Nvidia has launched what is arguable the most advanced graphics chip available, the GeForce 8800, along with a MCP, the nForce 680i SLI.

Designed specifically for use with the Intel Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Duo processors, the chips promise to deliver unprecedented speed and quality to gaming applications as well as engineering and scientific software. The 8800 GPUs are the first to support Microsoft’s DirectX 10, the next-generation programming interface that will arrive courtesy of Vista. It boasts over 600 million transistors, which is double the amount found on the previous chip.

The biggest innovation of the new chip is that it features a unified, rather than linear design, so that if a part of the chip is not engaged in a specific task, it can handle another one at the same time as it’s working on the first.

Nvidia is also releasing a set of software tools so that developers can use the chip for non-graphics applications in science and engineering.

The 8800 GPS promises gamers more realistic movement, with smoother action and few jagged edges, and the ability to keep up with the most intense videogames. At the launch conference, the company previewed a host of next-generation DirectX titles, including Crysis, Hellgate: London, Company of Heroes, Microsoft Flight Simulator X and Age of Conan.

The GeForce 8800 GTX costs $600, while the 8800 GTS is $450.