It's been a couple of weeks since the Annihilator2 Ultra Interview, so I decided to go ahead and hit Steve up for a few more particulars on the latest goings-ons over at Creative Labs in the Graphics division. I have received several messages asking about memory availability for the Ultra and the potential for an MX based product. Lets get to it....
nV News: Timeline for the Ultra release? You guys have something up your sleeve?
Steve: The timeline for the Ultra release remains the same. There are always some last minute things that can shift the schedule a few days one way or the other, like a final driver release or a last minute box change.
It might do some good for the end users for me to explain a few key dates. There are actually 3 dates that matter - the date when the factory starts to ship to our business units, the date when the business unit ships boxed goods to the stores, and the date when the units actually appear on store shelves. In general, since our factory is located in Singapore, the Asian business unit tends to ship first. The European and Us divisions have longer transit times from Singapore, including customs clearence. The other variable is how fast some stores can get the product. Shipping from the business units to stores can take from 3 days to 2 weeks. So, the date when product appears in stores is highly variable. Because it is so variable we have to announce a date that we can actually control, which is the date our Business units will be shipping to stores. This date remains as late September.
nV News: 4ns DDR - You mentioned memory speed would not be a gating factor, will the memory on production cards meet the promised 460MHz? Are you going to risk using slower memory, say 4.5ns, if 4ns supplies run short?
Steve: The specified speed for the product will be 460Mhz. I am not aware of anything like a 4.5ns but a 4.5ns memory would only clock to 222mhz or 444 effective. To achieve 230Mhz you have to use a memory that has been tested at this speed or above. To insure that the product performs to this level of performance every card is put through a manufacturing test. So, you buy memory that is specified to run at 250MHz, you use a chip that is assured of running at this speed, and then you have to use a board design that is qualified to run at this speed in a wide variety of systems. After you assemble these pieces you then test 100% of the boards to insure that the manufacturing process has not impacted performance. That way you are sure that 100% of the boards will run at the specified performance. Statistically some may run faster. There isn't any shortage of memory that is qualified to meet the spec.
nV News: Any special features/software included in the $500 price tag?
Steve: We decided to use pink PCB. Just kidding.
We considered putting TV-out on the card, but then this thing is designed to run 1600*1200 32 bit. It seemed a waste to include TV out, since the resolutions supported by TV out are CPU limited and you don't get the full value of the card. My sense is if you want to play quake on a projection TV, then an external coder is the right approach. I also thought about flat-panel support, but again a lot of digital panels have limited refresh, which means I am throttling the system by the monitor, so we decided against that. As for software we try to focus on tools that have appeal for all gamers... like game launcher.
nV News: Changing gears from the Ultra, how about the MX? There was a rumor flying that the Creative MX offering would sport 64-bit DDR SDRAM. Any truth to this one?
Steve: Yes, we will be doing a MX using DDR memory. It will come in two flavors, PCI and AGP. The card is targeted at the value end of the segment.
nV News: Time to market if Creative releases an MX SKU?
Steve: It should be sometime in October.
nV News: How much longer will the Annihilator/Anni PRO be in production? Are the GeForce and/or TNT2 based cards already making way for the Ultra./NV20?
Steve: Right now our line up includes GTS Ultra at $499 and the standard GTS product at $299. The Geforce/Geforce Pro (or Annihilator/Anni PRO) based cards are not in production any more, but I suspect you could find them in some places. New products tend to be introduced at higher prices than the old product.
nV News: NV20 Update - How would you like to phrase no comment, heh?
Steve: Nicely put.
nV News: Where is my Annihilator2 Ultra?
Steve: As soon as we get some production cards and production drivers and a box... Wait I have a better idea, how would you like to come out and take one off the production line? Can you get a kitchen pass from the general at the home front?
All I can say is that I will do my damnedest to represent our readers at the product release. We are working on making arrangements for the trip as I type.
I would, again, like to thank Steve for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions. As always, if you have any comments, feel free to shoot me a message or post them in the forum.
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