Nvidia’s GTX 1180 graphics card is coming, and now we’ve got a good idea when. The GeForce GPU’s release date is still under wraps, but the next-gen is set to kick off in August - September.
With AMD looking like it’s going to cede graphics supremacy to Nvidia for 2018 - without putting up a fight - team green is the only GPU crew likely to deliver us a new generation of graphics cards this year. The GTX 1180 and GTX 1170 will be the vanguard for these new GeForce GPUs… or maybe they’ll be named GTX 2080 and GTX 2070 in favour of a more bombastic marketing opportunity. That’s one thing we’re not sure of.
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Nvidia hasn’t yet announced the naming, let alone the actual GPU architecture, behind its next generation of gaming cards, but we’ve still got a pretty good idea about the technology that’s going to be powering them and now we're also confident they're going to be announced around the end of August. Both the Hot Chips tech symposium and Gamescom are hitting around the 20th, so we’re expecting big things late summer.
Nvidia GTX 1180 release date
All the evidence is currently pointing towards a Q3 release for the new Nvidia graphics cards. Nvidia is presenting its 'next generation mainstream GPU' at the Hot Chips symposium on August 20, so they will either launch, or at least be announced, around that date. Some are suggesting AIBs are already briefing their engineers on the new GeForce GPUs, which would make a September launch likely.
Nvidia GTX 1180 specs
While we don’t know the specifics of the GPU architecture Nvidia will use in its gaming-focused cards, we’re still betting on a Volta GPU, a GV104 chip. That will make it a 12nm design, but with GDDR6 as opposed to the HBM2 Nvidia has used in the Tesla V100. Fresh rumours suggest the GTX 1180 will include a new video output too, potentially HDMI 2.1 with up to 48Gbps bandwidth.
Nvidia GTX 1180 price
The new top-end GeForce is likely to command the same price tag as the GTX 1080 Ti before it. That would make it at least $699.
Nvidia GTX 1180 performance
The purpose of the newest GTX graphics cards is to give some credence to the claims of real-time raytracing being the future of gaming, and so they’re going to have to deliver on that front. At that price they’ll have to best the GTX 1080 Ti in normal games too.
There's been a lot of talk about the possibility of a new Nvidia Turing architecture being the basis of the new GeForce cards, but we’re still expecting the green team to stick with its usual modus operandi and launch either the GTX 2080 or GTX 1180 cards using the same underlying Nvidia Volta architecture it has been working on for the last few years.
There have been a few reports claiming Lenovo has all but confirmed the GTX 1180 naming scheme, but realistically I feel that's more the company confirming that it will have the next-gen Nvidia GPUs in its new Fall series of Legion desktop PCs. I had a similar conversation with MSI at Computex where it confirmed it's new desktops launching in Q4 would have GTX 1180 graphics cards, or whatever they end up being called on release...
With Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference passing without mention of a new architecture, and not even a new GPU roadmap unveiling, it seems increasingly unlikely that it would announce and launch a whole new graphics architecture with a fresh GeForce GTX card in the next six months. If Turing is a thing then it could well just be the codename given to the gaming versions of Nvidia's Volta.
Nvidia has also been potentially trolling us with a li'l tweet on Alan Turing's birthday, although it could simply be the green team genuinely wishing the PC pioneer a happy posthumous birthday.
As expected Computex passed without any hint of a release date for the GTX 1180 graphics cards, and even after speaking with the main Nvidia AIBs we're still hearing release dates from them of around August and September.
And you can probably forget the latest pre-order pages that appeared for MSI and Asus versions of the GTX 1180, they only lasted a few days before they were taken down, presumably at the behest of Nvidia.
That August - September window seems to marry well with the recent rumour that board partners are starting to brief their engineers on the specifics of the new GPUs. With that going down right now it seems prudent to expect final product from the AIBs in the tail end of the summer.
But at last we do have something concrete about the next generation of Nvidia's GeForce graphics cards, something that's not just some unsubstantiated rumour half heard in a Santa Clara restroom. Nvidia will be presenting at the Hot Chips symposium on August 20, so it's a pretty strong bet it will be announcing the cards around then.
We've heard from Nvidia that Gamescom is going to be a big deal for the company this year, and that kicks off the day after Stuart Oberman's Hot Chips presentation about "Nvidia's Next Generation Mainstream GPU.' And there are rumours Nvidia has been inviting international folk out to the German games show already.
The Hot Chips talk has been removed from agenda, with a big fat TBC in its place, but that's no guarantee it's been cancelled, however. It is guaranteed not to be the onlt time the new graphics cards get spoken about - Nvidia wouldn't do a full graphics card launch at the Hot Chips event - so it's pretty likely that Gamescom would be the place it would start talking up its next generation of GPUs.
The effusive Nvidia CEO did announce at a pre-Computex event that the next-gen GeForce cards wouldn't launch until “a long time from now." But then he's going to say that. Even if the GTX 1180 was launching tomorrow Nvidia would stick with the "long time from now" release date. With Pascal-based stock still sitting in the channel any mention of an imminent GTX 1180, or the like, getting released will kill any sales of those cards. So, even if the launch were to be in July he'd still be calling that a long time off.
Previous rumours had pegged this Q3 release date because SK Hynix is seriously cranking up volume production of GDDR6, and have recently signed a large supply deal with Nvidia. But SK Hynix is not the only company making GDDR6 memory, with Samsung and Micron both getting involved in the new graphics memory technology.
