by Anand Lal Shimpi on April 26, 2000 12:00 PM EST

NVIDIA is truly a changed company.  Very few remember NVIDIA in their pre-Riva 128 days or even very fondly  for their TNT days since both products were plagued with the same problems that their competitors faced.  The Riva 128 was a very fast solution that paled in image quality to the competing products from 3dfx and Rendition, and the TNT had the potential to be an instant success had it not been for the fact that the TNT’s drivers still had quite a bit of maturing to do (which they eventually did).

Let’s fast forward a bit and take a look at the launch of the TNT2.  While the market still would not let NVIDIA forget that they failed to release the TNT at 125MHz as promised, NVIDIA was given a second chance to deliver as promised.  Instead of hyping up a clock speed that they could not deliver on, they instead decided to give the card manufacturers the flexibility to set their own clock frequencies at their own risk and ended up releasing the TNT2 as a higher yield TNT2 part and a lower yield TNT2 Ultra part that featured a higher clock speed. 

Companies such as the now defunct Hercules took it upon themselves to take the TNT2 core to the next level, hand-picking solutions capable of running at an amazing 175MHz, a 17% increase over the TNT2 Ultra’s default 150MHz clock speed.

The TNT2 was launched with near perfect drivers, since the TNT2 core was still relatively unchanged from the TNT, whose drivers had been maturing all this time.  Although the Voodoo3 versus TNT2 debate raged on in newsgroups, in the end, the TNT2’s raw performance, superior driver support and support for 32-bit color rendering managed to pull it ahead of the competition. 

By this time, the market was just getting used to NVIDIA’s 6-month product cycles, which, when executed properly, would result in a new technology being launched every fall followed by a “spring refresh,” which would boast the move to higher clock speeds and an upgraded feature set to keep the current product generation alive until the fall where NVIDIA would again introduce a new technology.  

This 6-month product cycle and NVIDIA’s ability to adhere to the short release intervals is actually what led to the virtual elimination of any competition at the release of their GeForce product last fall.  Unable to release their Voodoo4/5 around the time of NVIDIA’s GeForce launch, 3dfx was rendered hopeless in competing with the GeForce, since even their fastest Voodoo3 3500 didn’t have a hope of reaching the fill rates the GeForce was capable of pushing.  S3 had attempted to compete with the GeForce with their Savage2000, which was launched at last year’s Fall Comdex, but unfortunately, the problems that we’ve come to expect from S3 popped up once again, leaving the GeForce alone yet again.

Let’s fast-forward one more time to the present day, approximately 6 months after the release of NVIDIA’s GeForce.  It is time for their “spring refresh,” which, according to the NVIDIA product release model, should consist of a higher clock speed part as well as an expanded feature set to tide the market over until this fall. 

Take the GeForce, combine it with a new 0.18-micron fabrication process, pump up the clock rate, and add a boatload of features designed to keep NVIDIA on top for another 6 months and you have the GeForce 2 GTS – what NVIDIA likes to call the “world’s first Giga Texel Shader [GTS].”

The Chip
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