Almost a full month has passed since NVIDIA made their announcement of the GeForce3, their Infinite Effects GPU. Although benchmarks have cropped up here and there, for the most part there were no complete reviews of the retail GeForce3 product that will be soon finding its way into stores. The question of why has come up more than a few times around messageboards and discussion groups from all over the web including the AnandTech Forums. Before we dive into the benchmark comparison we thought we would shine some light on exactly why, for the first time since NVIDIA started tending to the online community, that benchmarks haven't been released for so long.
1) Drivers - Although NVIDIA's Unified Driver Architecture definitely helps keep driver development time to a minimum, with as radical a change of the core as the GeForce3 promised, the Detonator 3 drivers we had been using for so long weren't going to be the best solution. Until recently, the drivers that were available for the GeForce3 were in fact quite buggy and definitely full of issues. The driver NVIDIA supplied to all reviewers was supposedly built on March 15th (according to NVIDIA) and carries the version number 11.01. This driver will not be the driver shipping with the GeForce3, as it is still somewhat buggy. But it does fix a lot of the stability issues we noticed with the earlier drivers, including the 10.80 and 11.00 versions.
2) An expensive launch cannot be delayed - NVIDIA worked very hard to prepare for the launch of the GeForce3 at the most recent Intel Developers Forum conference. According to most, NVIDIA did in fact steal the show with the launch. If you haven't already noticed, it is generally advisable for companies to make major product announcements in conjunction with some major tradeshow, simply because the press and the enthusiasts are ready and waiting for information surrounding the show. Announcing a major product like the GeForce3 at IDF is mainly a PR tactic, and NVIDIA wasn't about to let their chance at IDF go to waste over buggy drivers that fixable.
3) Honestly, there are no benchmarks - Had NVIDIA allowed reviewers to go live with benchmarks on February 27 to coincide with the GeForce3's technology launch, there would have been quite a bit of negative press regarding the GeForce3. As we mentioned in our 'NV20' Revealed article, the GeForce3's performance superiority in current games will only lie at high resolutions (higher than 1024 x 768 x 32) or when enabling its Quincunx Anti Aliasing. In many ways, the GeForce3 would have paralleled the Pentium 4's launch in that the current crop of benchmarks (in this case, games) would not have shown any performance increase that's worth the money. Now, with 3DMark 2001 out as well as a demo of an upcoming DX8 title, NVIDIA has hopes that these two can lighten the blow. We'll let you be the judge as we're about to paint as complete of a picture of the GeForce3's performance as possible.
We strongly suggest you take a look at our GeForce3 Technology Review, entitled NVIDIA's GeForce3: 'NV20' Revealed, before moving forward as we will not explain any of the architecture here. Our benchmark analysis will assume a thorough knowledge of the GeForce3's architecture as provided in our Technology Review.
Let's get to it.