NVIDIA Chipsets

Below you can see our breakdown of the GPU guide for NVIDA video cards:

NVIDIA Craphics Chips Overview
DirectX 9.0C with PS3.0 and VS3.0 Support
GF 6600 NV43 300 550 8 1 3 128/256 128
GF 6600GT NV43 500 1000 8 1 3 128/256 128
GF 6800LE NV40 320 700 8 1 5 128 256
GF 6800LE NV41 320 700 8 1 5 128 256
GF 6800 NV40 325 700 12 1 5 128 256
GF 6800 NV41 325 700 12 1 5 128 256
GF 6800GT NV40 350 1000 16 1 6 256 256
GF 6800U NV40 400 1100 16 1 6 256 256
GF 6800UE NV40 450 1200 16 1 6 256 256
DirectX 9 with PS2.0+ and VS2.0+ Support
GFFX 5200LE NV34 250 400 4 1 1 64/128 64
GFFX 5200 NV34 250 400 4 1 1 64/128/256 128
GFFX 5200U NV34 325 650 4 1 1 128 128
GFFX 5500 NV34 270 400 4 1 1 128/256 128
GFFX 5600XT NV31 235 400 4 1 1 128/256 128
GFFX 5600 NV31 325 500 4 1 1 128/256 128
GFFX 5600U NV31 350 700 4 1 1 128/256 128
GFFX 5600U FC NV31 400 800 4 1 1 128 128
GFFX 5700LE NV36 250 400 4 1 3 128/256 128
GFFX 5700 NV36 425 500 4 1 3 128/256 128
GFFX 5700U NV36 475 900 4 1 3 128/256 128
GFFX 5700U GDDR3 NV36 475 950 4 1 3 128 128
GFFX 5800 NV30 400 800 4 2 2 128 128
GFFX 5800U NV30 500 1000 4 2 2 128 128
GFFX 5900XT/SE NV35 400 700 4 2 3 128 256
GFFX 5900 NV35 400 850 4 2 3 128/256 256
GFFX 5900U NV35 450 850 4 2 3 256 256
GFFX 5950U NV38 475 950 4 2 3 256 256
DirectX 8 with PS1.3 and VS1.1 Support
GF3 Ti200 NV20 175 400 4 2 1 64/128 128
GeForce 3 NV20 200 460 4 2 1 64 128
GF3 Ti500 NV20 240 500 4 2 1 64 128
GF4 Ti4200 128 NV25 250 444 4 2 2 128 128
GF4 Ti4200 64 NV25 250 500 4 2 2 64 128
GF4 Ti4200 8X NV28 250 514 4 2 2 128 128
GF4 Ti4400 NV25 275 550 4 2 2 128 128
GF4 Ti4600 NV25 300 600 4 2 2 128 128
GF4 Ti4800 SE NV28 275 550 4 2 2 128 128
GF4 Ti4800 NV28 300 650 4 2 2 128 128
DirectX 7
GeForce 256 DDR NV10 120 300 4 1 0.5 32/64 128
GeForce 256 SDR NV10 120 166 4 1 0.5 32/64 128
GF2 MX200 NV11 175 166 2 2 0.5 32/64 64
GF2 MX NV11 175 333 2 2 0.5 32/64 64/128
GF2 MX400 NV11 200 333 2 2 0.5 32/64 128
GF2 GTS NV15 200 333 4 2 0.5 32/64 128
GF2 Pro NV15 200 400 4 2 0.5 32/64 128
GF2 Ti NV15 250 400 4 2 0.5 32/64 128
GF2 Ultra NV15 250 460 4 2 0.5 64 128
GF4 MX4000 NV19 275 400 2 2 0.5 64/128 64
GF4 MX420 NV17 250 333 2 2 0.5 64 64
GF4 MX440 SE NV17 250 333 2 2 0.5 64/128 128
GF4 MX440 NV17 275 400 2 2 0.5 32/64 128
GF4 MX440 8X NV18 275 500 2 2 0.5 64/128 128
GF4 MX460 NV17 300 550 2 2 0.5 64 128
* RAM clock is the effective clock speed, so 250 MHz DDR is listed as 500 MHz.
** Textures/Pipeline is the number of unique texture lookups. ATI has implementations that can lookup 3 textures, but two of the lookups must be from one texture.
*** Vertex pipelines is estimated on certain architectures. NVIDIA says their GFFX cards have a "vertex array", but in practice it performs as shown.

The caveats are very similar on the NVIDIA side of things. In terms of DirectX support, NVIDIA has DX7, DX8.0, DX9, and DX9.0c support. Unlike the X800 cards which support an unofficial DX spec, DX9.0c is a Microsoft standard. On the flip side, the SM2.0a features of the FX line went almost entirely unused, and the 32-bit floating point (as opposed to the 24-bit values ATI uses) appears to be part of the problem with the inferior DX9 performance of the FX series. The benefit of DX8.1 over DX8.0 was that a few more operations were added to the hardware, so tasks that would have required two passes on DX8.0 can be done in one pass on DX8.1.

