by January 1, 2000 0 comments

Known as the Annihilator in the US market and GeForce in Asia, this card holds the world’s first GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) chip from nVIDIA–the GeForce 256. This chip integrates several critical functions that were earlier handled by the CPU. In the case of an ordinary 3D accelerator, the rendering is handled by the card, while the CPU handles the physics, artificial intelligence, transformation, and lighting. The
GeForce, on the other hand, handles transformation and lighting along with the rendering, giving the processor plenty of time for other functions. 

GeForce supports AGP 4x with fast writes. In ordinary AGP 4x, data goes to the graphics chipset through the system memory and the motherboard chipset. This restricts transfer rates to the speed of the main system memory. In fast writes, the main memory is bypassed, and the CPU sends data directly to the GPU through the motherboard’s chipset. 

Other major highlights include a
350 MHz RAMDAC that allows a maximum screen resolution of 2,048×1,536 at a refresh rate of 75 Hz (provided your monitor supports it), and four independent pixel-rendering pipelines that allow a peak fill rate of up to 480 million pixels per second and 15 million triangles per second. 

We ran a series of benchmarks to find out what all this tech talk translates to. Installation was simple and straightforward. Plug-and-play has become a must in all hardware devices nowadays, so the GeForce was immediately recognized by the system. The remaining installation went smoothly. 

Gaming performance
We checked the GeForce for 3D quality and gaming performance. In the former, we tested all the DirectX features supported by the card, and in the latter, we tested the frame rates given by the card for different games. The tests were done at various resolutions and color depths. Finally, we checked the card for OpenGL performance by checking its frame rates on Quake II.

We ran 3D Winbench99 and 3DMark99 Max to test the card’s 3D quality and gaming performance. However, this wasn’t sufficient as the GeForce supports DirectX 7, which hasn’t been accounted for in these benchmarks. So, we used the latest 3D benchmark from Ziff Davis–the 3D WinBench 2000. The card also came with some demos of its own that demonstrate its powers. 

We compared the card to an Asus AGP-V3800 TVR Deluxe with 32 MB
SGRAM, which is based on the previous chip from nVIDIA–the RIVA TNT2. This card also won the Editor’s choice award in our 3D gaming cards shootout (see PC Quest, November 1999, page 105). The GeForce hadn’t been launched then. 


Creative GeForce vs Asus AGP-V3800
Graphics
card
Chipset 3D Winbench
99-3D Winmark
3D Winbench 2000-3D Winmark 2000 3DMark99 Max
Creative
GeForce GeForce
nVIDIA
256
1,000 51.8 4577
Asus V3800 nVIDIA RIVA
TNT2
585  32.8 4509 
Note: In all cases, higher scores mean better performance. The scores are a combination of the frame rates delivered by various games, and tests on various 3D features like texture rendering, fill rates, etc.

Where quality is concerned, the GeForce supports more features than the Asus. We first ran the 3D Winbench99 at a resolution of 1,024×768 with 32-bit color depth. Asus was unable to run the benchmark at that color depth. We then reduced the color depth to 16 bits. Though the Asus managed to complete the tests, it was way behind the GeForce’s whopping score of 1,000. All games in the benchmark gave frame rates of more than 50 fps for the
GeForce. 

We then moved on to 3DMark99 Max from
Futuremark. The GeForce was ahead once again, but by a very narrow margin. We noticed that the frame rates of games in this benchmark were almost similar for both cards. This could be because older games don’t support some of the new features of the
GeForce. In other 3D tests in the benchmark, like texture rendering and fill rates, the GeForce was way ahead. 
On the 3D Winbench 2000 from Ziff Davis, some of the games showed a significant difference in performance with the
GeForce. In one of the games, the Asus could only conjure a frame rate of about 11 fps, while the GeForce clocked 26. The game also functioned much more smoothly with the
GeForce.
We then ran Quake II on both the cards to see how they fared in OpenGL performance. We checked for frame rates in four different resolutions. In all categories, the GeForce gave significantly higher results.

OpenGL performance on Quake II
Graphics card Quake II-640×480 800×600 1,024×768 1,152×864
Creative GeForce 249 186 124 84*
Asus V3800 AGP  122  80  59 47 
Note: These are the frame rates given by the card in a high-action scene. In all cases, a higher score means better performance.
*
The GeForce didn’t support this resolution, so this test was done at 1,280×960.

The card didn’t work on a resolution of 1,152×864, but worked on a higher resolution of 1,280×960. Interestingly, in most resolutions, the GeForce clocked higher refresh rates than the highest one given by the Asus. 

Creative Graphics Blaster GeForce

Graphics accelerator card. Rs 22,400
Features: Contains lighting and transformation functions on the graphics chip; support for AGP 4x with fast writes; 350 MHz RAMDAC; peak fill rate of up to 15 million triangles per second.
Pros: Very good performance.
Cons: Expensive.

Source: Compuage Electronics
21/A Film Centre
 68 Tardeo Road
Mumbai 400034. 
Tel: 22-4913986/87
Fax: 4919069. 
E-mail: info@compuageindia.com  

Finally, we also checked out the demo software that came with GeForce to test its performance. The first demo consisted of lots of light particles bursting out of a wooden surface. The GeForce handles the rendering, lighting, and transformation data for these particles, while the CPU performs the physics. Thus, the velocity and motion of particles is smooth even if the number of particles is increased. 
Another demo comprised a tree which the user could make more complex by varying the size and density of the leaves, the size of branches, etc. It had several fireflies swarming through its leaves and illuminating them in the process. This helped demonstrate the card’s rendering, lighting, and transformation capabilities. 

We tried both these demos on the Asus too. The fluid motion of the fireflies and particles on the GeForce became jerky on the Asus. These demos clearly show the difference in performance when the graphics card’s chipset takes over some of the functions from the CPU. The demos also included models of a truck and a car. These were rendered using millions of triangles, and were highly detailed. The Asus wasn’t able to display these models.

Overall, the GeForce is definitely a force to reckon with, but this performance comes at a whopping price. So, if you’re an avid gamer looking for smooth game play with high-quality images, and cost isn’t a paramount consideration, it’s definitely the card for you.

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