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GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software - Page 1

The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software
Enter the Detonator XPs and Titanium

By - Marco Chiappetta
Edited By:  Dave Altavilla
October 1, 2001
   

NVIDIA is at it again. Just when we were all getting used to the idea of a new chipset standard from the 3D graphics giant, we're thrown the proverbial curve ball.  The timing couldn't be any better.  ATi, NVIDIA's main competitor, is about to ship their next generation product and what better way to steal ATi's thunder, than to release a new product of their own?  Better yet, how about a whole new line of products?

Just about this time in 2000, NVIDIA not only unveiled the GeForce 2 Ultra but also a new set of drivers that promised to increase performance for all NVIDIA 3D chipsets.  Well, a little over a year later we find ourselves in the same situation.  Not only does NVIDIA have new hardware on the horizon but just a few weeks ago, NVIDIA's "Detonator XP" drivers were released, with that same promise of increased performance.  These new drivers coupled with the "new" hardware comprise the Titanium (Ti) line of products.


CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW

The Titanium line consists of three new products, the GeForce 2 Ti (left), the GeForce 3 Ti 200 (middle) and the flagship GeForce 3 Ti 500 (right).  Below we have some shots of the backs of the GeForce 2 Ti and GeForce 3 Ti 500 respectively.

               

The GeForce 2 Ti is NVIDIA's new "mainstream" product, clocked at 250MHz. Core / 400MHz. (200MHz. DDR) memory and priced in line with current GeForce 2 Pro cards (approximately $150).  The GeForce 3 Ti 200 should offer performance similar to current GeForce 3s, at about half the price. GeForce 3 Ti 200s should be priced in the $200 range. We don't actually have a card to verify this but it should ship with a core clockspeed of 175MHz. and a 400MHz. (200MHz. DDR) memory subsystem.  For now, let's get a little more detailed with the GeForce 3 Ti 500's (MSRP $350) specifications.

Specifications and Features of the GeForce 3 Ti 500
New hardware AND new software

         

  • Core (GPU) Clock Frequency - 240MHz.
  • DDR Memory Frequency - 500MHz. (250MHz. DDR)
  • Manufactured with an Enhanced .15 TSMC process
  • nFiniteFX engine for full programmability
  • Lightspeed Memory Architecture for unmatched performance
  • Surface engine for high-order surfaces and patches
  • Programmable Vertex Shader
  • Procedural deformations
  • Programmable matrix palette skinning
  • Keyframe animation interpolation
  • Morphing
  • Fog effects (Radial, Elevation, Non-linear)
  • Lens effects (Fish eye, Wide angle, Fresnel effects, Water refraction)
  • Programmable Pixel Shader
  • Phong-style lighting for per-pixel accuracy
  • Dot3 bump mapping
  • Environmental bump mapping (EMBM)
  • Procedural textures
  • Per-pixel reflections
  • HRAA?high-resolution antialiasing (Featuring Quincunx AA mode) up to 16 AA samples per clock
  • Integrated hardware transform engine
  • Integrated hardware lighting engine
  • DirectX and S3TC texture compression
  • Reflection maps
  • Dual cube environment mapping capability
  • Accurate, real-time environment reflections
  • Hardware accelerated real-time shadows
  • True, reflective bump mapping
  • Z-correct bump mapping
  • Phong-style lighting effects on bump maps with reflections
  • High-performance 2D rendering engine
  • Optimized for 32-, 24-, 16-, 15- and 8-bpp modes
  • True-color hardware cursor with alpha
  • Multi-buffering (double, triple or quad) for smooth animation and video playback
  • High-quality HDTV/DVD playback
  • High-definition video processor (HDVP) for full-screen, full-frame video playback of HDTV and DVD content
  • Independent hardware color controls for video overlay
  • Hardware color-space conversion (YUV 4:2:2 and 4:2:0)
  • Motion compensation
  • 5-tap horizontal by 3-tap vertical filtering
  • 8:1 up/down scaling
  • Per-pixel color keying
  • Multiple video windows supported for CSC and filtering
  • DVD sub-picture alpha-blended compositing

For more detailed explanations of the GeForce 3's features, take a look at one of our earlier reviews.  If you take a close look at the cards themselves, you won't notice much of a difference between the Titanium (Ti) line and a standard GeForce 2 Pro or GeForce 3.

