Introduction

After the overview of modern Intel and AMD processors, there were many requests for a similar article covering the graphics arena. "Arena" is a great term to describe the market, as few other topics are as likely to raise the ire of the dreaded fanboy as discussing graphics. However, similar to the CPU Guide, this article is not meant as a set of benchmarks or to answer the commonly asked question of "which graphics card is best?" Instead, it is a look at the internal designs, feature sets, and theoretical performance of various graphics chips.

The initial scope of this article is limited to graphics chips manufactured by ATI and NVIDIA. This is not to say that they are the only companies making 3D graphics chips, but honestly, if 3D gaming is your area of interest, there really aren't any other good alternatives. The integrated graphics in VIA, Intel, and SiS chipsets are, at best, disappointing. They're fine for business use, but businesses don't generally worry about graphics performance anyway, as anything made within the past five years is more than sufficient for word processing and spreadsheet manipulation. Matrox is still heralded by many as the best 2D image quality, but again, for gaming - the primary concern of anyone talking about consumer 3D graphics cards - they simply fall short. It's too bad, really, as more competition almost always benefits the consumer, but computer hardware is a very cutthroat market - one seriously botched release, and it may be your last!

However, not all ATI and NVIDIA chips will be covered. If the Volari and DeltaChrome have issues with current games, the same can be said of old Rage and TNT graphics cards, only more so. Even the early GeForce and Radeon chips are too slow for serious gaming, but since they are DirectX 7 parts, they have made the cut. So, similar to the CPU Guide, all GeForce and later chips will be included, and so will all the Radeon and later parts. There are a few speculative parts in the charts, and figures for these can and likely will change before they are released - if they ever do manage to see the light of day.

As far as organization goes, code names and features will be listed first. Next, a look at the potential performance - and why it often isn't realized - will follow. There will also be some general micro processor information and die size estimates later on, which you can skip if such discussions do not hold your interest. Unfortunately, estimates are the best we can do in some areas, as getting details from any of the major graphics card companies is like pulling teeth from a crocodile. With that said, on to the charts.

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  • Neo_Geo - Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - link

    Nice article.... BUT....
    I was hoping the Quadro and FireGL lines would be included in the comparison.
    As someone who uses BOTH proffessional (ProE and SolidWorks) AND consumer level (games) software, I am interested in purchasing a Quadro or FireGL, but I want to compare these to their consumer level equivalent (as each pro level card generally has an equivalent consumer level card with some minor, but important, otomizations).

    Thanks
    Reply
  • mikecel79 - Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - link

    The AIW 9600 Pros have faster memory than the normal 9600 Pro. 9600 Pro memory runs at 650Mhz vs the 600 on a normal 9600.

    Here's the Anandtech article for reference:
    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=1905...
    Reply
  • Questar - Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - link

    #20,

    This list is not complete at all, it would be 3 times the size if it was from the last 5 or 6 years. It covers about the last 3, and is laden with errors

    Just another exampple of half-asssed job this site has been doing lately.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - link

    #14 - Sorry, I went with desktop cards only. Usually, you're stuck with whatever comes in your laptop anyway. Maybe in the future, I'll look at including something like that.

    #15 - Good God, Jim - I'm a CS graduate, not a graphics artist! (/Star Trek) Heheh. Actually, you would be surprised at how difficult it can be to get everything to fit. Maximum width of the tables is 550 pixels. Slanting the graphics would cause issues making it all fit. I suppose putting in vertical borders might help keep things straight, but I don't like the look of charts with vertical separators.

    #20 - Welcome to the club. Getting old sucks - after a certain point, at least.
    Reply
  • Neekotin - Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - link

    great read! wow! i didn't know there were so much GPUs in the past 5-6 years. its like more than all combined before them. guess i'm a bit old.. ;) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - link

    12/13: I updated the Radeon LE entry and resorted the DX7 page. I'm sure anyone that owns a Radeon LE already knows this, but you could use a registry hack to turn them into essentially a full Radeon DDR. (By default, the Hierarchical Z compression and a few other features were disabled.) Old Anandtech article on the subject:

    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=1473
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 06, 2004 - link

    Virge... I could be wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure some of the older chips could actually be configured with either SDR or DDR RAM, and I think the GF2 MX series was one of those. The problem was that you could either have 64-bit DDR or 128-bit SDR, so it really didn't matter which you chose. But yeah, there were definitely 128-bit SDR versions of the cards available, and they were generally more common than the 64-bit DDR parts I listed. The MX200, of course, was 64-bit SDR, so it got the worst of both worlds. Heh.

    I think the early Radeons had some similar options, and I'm positive that such options existed in the mobile arena. Overall, though, it's a minor gripe (I hope).
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Monday, September 06, 2004 - link

    Jarred, without getting too nit-picky, your data for the GeForce 2 MX is technically wrong; the MX used a 128bit/SDR configuration for the most part, not a 64bit/DDR configuration(http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.aspx?i=1266&p... Note that this isn't true for any of the other MX's(both the 200 and 400 widely used 64bit/DDR), and the difference between the two configurations has no effect on the math for memory bandwidth, but it's still worth noting. Reply
  • Cygni - Monday, September 06, 2004 - link

    Ive been working with Adrian's Rojak Pot on a very similar chart to this one for awhile now. Check it out:

    http://www.rojakpot.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&...
    Reply
  • Denial - Monday, September 06, 2004 - link

    Nice article. In the future, if you could put the text at the top of the tables on an angle it would make them much easier to read. Reply

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