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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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 28, 2004 - link

    43 - It should be an option somewhere in the ATI Catalyst Control Center. I don't have an X800 of my own to verify this on, not to mention a lack of applications which use this feature. My comment was more tailored towards people that don't read hardware sites. Typical users really don't know much about their hardware or how to adjust advanced settings, so the default options are what they use. Reply
  • Thera - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    You say SM2.0b is disabled and consumers don't know how to turn it on. Can you tell us how to enable SM2.0b?

    Thank you.

    (cross posted from video forum)
    Reply
  • endrebjorsvik - Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - link

    WOW!! Very nice article!!

    does anyone have all these datas collected into an exel-file or something??
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, September 12, 2004 - link

    Correction to my last post. KiB and MiB and such are meant to be used for size calculations, and then KB and MB can be used for bandwidth calculations. Now the first paragraph (and my gripe) should be a little more clear if you didn't understand it already. Basically, the *bandwidth* companies (hard drives, and to a lesser extent RAM companies advertising bandwidth) proposed that their incorrect calculations stand and that those who wanted to use the old computer calculations should change.

    There are problems, however. HDD and RAM both continue to use both calculations. RAM uses the simplified KB and MB for bandwidth, but the accepted KB and MB (KiB and MiB now) for size. HDD uses the simplified KB and MB for size, but then they use the other KB and MB for sustained transfer rates. So, the proposed change not only failed to address the problem, but the proposers basically continue in the same way as before.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 11, 2004 - link

    #38 - there are quite a few cards/chips that were only available in very limited quantities.

    39 - Actually, that is only partially true. KibiBytes and MibiBytes are a *proposed* change as far as I am aware, and they basically allow the HDD and RAM people to continue with their simplified calculations. I believe that KiB and MiB are meant for bandwidths, however, and not memory sizes. The problem is that MB and KB were in existence long before KiB and MiB were proposed. Early computers with 8 KB of RAM (over 40 years ago) had 8192 bytes of RAM, not 8000 bytes. When you buy a 512 MB DIMM, it is 512 * 1048576 bytes, not 512 * 1000000 bytes.

    If a new standard is to be adopted for abbreviations, it is my personal opinion that the parties who did not conform to the old standard are the ones that should change. Since I often look at the low level details of processors and GPUs and such, I do not want to have two different meanings of the same thing, which is what we currently have. Heck, there was even a class action lawsuit against hard drive manufacturers a while back about this "lie". That was the solution: the HDD people basically said, "We're right and in the future 2^10 = KiB, 2^20 = MiB, 2^30 = GiB, etc." Talk about not taking responsibility for your acttions....

    It *IS* a minor point for most people, and relative performance is still the same. Basically, this is one of my pet peeves. It would be like saying, "You know what, 5280 feet per mile is inconvenient Even though it has been this way for ages, let's just call it 5000 feet per mile." I have yet to see any hardware manufacturers actually use KiB or MiB as an abbreviation, and software that has been around for decades still thinks that a KB is 1024 bytes and a MB is 1048576.
    Reply
  • Bonta - Saturday, September 11, 2004 - link

    Jarred, you were wrong about the abbreviation MB.
    1 MB is 1 mega Byte is (1000*1000) Bytes is 1000000 Bytes is 1 million Bytes.
    1 MiB is (1024*1024) Bytes is 1048576 Bytes.

    So the vid card makers (and the hard drive makers) actually have it right, and can keep smiling. It is the people that think 1MB is 1048576 Bytes that have it wrong. I can't pronounce or spell 1 MiB correctly, but it is something like 1 mibiBytes.
    Reply
  • viggen - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    Nice article but what's up with the 9200 Pro running at 300mhz for core & memory? I dun remember ATI having such a card.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - link

    Oops... I forgot the link from Quon. Here it is:

    http://www.appliedmaterials.com/HTMAC/index.html

    It's somewhat basic, but at the same time, it covers several things my article left out.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - link

    I received a link from Matthew Quon containing a recent presentation on the whole chip fabrication process. It includes details that I omitted, but in general it supports my abbreviated description of the process.

    #34: Yes, there are errors that are bound to slip through. This is especially true on older parts. However, as you point out, several of the older chips were offered in various speed grades, which only makes it more difficult. Several of the as-yet unreleased parts may vary, but on the X700 and 6800LE, that's the best info we have right now. The vertex pipelines are *not* tied directly to the pixel quads, so disabling 1/4 or 1/2 of the pixel pipelines does not mean they *have* to disable 1/4 or 1/2 of the vertex pipelines. According to T8000, though, the 6800LE is a 4 vertex pipeline card.

    Last, you might want to take note of the fact that I have written precisely 3 articles for Anandtech. I live in Washington, while many of the other AT people are back east. So, don't count on everything being reviewed by every single AT editor - we're only human. :)

    (I'm working on some updates and corrections, which will hopefully be posted in the next 24 hours.)
    Reply
  • T8000 - Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - link

    I think it is very good to put the facts together in such a review.

    I did notice three things, however:

    1: I have a GF6800LE and it has 4 enabled vertex pipes instead of 5 and comes with a 300/700 gpu/mem clock.

    2: Since gpu clock speeds did not increase much, they had to add more features (like pipelines) to increase performance.

    3: Gpu defects are less of an issue then cpu defects, since a lot of large gpu's offered the luxory of disabling parts, so that most defective gpu's can still be sold. As far as I know, this feature has never made it into the cpu market.
    Reply

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