When Will We See NVIDIA Corporation's Next Pascal Chip?

By Markets Fool.com

The GM206-based GTX 960 is likely next on the chopping block. Image source: NVIDIA.

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Graphics specialist NVIDIA is currently rolling out graphics processors based on its new Pascal architecture. Thus far, we've seen the company's GP100, a very high-performance chip targeted at high-performance computing and hyperscale data center customers, as well as GP104, aimed at gamers.

However, there are still several other chips based on the Pascal architecture left to be revealed. The next one to come out is likely to be the chip known as GP106. GP106, like GM206 before it, should target gamers looking to spend below $300 on new graphics cards and is therefore likely to be quite a high volume seller for the graphics specialist.

When will this chip come out? How will it perform? What will NVIDIA charge? We don't know for sure, but I believe some educated guesses are in order.

When will we see it? Probably in a couple of months

With the Maxwell product cycle, NVIDIA released the GM204 for high-performance gaming in Sept. 2014 as the GeForce GTX 980 and its cut-down sibling, the GeForce GTX 970. NVIDIA followed up GM204 with GM206 in late Jan. 2015 -- a roughly four-month gap in between the launches.

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Just using history as a guide, we should expect to see GP106, probably manifested as a GeForce GTX 1060, approximately four months after the GTX 1070/1080 were announced, or around September of this year. However, I think that there's a good chance that we'll see it sooner.

The interesting thing about the GM206 from last year is that it was only marginally faster than the GTX 760 that it replaced. The main benefits that GM206 brought to the table was that it was much more power efficient than the 760 (nearly 31% in games run at 1920x1080 resolution, according to Tech Power Up) and cheaper to produce (narrower memory bus, about 77% the die size on the same 28-nanometer manufacturing process).

It was also a little bit faster, which also helped.

NVIDIA didn't need to move performance up all that much back then because the 970/980 themselves didn't move performance up much; they were essentially cheaper to produce and far more efficient chips at roughly the performance levels that were in the market at the time.

However, with GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 having set the bar for performance much higher, NVIDIA is going to need to deliver much improved performance at lower price points if it wants to continue to sell cards at those lower price points.

So, it wouldn't surprise me to see GP106 show up within the next month or two -- assuming that NVIDIA is able to qualify and put this part into production for such a launch.

What kind of performance should we expect?

NVIDIA's Pascal GPUs are made up of "Graphics Processing Clusters," or GPCs. The full Pascal GP104 packs four GPCs, which translates into 2560 CUDA cores and 160 texture units. The GTX 1070, a cut down variant of the GTX 1080, comes with three GPCs enabled.

The logical step for NVIDIA, then, would be to design GP106 as a two GPC design, which should translate into effectively one-half of a GTX 1080.

Half of a GTX 1080 should deliver roughly the performance of the GTX 970.

In effect, GP106 would allow NVIDIA to provide GTX 970 performance at a much lower price point. If GP106-based cards take over where the GM206 cards left off and are priced at around $199, then this would effectively serve as a significant "price reduction" for GTX 970-class performance (around $329 MSRP at launch).

Given how popular the GTX 970 was during its run, I'd imagine that a cheaper variant should do very well in the marketplace.

The article When Will We See NVIDIA Corporation's Next Pascal Chip? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends NVIDIA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.