Update 10/12: We've added Q3test 1.08 GeForce benchmarks on the Celeron 300A. Check 'em out here.
Let the Games Begin
It's finally here! The first of the next generation video cards has finally made it into our offices. The next generation video card race doesn't seem to be shaping up into the war we were anticipating. The 3dfx has dropped out of the contest (though they never officially entered the contest having never announced a product), but 3dfx management has confirmed that 3dfx's next generation product most likely won't be out in time for the Christmas buying season. That leaves just two players, S3 and NVIDIA.
S3 is entering the high-end 3D accelerator arena with the Savage2000, and NVIDIA is stepping up to bat with the GeForce 256. S3 will offer two speed grades, the 143-150MHz Savage2000 and the 166-200MHz Savage2000+. Initially, NVIDIA will also offer the GeForce 256 in two different flavors, but the difference won't be in the speeds of the chips -it'll be in the type of memory used on the board. Video card manufacturers will make normal GeForce boards with regular SDR(Single Data Rate) SDRAM, but we'll also see a high-end version featuring DDR (Double Data Rate) memory. The DDR cards will cost about $100 more than the normal SDRAM cards.
What do we have here?
We're seen all the pretty screenshots, read all the spec sheets, and listened to countless NVIDIA spokesmen evangelize about the wonders of T&L, but we all know that real life performance is the true measure of a card. We managed to get our hands on both versions of the GeForce 256 card. We have a DDR card and a normal SDR (Single Data Rate) card. We ran both cards through our usual FiringSquad benchmark suite and threw in a couple new polygon intensive demos to test out the GeForce's T&L capabilities.
Note that this isn't a real review because we're only testing NVIDIA's GeForce reference cards. You can't buy these cards in stores, but most manufacturers' GeForce cards will perform exactly like these reference boards. That's why we're calling this article a "Hands-On Preview." Let's go through the GeForce specs, take a look at the cards, run the benchmarks, and try a little overclocking while we're at it.