         

           

Everything from cooling to the board layout is similar to current GeForce 2s and 3's.  In fact, with the exception of a small jumper on the back of our GeForce 3 Ti 500 (visible in the shot at the top of the page), there was virtually no physical differences between it and a Visiontek GeForce 3.

      

While speaking on a conference call with Geoff Ballew, Product Line Manager for NVIDIA and Brian Burke Senior PR Manager, we were informed that due to refinements to the manufacturing process, they were able to achieve higher clock speeds with this new GeForce3 core (240MHz.), while generating less heat.  The memory installed on the Ti 500 is clocked at 500MHz. (250MHz. DDR).  We weren't told the speed bin rating of the DRAM but we assume they are just "hand picked" 3.8ns parts, similar to what you'd find on current GeForce 3s, guaranteed to run at this high clock speed.

The Drivers and Image Quality 

 
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The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software - Page 2

The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software
Enter the Detonator XPs and Titanium

By - Marco Chiappetta
Edited By:  Dave Altavilla
October 1, 2001

We're not sure what is really NVIDIA's strong suit, designing and bringing to market great chipsets or the software that drives them.  Historically, NVIDIA's driver implementation has been immaculate.  Stability and compatibility have always been a fundamental element for the Detonator series of drivers.  In addition, regular performance enhancements with follow on releases, has been a strong selling point for NVIDIA product in the channels.  Just a couple of weeks ago, end users were treated to a significant performance boost with the release of the Detonator XP driver set. 

There are few companies that have entered the PC Graphics fray, that can claim the kind of robust software and driver suite that is delivered with product from NVIDIA.  For this review, we've tested the GeForce3 Titanium series of product, with version 21.85 of the Detonator XP driver set. Here's a look at what it has to offer.

Installation and the drivers of the "new" GeForce Cards
Drivers - The Key to a great piece of hardware
 

MAIN
 

OUTPUT DEVICE
 

DESKTOP UTILITIES
 

AA METHOD
 

COLOR CORRECTION
 

DIRECT 3D
 

OPENGL
 

OVERCLOCKING
 

The drivers have a good deal of functionality and enable the user to control many aspects of the GeForce3.  In addition to the controls you see here, there are also adjustments for "Video Overlay" with respect to brightness, contrast, hue and saturation.  This is a great tool for folks watching TV Tuners, DVD or streaming video in a window on the desktop.  Also, Multi-Monitor support, with Twin View and the "Desk Top Manager" feature, is maturing nicely for NVIDIA.

The are many enhancements incorporated into the Detonator XP driver set, including a custom DirectX 8.1 pipeline and complete OpenGL 1.3 ICD.  The proprietary NVIDIA "Lightspeed" memory architecture algorithms as well as Vertex programs have also been optimized.  The Detonator XP drivers accelerate the new Windows XP features in hardware. Finally, a new technology dubbed "XPress Link" has also been incorporated, that allows Windows XP to communicate directly with the graphics subsystem hardware.

In the above shot of the Overclocking tab, you'll note that our GeForce3 Ti 500 came set to a 240MHz. Core Clock speed and 500MHz (250MHz. DDR) Memory Clock.  This is a 20% boost in GPU speed and approximately 10% boost in memory interface.  This should prove useful during times of heavy rendering and processing of scenes, for example with high resolution  HRAA (High Resolution Anti-Aliasing) enabled.

HRAA
High Resolution Anti-Aliasing



NO AA



2x AA



QUINCUNX AA



4X AA

We can remember the days when 3dfx and NVIDIA were battling it out with respect to image quality and FSAA.  Back in the day, 3dfx sure did seem to have an edge on NVIDIA's method of getting out the jaggies.  Things have come a long way since then.  NVIDIA has simplified the choice of FSAA settings down to three, 2X, Quincunx and 4X mode.  Here you can see the quality of each setting.  At 1024X768 resolution, all settings were totally "playable" and smooth.  To us, there is nothing like clean and simple 4X FSAA.  It does take a toll on frame rate somewhat but as the GeForce3 gets more powerful with clock speeds and driver enhancements, 4X mode is beginning to feel like our default setting.  Quincunx mode cleans up the edges about as well as 4X mode but also blurs the textures ever so slightly.  No, for us it's 4X HRAA all the way.

