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nVidia Video Chipset Comparison

Robert Richmond


With the nearing release of the new GeForce-3 advanced rendering architecture, this is an excellent opportunity to examine the still powerful nature of the already established nVidia chipset offerings.

With the GeForce-3 being released later this month, the cost factors associated with the once overly expensive GeForce-2 Ultra are starting to spiral downwards, to a level now attractive to the average enthusiast or even the moderate gamer. In order to best examine the performance and value aspects, Romulus 2 will be offering both a brief architecture comparison and benchmark analysis of each of these readily available nVidia chipsets.



Benchmark Comparison




Brief Architecture Comparison

Fill-Rate, in MT/s Memory Support, in MB 32-bit Colour Support AGP Transfer Support
nVidia TNT 180 16 SDRAM Yes 1x, 2x
nVidia TNT-2 250-300+ 8-32 SDRAM Yes 1x, 2x, 4x
3dfx Banshee 110 16 SDRAM No 1x
3dfx Voodoo3 286-366 16 SDRAM No 1x, 2x
3dfx Voodoo2 180 8-12 SDRAM No N/A
3dfx Voodoo2 SLI 360 16-24 SDRAM No N/A

Since the original introduction of the TNT chipset many months ago, nVidia has been recognised as an industry-leading manufacturer of quality, high-performance video chipsets. The TNT was promised to be the long awaited competitive solution to the poorly developed 3dfx Voodoo Banshee chipset. nVidia hoped to ship the TNT at nearly outrageous clock speeds for its era, but the final product missed nVidia’s estimates by a large margin. Even at the lower production clock speeds, the TNT proved to surpass the performance and quality of 3dfx’s Banshee with ease. However, nVidia still lacked the needed clock rates to compete with 3dfx’s ultimate 3D rendering solution, the Vodoo2 dual-card SLI configuration.

The V2 SLI setup was (and actually still is) a powerful 3D offering with nearly no equals in its day. In comparison with the TNT’s maximum fill-rate of 180 approximately megatexels per second, the V2 SLI offered performance of over 360 MT/s!

nVidia had already spent countless millions developing the TNT, thus could not afford to again develop a completely new architecture. Instead of pouring more money into more research and development, nVidia designers worked to prefect the already popular TNT chipset. Through a successful die shrink (.35 to .25 micron) and the inclusion of faster memory, the design lab rolled out the exciting new TNT-2 platform less than a year after the original TNT release. The TNT-2 offered the performance to compete with any chipset available, with an impressive 250-300+ MT/s fill-rate, plus enough memory bandwidth to sustain high resolutions with true 32-bit color depth. The TNT-2 offered the needed performance and rendering quality to finally compete with 3dfx at all levels, from the value to high-end market segments. Even with release of the Voodoo3, the TNT-2 proved more than capable of surpassing this next-generation 3fx chipset. The TNT-2 scaled through several speed grades, with the last offering being the TNT-2 Ultra. The Ultra offered the highest performance available, at least until nVidia could develop its next-generation chipset, the GeForce256.

The nVidia Family

  Fill-Rate, MT/s Memory Support, in MB Memory Data Width Advanced Shading Rasterizer HD Video Support
GeForce-256 SDR 480 32 SDRAM 128-bit No No
GeForce-256 DDR 480 32-64 DDR SDRAM 128-bit No No
GeForce-2 MX 700 16-64 MB SDR/DDR SDRAM 128-bit SDR, 64-bit DDR Yes Yes
GeForce-2 GTS 1600 32-64 MB DDR SDRAM 128-bit Yes Yes
GeForce-2 Pro 1760-1920 64MB DDR SDRAM 128-bit Yes Yes
GeForce-2 Ultra 2000+ 64-128MB DDR SDRAM 128-bit Yes Yes

The GeForce-256 architecture was debuted approximately a year after the original TNT-2 chipset release. The GF-256 offered a myriad of never before utilised options within the consumer market range. These advanced options included a 256-bit core rendering path, texture compression, full screen antialiasing, cube environment mapping, and hardware transform and lighting. Combined with extreme fill rates (up to 480 MT/s) and a new high-performance memory interface (DDR SD-RAM), the GF-256 proved to be unlike any chipset ever offered before. Even in today's now exaggerated standards, the original GeForce-256 DDR is considered an ominous presence in regards to rendering features and actual game/3D performance. However, to continue with its commitment of a new chipset every six months, nVidia further developed and refined the GeForce platform. The next generation architecture, the GeForce-2, has proven to be nVidia’s best selling and most compelling marketing offering to date.

The GeForce-2 offers performance nearly unparalleled by any competing chipset. The last iteration of this chipset, known as the GF-2 Ultra, offers fill-rates in excess of 2,000 MT/s, a level still unsurpassed by any competitors’ architecture. Other advanced features include second-generation hardware T&L, simultaneous real-time per-pixel shading, high-definition video support, and even advanced 32-bit w-buffering with the latest DX 8 drivers. Various versions of the GeForce-2 are now available, ranging from the entry-level MX to the powerful Ultra chipsets. The MX is a scaled down product with standard SDR SD-RAM and lower fill rates, but still proves more than capable of dealing with any game currently available. The upper-tier segment includes the GTS, Pro, and Ultra chipsets. Each of these chipsets are basically the same core, but with varying clock rates and amounts of memory. The GeForce-2 is regarded as one of the best platforms available, even as nVidia is on the verge of releasing the costly GeForce-3.

  Benchmark Comparison . . .

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