TNT2 Drivers: Benefits for TNT Usersby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 28, 1999 8:26 PM EST
- Posted in
"The RIVA TNT2 sets a new standard for performance and quality by combining best-of-class 3D and 2D performance with 32-bit bit true color rendering, 32-bit Z/Stencil buffer and a 32MB frame buffer"
"The RIVA TNT architecture is the first integrated, 128-bit 3D Processor that processes 2 pixels-per-clock cycle which enables single-pass multi-texturing and delivers a mind-blowing 180 million pixels-per-second fill rate. RIVA TNTs (twin-texel) 32-bit color pipeline, 24-bit Z, 8-bit stencil buffer and per-pixel precision delivers unsurpassed quality and performance allowing developers to write standards based applications with stunning visual effects and realism."
Those are two excerpts from NVIDIA's Product Info pages dealing with the TNT2 and TNT. We have the TNT2 setting "a new standard for performance", and the TNT delivering "unsurpassed quality and performance." At the same time AnandTech has always referred to the TNT2 as being a transitional product instead of one that offers a tremendous performance increase.
Now of course it would sound bad for NVIDIA to call their own product a "transitional" release, and tell everyone that they'll be wasting their money because in a few months the TNT2 will be slapped aside by their next product. At the same time, it would sound incredibly biased (and in poor taste) for AnandTech to praise the TNT2 as being the most revolutionary improvement in a graphics chipset AnandTech has ever seen, so where does the truth lie?
You have to first take into consideration that what the TNT2 is, happens to be no different that what the Voodoo3 is to the Voodoo2, and what the Savage4 is to the Savage3D. The video market is one in which a company can rise to the top and fall almost overnight. With new product releases occurring at unprecedented frequencies, sometimes pushing 6 month intervals, it's critical to the survival of a company to release as many products as the next best competitor in order to stay alive.
If 3dfx stuck to their Voodoo2 until the end of this year, there is no doubt about it that NVIDIA would have completely dominated the market until then. The same thing can be said if NVIDIA didn't release anything after the original TNT until the end of this year, 3dfx would have profited more than you can possibly imagine. The solution? It's the "keeping up with the Jones'" scenario, if 3dfx releases something, NVIDIA has to release a competing product, and if NVIDIA releases something 3dfx must do the same. It's what makes the competitive market go 'round, and unfortunately there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding as to exactly what the Voodoo3 and TNT2 offer us.
"TNT2 = TNT @ 125MHz+"
There's an equation you've all probably heard, the TNT2 is nothing more than a TNT at a higher clock speed. True or false? Well, it depends on how you look at the situation. Let's take Quake 2 as a starting point.
On a Pentium III 500, so the CPU won't be a bottleneck, the Riva TNT produced a frame rate of 63.1 fps at 800 x 600 x 16-bit color. The slowest of the TNT2s, clocked at 125MHz, produced a frame rate of 84.6 fps in the same situation, an improvement of 34% with a 38% improvement in clock speed. Sounds about right, no?
Take the same test system, and up the resolution to 1024 x 768 while keeping it at a 16-bit color rendering depth. The TNT's performance drops a good 35% while the TNT2 only yields a 19% drop in performance. Not bad for users that want to run at 1024 x 768 right? In this case, the TNT2 is obviously more than just a faster TNT, as its performance at 1024 x 768 doesn't come with the same penalty as the TNT did. This is proof that the TNT2 isn't the same core as the TNT, although we all should have known that, it must be proved and established before making the next jump.
TNT2 drivers work on the TNT
After the release of the TNT at a somewhat disappointing 90MHz, NVIDIA proudly announced that in 6 months, the 125MHz barrier would be hit and surpassed by a 0.25 micron TNT product. With the release of the TNT2, and the lack of any other product releases between the time NVIDIA released the TNT and the present, is the TNT2 the 125MHz TNT NVIDIA promised a while ago?
AnandTech decided to fire up the good ol' TNT2 test bed, however instead of using the previously installed TNT2, AnandTech swapped it out for a trusty reference design 16MB AGP TNT. The result? The system booted into windows without even so much as a beckoning for updated drivers. The TNT2 drivers worked perfectly fine with the TNT, not too surprising, since the core has not changed all too much.
AnandTech experienced the same stability with the TNT running the TNT2 drivers as was experienced with the TNT2 running its own drivers, an indication that NVIDIA's revision 0172 drivers are not yet ready for mass deployment. The majority of crashes occurred under Direct3D applications, while the OpenGL stability was rock solid, an indication of a very mature OpenGL ICD on NVIDIA's part, something no other manufacture in their class has a claim to fame for.