Testing Methods and some Benchmarks

 

 

 
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The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software - Page 3

The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software
Enter the Detonator XPs and Titanium

By - Marco Chiappetta
Edited By:  Dave Altavilla
October 1, 2001 

For the sake of comparison, we also did  3D Mark 2001 testing under Windows Millennium using the exact same test rig and driver revision...

Benchmarks / Comparisons
Tearin' it up!

3D MARK 2001:

Again the GeForce 3 Ti 500 performed superbly.  Scores under Windows Millennium were slightly higher than under Windows XP, with the exception of the 1600x1200 test.

Next, we switched back to Windows XP and tested performance using the GeForce 3's different Anti-Aliasing methods.

Even with Anti-Aliasing enabled, 3D Mark 2001 performance was excellent.  Using the Quincunx AA method seemed to be the "sweet-spot" at 1024x768.  We played a bit of Max Payne, which uses the same game engine as 3D Mark 2001, and at this resolution with Quincunx AA enabled.  The performance and visual quality was fantastic.
 
Overclocking The GeForce 3 Ti500
You can never have too much of a good thing!

We were curious to see what the GeForce 3 Ti 500 was really capable of, so we jacked the core and memory clocks up a bit and ran it through another series of tests using 3D Mark 2001.  With our pre-production board and it's stock cooling, we were able to bring the core up to 263MHz. and the memory up to 565MHz.  Although these clock speeds are impressive, we were a bit disappointed.  We've seen standard GeForce 3s hit virtually the same speeds.  We can only hope that shipping products with more efficient cooling schemes will be able to overclock higher.

As expected, our overclocked GeForce 3 Ti 500 performed very well under 3D Mark 2001.  Direct3D isn't the only API in town though.   Let's move on...

Moving on to some OpenGL Benchmarks!

 

 

 
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The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software - Page 4

The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software
Enter the Detonator XPs and Titanium

By - Marco Chiappetta
Edited By:  Dave Altavilla
October 1, 2001 

Let's step into the world of OpenGL testing.  First out of the gate is Vulpine GLMark v1.1

Benchmarks / Comparisons
More carnage...

 
This test in comprised of highly detailed indoor and outdoor environments.  We turned on the "GeForce 3" settings and ran the benchmark in full screen mode.

VULPINE GLMARK:

Framerates remained smooth and fluid throughout testing, on both the standard GeForce 3 and the GeForce 3 Ti 500.  Neither card was capable of hitting the "magic" number of 60FPS at 1600x1200 but then again, neither can any other graphics card currently on the market.  Note the approximate 10% performance advantage the Ti 500 holds over the standard GeForce 3.

The next series of OpenGL testing was done using the venerable Quake 3 Arena.

QUAKE 3 ARENA:

For the first test, we used Quake 3 Arena's "Fastest" setting, but bumped the color depth up to 32Bit.  If we left it at 16Bit, our 1.4GHz Athlon test system would have been CPU limited at almost every resolution.

At the lower resolutions, there isn't much of a performance difference between a standard GeForce 3 and a GeForce 3 Ti 500 but as the resolution increases, so does the Ti 500's performance lead.  At 1600x1200, the GeForce 3 Ti 500 has a 14.2 FPS advantage over the standard GeForce 3.

With the graphical options set this low, Quake 3 looks pretty sad however.  It's time to crank up the options and put a little more pressure on these cards...

More Quake 3 and some more Overclocking

 
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The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software - Page 5

The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software
Enter the Detonator XPs and Titanium

By - Marco Chiappetta
Edited By:  Dave Altavilla
October 1, 2001 

Quake 3 Arena's "High Quality" settings are up next...

Benchmarks / Comparisons
Holy Smoke!
 
Quake 3 Arena's  "High Quality" setting is far more visually appealing than the "Fastest / 32 Bit" settings used in the previous test.  For this test, not only did we set the game to "High Quality", but we enabled tri-linear filtering and set the geometric and texture detail to their highest settings.   

