Nvidia's highly acclaimed new chipset, the GeForce2 has been causing a stir lately. When Nvidia's PR monsters declared that the GeForce2 could do real time Pixar quality animation, Pixar fired back by saying "Do you really believe that their toy is a million times faster than one of the CPUs on our UltraSparc server?" He then goes on to say that in 10-15 years, Nvidia might achieve real time Pixar quality animation. Although not as powerful as a million dollar computer, the GeForce2 is definitely not a toy and we have Elsa's new Gladiac board in our hands today for review. First of all, let me start off by telling you a little bit about the GeForce2 chipset since this is SystemLogic's first review on it. Expect a GeForce2 general review from us in a little while.
As a product of the 6-month product cycle, the GeForce2 seems to come into a time when everyone is still enjoying his or her new GeForce1. But of course upgrade is necessary to some people and they feel like Nvidia is cheating them by delivering too much of a good thing at too high of a cost. Too much of a good thing means tons of buyers for Nvidia and virtual elimination of competition. By the time another company releases a card, Nvidia has already released 2. Of course this is perfectly legal because Nvidia is nowhere close to even being almost a monopoly.
What is the GeForce2 GTS you may ask. The GeForce2 is basically a GeForce made on a 0.18-micron process allowing for higher clock speeds and a lot of new features such as Giga Texel Shading (GTS). DDR Ram has been eliminated from the new GeForce2 for performance and bandwidth reasons so don't expect a low cost version of the GTS anytime soon. As for plumbing, the GTS has 4 rendering pipelines just like the GeForce did. But the GTS can process 2 textures per clock in the pipeline while the GeForce could only process 1. This means the GTS is capable of rendering scenes twice as fast as the original GeForce running at the same core speed. Lets take a look at the core and memory speeds. The original GeForce ran at a steady 120MHz and overclocking it could maybe bump it up to 150MHz for some people and a little bit higher for some others. The GTS's core speeds runs at a super-high 200MHz thanks mainly to its new 0.18-micron process.
Fillrate Is King
So the GeForce at 120*4 = 480 megapixels/sec fillrate is still fast but the GTS at 200*4 = 800 is a lot faster. Remember the 2 Texel's per pipeline per clock? This gives the GTS a blistering 200*8 = 1600 megatexels/sec. 1.6 gigatexels. This is where the GTS finally clicks. Nvidia again holds the fillrate crown having 800p/1600t while the Voodoo5 (it's closest competitor) holds 667/667. Nvidia will keep the crown at least for another 2 months until the Voodoo5 6000 comes out with its 1.3 gigapixel fillrate.
Memory Is Queen
Alright, enough of the technical stuff, I'm seeing numbers floating everywhere. Lets move onto some of the other features of the chipset. Back to the RAM issue. All of the GTS board floating around today feature DDR RAM because using SDRAM on a chip like the GeForce2 will only demean it's performance by restricting it's memory bandwidth. The Geforce2 ships with a 333MHz DDR RAM bus speed up from the 300 we saw in the original GeForce. The original SDR GeForce had 2.7GB/s of memory bandwidth while the GTS has 5.3GB/s. All the while, even with all of the upgrades Nvidia is making to the chipset they seem to have left the 128-bit memory bus. Believe it or not the memory bandwidth is a bottleneck to the potential performance of the GeForce2.
The GeForce2 will begin shipping in 32MB DDR configurations although SDRAM is also supported in the chipset. The GeForce2 is aimed towards enthusiasts and if you wanted a board with SDRAM, you can easily pick up a SDR GeForce. If you wanted a SDR card, you're probably not a heavy gamer. In any case, the GeForce1 is still a formidable chipset. 64MB DDR GeForce 2 GTS cards should be appearing in a little over a month from now.