If it sticks with tradition, and uses the existing Nvidia Volta GPU technology, then the GTX 1180 will arrive sporting a GV104 GPU, but just what sort of configuration that chip might have is still up for debate.
The Streaming Multiprocessor (SM) of the current Volta chip is chock full of silicon designed for machine learning and inference, and how much of that will make the transition over to the gaming GPU we don’t yet know.
With the Pascal generation, Nvidia stripped out the double precision cores for the GP104 silicon, and it may do the same with Volta. Historically it would then push the SMs together - with the GP100, for example, there were 10 SMs in a general processing cluster (GPC) and then just five in a GP104 GPC, despite having the same number of CUDA cores in each cluster. Each SM then has double the cores sharing the same instruction cache and shared memory.
I’m not sure that will work out the same for a gaming Volta SM, as there is still some silicon inside the current Volta design which will come in useful in games which take advantage of the new DirectX Raytracing from Microsoft and the Volta-specific RTX tech from Nvidia themselves. That’s not likely to be stripped out, so the final gaming SM structure might be very similar to the current GV100 design.
That ray-tracing tech is not just limited to the new Tensor cores, but that new silicon definitely helps in cleaning up a raytraced image. And means, despite what we initially expected, gaming Volta cards could still come with Tensor cores in the package. With WinML also looking to bring machine learning into the gaming space we’re likely to see more pro-level silicon remaining in our gaming GPUs in the future.
But we think it’s probably quite likely Nvidia will stick with the same overall GPC structure, and switch to four GPCs for a potential GV104 design. That would give the GTX 1180 a total of 3,584 CUDA cores and 224 texture units, which would give a nice symmetry with the GTX 1080 Ti it would likely replace.
On the memory side it looks almost certain a GTX 1180 would come with GDDR6 support rather than the more expensive, and largely unnecessary for gaming, HBM2. Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron are all going to town on the new graphics memory, and both Samsung and SK Hynix have specifically mentioned the tech playing a key role in this year’s next-gen graphics card releases. And it doesn’t look like AMD will be doing anything so that just leaves a single player in the game…
A next-gen Nvidia engineering board has been spotted in the wilds, after briefly popping up on Reddit. It's sporting 12GB of Micron GDDR6 memory, though it could just be a tester board for a new non-HBM2 Volta Quadro rather than a GeForce gaming GPU.
Given the amount of work the GPU is going to have to do, and the amount of data needed to be shunted around, with real-time raytracing it wouldn’t be surprising to see 12GB of GDDR6 being used on the top-end Volta gaming cards. Though that's going to be expensive and still dependent on the vagaries of memory supply.
There have been fresh rumours, from a writer on Tom's Hardware with friends in technical places, that the new cards will feature a new video output. The speculation is that means the GTX 1180 will natively run HDMI 2.1 out of the box, hopefully delivering the bandwidth required to deal with 4K HDR at 120Hz without messing with the colours too much. It could also introduce Game Mode VRR (variable refresh rate) that might even give us non-hardware based G-Sync.
You'll probably need some new cables, however, as the bandwidth for HDMI 2.1 is going up from 18Gbps with HDMI 2.0 up to a heady 48Gbps.
With the new Jetson Xavier automotive architecture being recently unveiled, explicitly detailing Volta's support of PCIe 4.0, it's possible that the GTX 1180 could well be the first Nvidia card for consumers that sports the updated interface. The PCIe interface is expected to be twice as fast as PCIe 3.0, with bandwidth of 16 gigatransfers per second (GT/s) compared with 8GT/s of the older setup.
The 7nm Vega cards are also expected to offer PCIe 4.0 support, but we're still not expecting those GPUs to ever feature in consumer-facing cards.
There is also some speculation that the new Nvidia GPUs will include some new form of a boost clock. Quite what that will include we don't really know, with Fermi Nvidia messed around with the shader clock so it's possible it could be something around that again. Pascal chips already top the 2GHz mark, so it would be interesting to see whether the 12nm GPUs can go even further.
Graphics cards are expensive beasts and most especially in these troubled, frontier-like, crypto-goldrush times of ours, even with the recent price drops. And, when you factor in the new GDDR6 memory technology costing some 20% more than its GDDR5 forebear, then it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the top-end GTX 1180 coming in at around $699 at launch. Or potentially even more.
It seems Nvidia has dropped the ridiculous Founders Edition schtick, so that would be the base, reference model price tag. Expect any and all overclocked, or third-party cooled, versions of the GTX 1180 to come nearer $800 - $1,000.
The GTX 1170 would likely then start at the same price as the GTX 1080 started out at. Yeah, ouch. The GTX 1160 won’t come soon enough with those launch prices...
Without any actual competition at the high-end of the graphics market Nvidia knows it can almost price with impunity, knowing people will pay because there is no other performance alternative.
A lack of competition is definitely not going to do us consumers any favours at all.
The new 20-series graphics cards are going to have to be capable of real-time raytracing. That’s going to be one of the first tests anyone does when they get their hands on both the new cards and Futuremark’s upcoming 3DMark raytracing benchmark.
Obviously it will also need to game like a frickin’ hero, and, given that it will potentially appear at the same initial price-point as the GTX 1080 Ti, it has to outperform the fastest of the last generation GeForce graphics cards in traditional gaming workloads too. And that’s no mean feat.