How ATI double whammied Nvidia over GDDR3
NVIDIA'S mid-range GeForce FX 5700 Ultra (NV36) has had a bit of a rocky history. It was first introduced with GDDR2 video memory but as stocks of GDDR2 dwindled, it seems Nvidia was more or less forced to re-equip 5700 Ultra with the new, initially more expensive, GDDR3.
The background to this seems to be that Samsung had already been burnt somewhat over its GDDR2 business with Nvidia. This was because when Nvidia's first GDDR2 based product, GeForce FX 5800 Ultra (NV30), failed to be a commercial success, Samsung was stuck with the GDDR2 it had specifically created.
This was an opportunity that ATI rapidly capitalised upon, and it subsequently bought a significant amount of GDDR2 from Samsung for its 256MB Radeon 9800 PRO. Apparently the decision was a bit of a no-brainer, as it seems the price paid by ATI for these GDDR2 modules wasn't dissimilar to the price it was already paying for the slower DDR1 modules, with which it populated its 128MB variants of Radeon 9800 PRO.
So, we understand, having been burnt once, and with the imminent arrival of GDDR3 into the market, Samsung declined to produce any more GDDR2 modules for Nvidia, leaving the graphics firm with one of two options: either go with GDDR3 or drop back to the slower DDR1.
This worked out perfectly for ATI. Not only because of the aggressive price it paid for a significant amount of high-performance GDDR2, but because in adopting GDDR3 early, Nvidia was effectively dropping the cost of this new technology, and starting to create volume for Samsung.
This was and is an important factor for ATI as next week, like Nvidia GeForce 57000 Ultra and GeForce 6800 Series, ATI will introduce it's own GDDR3 equipped 3D accelerators, the Radeon X800 Series.
Nvidia being the first to adopt GDDR3, probably reduced 5700 Ultra margins in the already cut-throat mid-range consumer graphics sector.
But there's an ironic twist to this tale.
TSMC favoured Nvidia and thought ATI's proposals were 'like the tail trying to wag the dog', the thinking way back being that Nvidia was the top dog.
So Samsung was producing GDDR2 for Nvidia's GeForce FX 5800 Ultra (NV30), but then having got burned by NV30's lack of success – and after being quite negatively vocal about ATI for making GDDR3, it's very ironic that Samsung are now pushing GDDR3 so heavily.
Good to see that GDDR3 is going to be coming down in price,
hopefully the end user will see the savings made by ATI for that GDDR2