Nvidia has a new graphics card, and it is doubling down on virtual reality as the reason for hardcore gamers to upgrade their rigs. Several. Billion. Dollars went into R&D for this card — it's faster than two GTX 980 cards in SLI, and it's even faster than the Titan X as well.
The new GeForce GTX 1080 also integrates new physics-based audio support, physically-accurate object manipulation using VR hand controllers, and a whole other bunch of goodies to entice you to part with your hard-earned dollars.
Teasing the assembled crowd and Twitch stream with a series of software hints before actually revealing the card, Nvidia then dumped info wholesale — the card is built on the world's first 16-nanometre FinFet manufacturing process for graphics, and uses the world's first implementation of 10GHz GDDR5X memory built by Micron. Default clock speeds for the card are 1733MHz for the GTX 1080 core, although there are boost functions, and 8GB of onboard memory is standard.
Update: The standard card will have a very surprisingly low $US599 RRP, with a "crazy overclockable" founder's edition card $699. Both editions will be available around the world on May 27th. We'll update you with Australian prices as soon as we're able.
Power efficiency is a constant concern for graphics cards — energy efficiency directly translates into performance — and the GeForce GTX 1080 is roughly 10 per cent more energy efficient than the previous GTX 980, nearly 90 per cent energy efficient at its ideal 60-Watt TDP versus the GTX 980's circa 80 per cent. In fact, the GTX 1080 is consistently more efficient at every single Wattage up to 180 Watts than the last generation.
Nvidia demonstrated the GTX 1080 clockspeed running at 2.1GHz, and memory clocks of 5500MHz, while real-time photorealistic rendering of character models from Tim Sweeney and the EPIC Games' new title Paragon. With a new technology called Simultaneous Multi-Projection, the new cards — and all Nvidia cards in the future — will support up to 16 viewports (monitors) simultaneously using a single 3D render, rather than requiring separate 3D modeling per video output.
The new GeForce GTX 1080 crucially supports VR SLI, so will allow hardcore gamers to build multi-GPU machines powerful enough to support the graphics requirements of next-generation games with the additional overhead of VR processing and the medium's higher resolutions and frame rates.
To that end, Nvidia has built its first bespoke virtual reality experience, called VR Funhouse, that it is releasing alongside the GTX 1080. Compatible with the HTC Vive, it'll be released soon onto Steam — and will be the playground for gamers to try out new features apparently exclusive to the Pascal family of GPUs like VRWorks physics-based positional audio and VRWorks physics that support object manipulation through the Vive's hand controllers. "Everything in this world responds according to the laws of physics", says Nvidia — as you'd reasonably expect.
Introduced as "a brand new technology you have never heard of before" by Nvidia's boss Jen-Hsun Huang, and using the same technology as Nvidia's physics-based iRay, Nvidia VRWorks Audio uses physics — the principles of the propagation of waves — to simulate acoustically accurate noise, with audio reflecting off surfaces in different environments, all in real time. Nvidia calls it 'VR sound', and it says it's the world's first of its kind to be rendered in real time on Nvidia's new GPUs.
Nvidia also used the opportunity to talk up video games as an art form, pointing out popular in-game artists like Duncan Harris from Dead End Thrills and Joshua Taylor. To that end, it has a new driver tool for these artists. Ansel, Nvidia says, is the world's first in-game 3D camera system, integrated at the driver level and allowing free camera motion with filters and special effects, 32x super-sampling and EXR 10-bit colour image capture. 61440x34560 pixel screenshots are possible with supersampling, too.
360-degree stereoscopic image capture is also supported, and the resulting files can be output in regular 360 or stereoscopic 360 with support for both the HTC Vive and Google Cardboard on Android phones. The Ansel tool requires support from developers, and will be supported in No Man's Sky, Unreal Tournament and the next Witcher: Wild Hunt DLC amongst others.
Gizmodo travelled to Austin as a guest of Nvidia.