NVIDIA GeForce 256 DDR

by Anand Lal Shimpi on December 25, 1999 7:23 PM EST
On October 11, 1999, NVIDIA introduced their brand-new graphics chipset to the world, the GeForce 256. Just about a month later, the GeForce started appearing in cards made by, among other companies, Creative Labs and Guillemot on store shelves, as well as in the hands of online vendors. The price was and still is quite steep for a single peripheral, especially considering that we are currently in a period where a relatively powerful gaming system can be had for around $1000 - $1500.

But then again, everything is relative, right? So the actual severity of the price depends on the overall experience though, correct? If you pay $300 for a graphics card and barely get an extra 5 fps under your favorite game then the card wasn't really worth $300 to you in the first place, now was it?

Then again, if you purchase a $300 card and, immediately after firing up your favorite game, it feels like you've never even seen the title before this moment, the card quickly begins to earn its value.

For many users, the feelings they were left with after seeing what NVIDIA's GeForce could do, were sort of in limbo between the "eh, whatever" and "I have seen the light" reactions. Even in our own tests, the conclusion after reviewing the GeForce was that it's the fastest chip in its class, but nothing more. While the GeForce boasts a fairly powerful hardware transforming & lighting engine, which NVIDIA cutely dubbed their GPU, the overall experience with the GeForce ended up being nothing more than faster gameplay at 1024 x 768, but still not capable of driving higher resolutions at 32-bit color.

For the minimum $249 cost of a card based on the GeForce, many TNT2 Ultra owners found themselves truly not interested in throwing away around $300 on a card that wouldn't improve the gaming experience significantly. While it is true that games with a high polygon count would take advantage of the GeForce's hardware T&L and could potentially perform much better on a GeForce than on any other card, it is also true that we have yet to see a game of that nature and when one does become available (it's inevitable), the GeForce will also carry a noticeable lower price tag (this is also inevitable). So for the NVIDIA loyalists that spent the $300 on a TNT2 Ultra the minute it became available, was the GeForce going to be another $300 "well spent?" Not this time around, not unless NVIDIA could offer a little more for the money.

It's alright to produce a product with flaws, just don't plan on it selling as well as one that is closer to achieving that flawless state that engineers strive for. NVIDIA's GeForce had an inherent flaw; its relatively low memory clock (in comparison to a TNT2 Ultra) and single 128-bit memory bus left it with a noticeable bottleneck from the start -- memory bandwidth.

Memory Bandwidth
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