At an event held on May 6, graphics specialist NVIDIA (NVDA -4.20%) announced a couple of new graphics processors based on its Pascal architecture and built on TSMC's (TSM -5.81%) 16-nanometer FinFET manufacturing technology.
At the high end is the GeForce GTX 1080, which succeeds the GeForce GTX 980. Below that is the GeForce GTX 1070, which serves as the direct successor to the GTX 970, and is likely a cut-down variant of the same graphics processor that powers the GTX 1080.
Let's take a closer look at the company's announcements.
The GTX 1080 replaces GTX 980, outperforms Titan X
The GTX 1080 is priced at $599 ($699 for what the company calls a "founders edition"). According to the company, it's faster (and much more power efficient) than the company's previous halo graphics card, the $999 GeForce GTX Titan X.
By extension, it should also be faster than the GTX 980 Ti, a lower-cost cut down variant of the GTX Titan X (though after-market GTX 980 Tis often outperformed the Titan X thanks to more aggressive cooling solutions which allowed the board makers to crank up the clock speeds on those chips).
In addition to sporting a new graphics processor architecture, the 1080 comes with eight gigabytes of Micron (MU -2.95%)-built GDDR5X memory -- a technology that's supposed to serve as a higher-performance extension to the common GDDR5 memory that's been in use on most graphics cards for quite some time.
This represents a doubling in the amount of on-board memory from the GTX 980 and a 33% increase in memory from the six gigabytes found on the GTX 980 Ti. The Titan X, however, packs 12 gigabytes of memory, though it's not clear that this amount of memory is currently necessary even in the highest-end of games.
The price itself is up from the $549 that the GTX 980 debuted at (NVIDIA later dropped the price to $499), sensible considering the additional memory and the likely costlier new memory type.
The GTX 1070 replaces GTX 970
The 1070 looks like a cut-down variant of the GTX 970, offering lower compute performance and equipped with slower, traditional GDDR5 memory. However, commensurate with the lower performance is a reduced price tag. NVIDIA says that the MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) for GTX 1070 cards will be $379.
This, again, represents a jump from the initial MSRP of the GTX 970 at launch of $329. However, it's worth noting that relative to the GTX 970, performance should be up substantially. Furthermore, while the GTX 970 packed four gigabytes of GDDR5, the GTX 1070 comes with eight gigabytes of GDDR5.
I suspect the additional memory should make it easier for consumers to accept the increased MSRP generation-over-generation.
A solid launch
At the end of the day, in order to drive revenue growth, NVIDIA needs to consistently give customers worthy products to upgrade to, particularly as gamers tend to upgrade their graphics cards at a fairly rapid clip. The GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 look like strong products that should give owners of GTX 970/980-class products and older reasons to upgrade.
Owners of higher-end graphics cards such as the GTX 980 Ti and the GTX Titan X are less likely to be enticed by these products; the 1080 is noticeably faster and more power efficient than either of those, per NVIDIA, but the raw performance improvement isn't anywhere near as large as it is over the 970/980 class cards.
Next steps for NVIDIA
From here, NVIDIA is going to need to further flesh out its Pascal-based GPU lineup. The Maxwell-based GTX 950/960 ($160-$200 range) will need to be refreshed with Pascal-based products at some point over the next quarter or so to bring the new architecture to more accessible price points.
Current rumors/leaks point to Pascal-based chips known as GP106 and GP107 in order to address those price points.
Additionally, NVIDIA is probably going to want to release true replacements/successors for the 980 Ti/Titan X over the next six months or so. Current rumors point to a Pascal-based GPU code-named GP102 for performance (and price) points above where the GTX 1080 sits.