to the NV31 chip (GeForceFX 5600 /Ultra/SE). The basic shader 3.0 capability however will probably not be omitted by nVidia, because with the NV42 one apparently wants to place the first chip in the low-cost market capable of shader 3.0, similar to the NV34 which is the only shader 2.0 capable chip in the low-cost segment up to now (and thus leads nVidia to a very high share in the total DirectX9 market based on quantities).
But since all of these mainstream- and lowcost-chips of the NV4x-family are not to be expected before midyear and nVidia naturally needs corresponding PCI Express graphics cards after the PCI Express launch on 28th of March, one will make some of the current graphics chips "PCI Express capable" with the mentioned PCI Express Bridge.
One assigns again new code names, although, like said before, the graphics chips are absolutely not changed by this action: Thus one will sell the NV36 chip (GeForceFX 5700 /Ultra) bundled with a PCI Express Bridge as NV39 (this variant was so far known as "NV36X"), while a NV34 chip (GeForceFX 5200 /Ultra) paired with a PCI Express Bridge results in a NV37 and a NV18-Chip (GeForce4 MX) paired with a PCI express Bridge in a NV19.
Thus the following supposed nVidia roadmap for the first part of the year 2004 results (the individual chips are arranged after their supposed presentation date and not after their market entrance):
Finally a few words to the NV5X graphics chips series, which will succeed the NV4X-family, based then on the NV50 chip: DirectX-Next ("DirectX 10") should originally come out at the same time as the Windows XP successor "Longhorn". Due to the indicating large delay of Longhorn to possibly the year 2006, DirectX Next could be available earlier. But the specifications of this new DirectX version are at least now not certain.
Thus the big question remains, how long the NV4X-Schiene must continue, before she is replaced from the NV5X chips, whereby the NV50 chip with large probability already is in development. We consider it practically safe that there will be some "NV48" for by-pass by then, which will be a clock-optimized NV45-variant in the 110nm process. First both large IHVs however will collect 110nm experience with smaller chips. With nVidia this could possibly take place with new mainstream and low-cost graphics chips, based then on the NV45, for the end of the year 2004.
We would like to thank our sources, without naming them. Besides it has to be annotated, that the informations specified in this article are not verified and that some parts result from our own interpretations. The previous lines reflect our present estimate of the situation, however this can change daily of course.
Update from 31st of January 2004:
We must confess that there are different interpretation possibilities for the nVidia NV41 chip. The "41" actually indicates the usual mainstream variant of the NV40, how also the NV31 (GeForceFX 5600 /Ultra/SE) was the mainstream variant of the NV30 (GeForceFX 5800 /Ultra) and the NV36 (GeForceFX 5700 /Ultra) the mainstream variant of the NV35 (GeForceFX 5900 /Ultra/SE/XT). By the way was the NV41 chip listed exactly in this position in an earlier nVidia roadmap. The only issue, which speaks against this fact, is an nVidia roadmap of this January, where the NV41 is highly transparently arranged at the performance peak and the subordinated "performance" segment is occupied just as clearly by the NV43. Which of both variants apply can not be said, so we have to wait for it - this article correlates with the new roadmap.