QUAKE 3 ARENA:

The above graph is an illustration as to why Quake 3 is losing it's usefulness as a raw performance benchmark.  Even with all of the graphical options set to maximum, both cards were able to achieve high frame rates all the way up to 1600x1200.  Unless there are dozens of models on screen, in the heat of some intense action, Quake 3 is no longer able to stress this current generation of nVidia powered graphics cards.  In this test, the earlier trend continued as the GeForce 3 Ti 500 had double-digit performance gains over a standard GeForce 3 at high resolutions.

We also ran this same test using all three AA methods available on the GeForce 3 line of cards...

At 1024x768, all of the GeForce 3's AA methods yielded acceptable frame rates.  Although the 2X AA method noticeably decreases "jaggies", when the Quincunx or 4X AA methods are enabled, the image improvement is far more dramatic and more visually appealing.

Even though the GeForce 3 Ti 500 cut though Quake 3 like a hot knife through warm butter, we decided to overclock our card and see what happened...

Overclocking The GeForce 3 Ti500
You can never have too much of a good thing!

We once again cranked up the core and memory clockspeeds to 263MHz. / 565MHz. and  ran Demo001 at the "High Quality" / Maximum settings.

There you have it folks, while overclocked, our GeForce 3 Ti 500 was able to attain triple-digit frame rates all the way up to 1600x1200x32.  At this high resolution Quake 3 looks absolutely phenomenal.  Its time to push things a bit further though...

 

More OpenGL Performance...

 

 

 
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The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software - Page 6

The GeForce3 Ti 500 and nVidia's Fall Lineup...New Hardware & Software
Enter the Detonator XPs and Titanium

By - Marco Chiappetta
Edited By:  Dave Altavilla
October 1, 2001 

Next, we move onto a more "taxing" OpenGL Benchmark, Dronez.

Benchmarks / Comparisons
Wild Stuff...
 
The Dronez OpenGL Benchmark, developed by Zetha Gamez, uses the advanced shader capabilities built into the GeForce 3. There are many high poly count models and objects in a highly detailed environment. This test also exploits the four texture units for custom lighting effects, combined with multi-texturing and custom glossy bump mapping with texture shaders and special effects. Through the use of a large amount of Vertex Programs, Zetha achieves better performance on tasks like skinning and animation.

Let's find out what the optimizations in the Detonator XP drivers, coupled with the increased clock speeds of the GeForce 3 Ti 500, can do in this test.

DRONEZ:

The increased core and memory clock speeds of the GeForce 3 Ti 500 do have a measurable impact on performance in this test.  At every resolution, the Ti 500 was approximately 10 FPS faster than a standard GeForce 3 (a 10-12% increase). 

When running the OpenGL based Dronez benchmark under Windows Millennium, we see slightly different results than we found with the 3D Mark 2001 Direct3D tests.  Here, at all but he lowest resolution (800x600), Dronez performed much better when using Windows XP.  We feel gamers using nVidia based graphics cards contemplating a switch to Windows XP need not worry.  nVidia's claim that their software engineers worked closely with Microsoft to optimize the Detonator XP drivers, appears to be true.  Although Direct3D testing showed slightly lower performance, the OpenGL performance seems to be a bit higher.  in the case of Dronez, about 10% higher.

There is no denying that nVidia has once again delivered a group of top-notch products.  Although there have been some refinements to the hardware, the real innovation here lies within the Detonator XP driver package.  nVidia's driver team has managed to elicit even more performance from their hardware under both Direct3D and OpenGL, while incorporating optimizations to accelerate the new features in Windows XP.  These software innovations coupled with the "tweaked" GeForce 2 & 3 GPUs, comprises nVidia's new Titanium line of graphics processors.  Looking at the performance of their flagship product, the GeForce 3 Ti 500, enthusiasts will surely be anticipating their arrival on retail shelves.  Although we have not fully tested the other cards in the Titanium lineup, we're sure they'll be leaders in their respective markets as well.  Until we have tested "retail" versions of these cards, we'll hold off of the Heat Meter rating.  For now, take our word that nVidia is preparing to deliver more power and performance with "Titanium".

 

Get in on it at the HotHardware Conference Room!  We're looking for some Fresh Meat!
 

  To HotHardware!

 
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