You’ve been living too perfect of a life if you’ve never used the phrase “it’s been a long day,” and for NVIDIA it has most definitely been a very long day. Just over two weeks ago the graphics industry was shook by some very hard hitting comments from Gabe Newell of Valve, primarily relating to the poor performance of NVIDIA cards under Half Life 2. All of the sudden ATI had finally done what they had worked feverishly for years to do, they were finally, seemingly overnight, crowned the king of graphics and more importantly – drivers. There were no comments on Half Life 2 day about ATI having poor drivers, compatibility problems or anything even remotely resembling discussions about ATI from the Radeon 8500 days.

Half Life 2 day was quickly followed up with all sorts of accusations against NVIDIA and their driver team; more and more articles were published with new discoveries, shedding light on other areas where ATI trounced NVIDIA. Everything seemed to all make sense now; even 3DMark was given the credibility of being the “I told you so” benchmark that predicted Half Life 2 performance several months in advance of September 12, 2003. At the end of the day and by the end of the week, NVIDIA had experienced the longest day they’ve had in recent history.

Some of the more powerful accusations went far beyond NVIDIA skimping on image quality to improve performance; these accusations included things like NVIDIA not really being capable of running DirectX 9 titles at their full potential, and one of the more interesting ones – that NVIDIA only optimizes for benchmarks that sites like AnandTech uses. Part of the explanation behind the Half Life 2 fiasco was that even if NVIDIA improves performance through later driver revisions, the performance improvements are only there because the game is used as a benchmark – and not as an attempt to improve the overall quality of their customers’ gaming experience. If that were true, then NVIDIA’s “the way it’s meant to be played” slogan would have to go under some serious rethinking; the way it’s meant to be benchmarked comes to mind.

But rewind a little bit; quite a few of these accusations being thrown at NVIDIA were the same ones thrown at ATI. I seem to remember the launch of the Radeon 9700 Pro being tainted with one accusation in particular – that ATI only made sure their drivers worked on popular benchmarking titles, with the rest of the top 20 games out there hardly working on the new R300. As new as what we’re hearing these days about NVIDIA may seem, let us not be victim to the near sightedness of the graphics industry – this has all happened before with ATI and even good ol’ 3dfx.

So who are you to believe? These days it seems like the clear purchase is ATI, but on what data are we basing that? I won’t try to build up suspense senselessly, the clear recommendation today is ATI (how’s that for hype-less journalism), but not because of Half Life 2 or any other conspiracies we’ve seen floating around the web these days.

For entirely too long we’ve been basing GPU purchases on a small subset of tests, encouraging the hardware vendors to spend the majority of their time and resources optimizing for those games. We’re not just talking about NVIDIA, ATI does it too, and you would as well if you were running either of those two companies. We’ve complained about the lack of games with built-in benchmarks and cited that as a reason to sticking with the suite that we’ve used – but honestly, doing what’s easy isn’t a principle I founded AnandTech on 6+ years ago.

So today we bring you quite a few new things, some may surprise you, some may not. ATI has released their Fall refresh product – the Radeon 9800XT and they are announcing their Radeon 9600XT. NVIDIA has counterattacked by letting us publish benchmarks from their forthcoming NV38 GPU (the successor to the NV35 based GeForce FX 5900 Ultra). But quite possibly more important than any of those announcements is the suite of benchmarks we’re testing these cards in; how does a total of 15 popular games sound? This is the first installment of a multipart series that will help you decide what video card is best for you, and hopefully it will do a better job than we have ever in the past.

The extensive benchmarking we’ve undertaken has forced us to split this into multiple parts, so expect to see more coverage on higher resolutions, image quality, anti-aliasing, CPU scaling and budget card comparisons in the coming weeks. We’re working feverishly to bring it all to you as soon as possible and I’m sure there’s some sort of proverb about patience that I should be reciting from memory to end this sentence but I’ll leave it at that.

Now that the long-winded introduction is done with, let’s talk hardware before we dive into a whole lot of software.

The Newcomers
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  • Pete - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Thanks for replying, Derek. Now get back ta work! ;) Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    The fact that a prescott is being used is no big deal..omg idiots.

    The big deal is that the prescott is only 2.8Ghz and considering these tests are cpu limited mostly the cpu is holding it back. (although increasing the resolution could fix that too)

    The fact the the NV38 is being tested is not a bad thing. The card will not be faster when it comes out. Remember the nv30?? "just wait til the drivers mature blah blah fucking blah..."
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Hi Mgdbottled here and I just do not get all you stupid NVidiots! yer cards suck and blow and you know it so go away!!!

    Even the 9500p blows the 5900 out of the weads!!!

    I'm with Bigshot...ATI rocks man!!!!
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Sources among Taiwanese mainboard makers state that due to some major issues with Intel’s Strained Silicon 90nm fabrication technology commercial availability of Prescott processors is expected only in the first quarter next year. In December 2003 Intel is very likely to paper-launch its Prescott processors and supply only a handful of such chips to selected solution providers for systems intended for gaming, just like AMD did with its Athlon XP 2800+ processor last year, sources claim


    Anand has benched a chip (Prescott) that will only come out at least 3 months from now??? .

    I think I'm wasting too much time on reviews and boards.

    I should get a life!
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    I play games in 1024x768... with AAxAF turned up that is (which makes the testing perfect for me). When you show me a card that runs 1600x1200 with everything on that gets good framerates with NEW games then we'll talk. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    #19, When next year arrives there will be better cards that use the new GDDR memory which is supposingly 2X faster than what you have now. The NV4X is a new design and R4XX series are 2X faster than the R3XX series. So it's not worth it for a future investment like you make it sound. Everything is outdated in 6 months when you go for the latest and greatest in computers. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    I just called ati after reading your post and they told me the same thing. The first person I talked to said they never had stock on the item and the person I'm talking to now is checking for me. That's what happens when you give Canadiens your money I guess. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    ati has the worst customer service I have ever experienced. I ordered there 9800 xt off the website which at the time said it was in stock. After 2 days of crap they told me that they had an overwhelming demand and the order was backordered. This is after it said it was in stock on their website and I placed the order the day it came out. Then they explained their *crap* by saying the web site said limited amount in stock and that their web site only changes the next day. What a bunch of crap. They were very rude on the phone when I questioned them about it and especially when I asked if they could please cancel my order. Their response was "why would you want to, you can't get this anywhere else"....very disappointed.... Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Please please please include Battlefield 1942 in your benchmark suite. This is a wonderful game and I never see it when graphics cards are being tested. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    I suggest you include Il2:Forgotten Battles (www.il2sturmovik.com) and Lock on: Modern Air Combat (www.lo-mac.com) in your benchmark suite. They will both stress all the newest hardware to the max and especially Il2 at the highest detail level will stress every part of the system. Furthermore people interested in playing these games will get valuable information from your site; it´s a lot more meaningful to say that system x runs Lo-MAC at 20fps in stead of 15 for system y than it is to say that Quake3 runs 400fps in stead of 500. Reply

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