Add-on cards based on all of the Nvidia GeForce 6800 family of graphics chips will begin shipping this month from multiple vendors, Nvidia officials said.
Card vendors will begin taking preorders for cards based on all of the 6800 parts this month, Nvidia spokesman Derek Perez said this week. However, cards containing a Nvidia 6800 chip are currently few and far between.
Nvidia officials said they anticipate that there will be enough chips to support a retail launch. "As far as retail goes—were lining up to have retail ready to go here in June—for all 6800s," Perez wrote in an e-mail to ExtremeTech. "Pre-orders will be starting shortly on all 6800s."
Surprisingly, several of the early Nvidia cards that have shipped in small quantities have been based on the higher-performance Nvidia 6800 Ultra chip set. The process of "binning," or qualifying cards at certain core and memory-interface speeds usually produces larger numbers of the slower, mainstream parts. "Boutique" PC vendors such as Alienware, Falcon Northwest and Voodoo PC have received supplies of the 6800 Ultra chips or cards to design into their high-end machines, but the 6800 GT and vanilla 6800 cards are another story.
"Currently the 6800 Ultra is OK for stock. Only the 6800 GT is uncertain: on order, but no ETA," a representative of one boutique PC vendor wrote in an online message to ExtremeTech.
Nvidia launched the 6800 and 6800 Ultra chips in April. The company then announced the 6800 GT graphics chip and 6800 "Ultra Extreme" in early May to steal a bit of thunder away from the launch of the X800 chip from rival ATI Technologies Inc. At the time, Ujesh Desai, director of product marketing for Nvidias desktop products, said that the 6800 would ship in May, and the 6800 Ultra would be available in June. Several manufacturers are shipping production volumes of cards based on the ATI X800.
"The proof will be in the pudding," Nvidias Desai said at the time of the 6800 launch, in response to a question about the supply of the chips.
Newegg.com, a popular online retailer, is currently advertising a single Nvidia 600 Ultra card manufactured by eVGA.com. The 6800 Ultra card with 256MB of on-card memory retails for a whopping $589 and was sold out at press time.
"The Ultra card is the only card that we have shipped so far," said a representative at eVGA.com, who said he was not sure when his company would ship 6800 and 6800GT cards.
Fellow card maker BFG Technologies also plans to release overclocked versions of the fastest 6800 cards before tweaking the slower models. BFG plans to ship the 6800 Ultra OC card in late June; however, BFGs 6800GT OC and 6800 OC cards will begin shipping in July and August, the company said in a statement. Other card makers, such as AOpen and MSI, have made cards available for preordering.
Nvidia may be pursuing a strategy that Intel and others have taken in the past, according to Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research. Shipping high-end parts to boutique vendors allows a vendor to claim that its shipping, but only in the low volumes that boutique PC vendors require. On the other hand, Nvidia may also be producing high-end chips in larger quantities than expected, he said.
"Given a late Q2 launch, I wouldnt expect much activity around it anyway," McCarron said. Vendors who launch products in April or very early May can expect a sales bump from the new models of spring PCs, but Nvidia missed that window, he said.