Nvidia in 2017: a sleepy year for the AI and graphics card titan


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In a year where we saw new components release every month, Nvidia remained relatively quiet throughout the year. That’s not to say the company did nothing at all, after all the year included some big releases, including the Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti, and playing its part in the Nintendo Switch launch. More than anything though, this year felt like the calm before the storm for Nvidia.
In this article, we’ll tally all of Nvidia’s achievements and mistakes in 2017 to deliver a report card on how the chip maker performed this year. We’ll also do a little prediction as to what and how Nvidia will do in the coming year.

Neural networking

No CES would be complete without Nvidia talking about artificial intelligence, and the company delivered exactly that at the beginning of the year. Team green also announced a new Google Assistant-powered Shield set top box. Whether you wanted to start playing Stranger Things or order a pizza, you could now do it all just by shouting from your couch.
We also got our usual dose of Nvidia expanding and improving its AI platform for driverless cars and other fields at CES. While this might seem like a side project for the graphics card maker, Nvidia makes its bread-and-butter on AI. With multi-billion dollar contracts, it’s how the company gets around making only a few new GPUs this year.

Switching into consoles
You might not have known this, but Nvidia makes the graphics processor that powers the Nintendo Switch. Considering that the Switch is already on track for more than 10 million sales since launching earlier this March, we would have to say it has been a roaring success.
The Nintendo Switch is one of the best hybrid consoles to ever release with the ability to quickly unplug from your TV and go into portable mode without having to turn off completely or any funky graphical glitches. With AMD graphics found inside the other two major game consoles, it’s a huge win for Nvidia in a space where it’s outnumbered.

Driver drama
No discussion about Nvidia’s performance this year would be complete without looking at its delivery of graphics card drivers. While the company released a steady stream of game-ready software just before the release of marquee games throughout the year, an update in March literally burned some graphics cards out.
Specifically, version 364.47 of Nvidia’s GeForce graphics drivers caused a range of bugs including game freezes, visual glitches and even caused GPUs to overheat. While Nvidia promptly pulled the driver update, the damage couldn’t be undone for some users.

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti shifts the market
Though the Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti could be seen as a reactionary move to the AMD Radeon Vega 56, it was no less a pleasant surprise. After testing it, the GTX 1070 Ti also proved to be one of our favorite GPUs of the year. It offered great graphical performance nearly on par with the Nvidia GTX 1080 at just a slight price premium from the GTX 1070.
However, not everything was perfect with the GPU’s release. For one thing, unlike the previous Founders Edition cards Nvidia introduced, the company’s version of the GTX 1070 Ti debuted to set the market price for all other versions. In the past Founders Editions were always set above the MSRP as a premium version, but this time Nvidia effectively laid down a price floor for all 1070 Ti variants.
What’s worse is Nvidia prevented its partners from factory overclocking the 1070 Ti GPUs, leaving companies like MSI and Asus to find loopholes around the restrictions with utility applications. All-in-all, the GTX 1070 Ti was a great card, but Nvidia’s business practices around its release were not, and we for one are hoping they won’t continue into the new year.

Jedi vs Empire
Just a few weeks after the announcement of the Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti, we were surprised again with the sudden announcement of a Star Wars Edition re-release of the Nvidia Titan X. Sure it didn’t improve on the specs or performance of the card, but it was a really nice tie-in for The Last Jedi film.
Not only did the re-release come with new lighting elements and a redesigned faring, both the Empire and Jedi versions of the cards were gorgeous and unique in their own way.

High Volta-ge
Last, but not least, was the new Nvidia Titan V, which the company released calling it the most powerful GPU in the world. It was hard to argue with the claim, considering this single card features an absurd 110 teraflops of performance from its 21.1 billion transistors, 5,120 CUDA cores and 640 tensor cores.
Though this graphics card was entirely designed for deep learning applications, it foreshadows what we can possibly expect with Volta – which is likely to debut in 2018. The Nvidia Titan V was the first Nvidia GPU to feature HBM2 memory and the company’s smallest 12nm architecture yet.

What does 2018 have in store for Nvidia?
While we only saw a single glimpse of what Volta can do this year, we fully expect it to take the world by storm in the coming months. We predict 2018 will hold new, highly-competitive graphics solutions from both Intel and AMD, so Nvidia will have to amaze us again to retain its undisputed position in the GPU world.
In the same breath, Intel with AMD Vega graphics could steal some of Nvidia’s thunder in the notebooks space. The MX150 and Nvidia 940MX are still the prevailing mobile GPUs you’ll find in most budget multimedia notebooks – outside those in gaming at least – and they’re underwhelming in our book. It could be time for Nvidia to either launch a new line for notebooks or integrate the 1050 (Ti) and 1060 Max-Q into more thin-and-light (and affordable) designs.
Nvidia GeForce Experience is beginning to feel long-in-the-tooth since its last major update and lags behind AMD’s Radeon Software Adrenalin Software in some ways. We suspect it’s long overdue for a refresh and some new features as well.

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