When DX8 cards were all the rage, DX8.1 support was something of a non-issue, as DX8 games were hard to come by, and most opted for the more widespread 8.0 spec. Now, however, games like Far Cry and the upcoming Half-Life 2 have made DX8.1 support a little more useful. The reason for this is that every subsequent version of DirectX is a superset of the older versions, so every DX9 card must include both DX8 and DX8.1 functionality. GeForce FX cards in the beta of Counter Strike: Source default to DX8.1 rendering paths in order to get the best compromise between quality and speed, while GeForce 3 and 4 Ti cards use the DX8.0 rendering path.

Going back to ATI for a minute, it becomes a little clearer why ATI's SM2.0b isn't an official Microsoft standard. SM3.0 already supersedes it as a standard, and yet certain features of SM2.0b as ATI defines it are not present in SM3.0, for example the new 3Dc normal map compression. Only time will tell if this feature gets used with current hardware, but it will likely be included in a future version of DirectX, so it could come in useful.

In contrast to ATI, where the card generations are pretty distinct entities, the NVIDIA cards show a lot more overlap. The GF3 cards only show a slight performance increase over the GF2 Ultra, and that is only in more recent games. Back in the day, there really wasn't much incentive to leave the GF2 Ultra and "upgrade" to the GF3, especially considering the cost, and many people simply skipped the GF3 generation. Similarly, those that purchased the GF4 Ti line were left with little reason to upgrade to the FX line, as the Ti4200 remains competitive in most games all the way up to the FX5600. The FX line is only really able to keep up with - and sometimes beat - the GF4Ti cards when DX8.1 or DX9 features are used, or when enabling antialiasing and/or anisotropic filtering.

Speaking of antialiasing.... The GF2 line lacked support for multi-sample antialiasing and relied on the more simplistic super-sampling method. We say "simplistic" meaning that it was easier to implement - it is actually much more demanding on memory bandwidth, so it was less useful. The GF3 line brought the first consumer cards with multi-sample antialiasing, and NVIDIA went one step further by creating a sort of rotated-grid method called Quincunx, which offered superior quality to 2xAA while incurring less of a performance hit than 4xAA. However, as the geometrical complexity of games increased - something DX7 promised and yet failed to deliver for several years - none of these cards were able to perform well with antialiasing enabled. The GF4 line refined the antialiasing support slightly - even the GF4MX line got hardware antialiasing support, although here it was more of a checklist feature than something most people would actually enable - but for the most part it remained the same as in the GF3. The GFFX line continued with the same basic antialiasing support, and it was only with the GeForce 6 series that NVIDIA finally improved the quality of their antialiasing by switching to a rotated grid. At present, the differences in implementation and quality of antialiasing on ATI and NVIDIA hardware are almost impossible to spot in practical use. ATI does support 6X multi-sample anti-aliasing, of course, but that generally brings too much of a performance hit to use except on older games.

Anisotropic filtering for NVIDIA was a different story. First introduced with the GF2 line, it was extremely limited and rather slow - the GF2 could only provide 2xAF, called 8-tap filtering by NVIDIA because it uses 8 samples. GeForce3 added support for up to 8xAF (32-tap), along with performance improvements compared to the GF2 when anisotropic filtering was enabled. Also, the GF2 line was really better optimized for 16-bit color performance, while the GF3 and later all manage 32-bit color with a much less noticeable performance hit. This is likely related to the same enhancements that allow for better anisotropic filtering.

As games became more complex, the cost of doing "real" anisotropic filtering became too great, and so there were optimizations and accusations of cheating by many parties. The reality is that NVIDIA used a more correct distance calculation than ATI: d = x^2 + y^2 + z^2, compared to d = ax+by+cz. The latter equation is substantially faster, but the results are less correct. It ends up giving correct results only at certain angles, while other angles use a lower level of AF. Unfortunately for those who desire maximum image quality, NVIDIA solved the discrepancy in AF performance by switching to ATI's distance calculation on the GeForce 6 line. The GeForce 6 line also marks the introductions of 16xAF (64-tap) by NVIDIA, although it is nearly impossible to spot the difference in quality between 8xAF and 16xAF without some form of image manipulation. So, things have now been sorted out as far as "cheating" accusations go. It is probably safe to say that in modern games, the GF4 and earlier chips are not able to handle anisotropic filtering well enough to warrant enabling it.

NVIDIA is also using various versions of the same chip in their high end parts. The 6800 cards at present all use the same NV40 chip. Certain chips have some of the pipelines deactivated and they are then sold in lower end cards. Rumors about the ability to "mod" 6800 vanilla chips into 16 pipeline versions exist, but success rates are not yet known and are likely low, due again to the size of the chips. NVIDIA has plans to release a modified chip, a.k.a. NV41, which will only have 12 pixel pipelines and 5 vertex pipelines, in order to reduce manufacturing costs and improve yields.

Get in the Game The need, for speed
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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.
  • 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)
  • endrebjorsvik - Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - link

    WOW!! Very nice article!!

    does anyone have all these datas collected into an exel-file or something??
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 8, 2004 - link

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


    It's somewhat basic, but at the same time, it covers several things my article left out.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 8, 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.)
  • T8000 - Wednesday, September 8, 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.

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