iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






April 2002 3Digest - NVIDIA GeForce3

By Andrew Worobyew

This chip is presented by VisionTek GeForce3 64 MBytes, AGP videocard.


  • NVIDIA GeForce3, 200 MHz clock rate;
  • 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM memory in eight EliteMT 3.8ns microchips, 230 (460) MHz clock rate, 128-bit bus;
  • Peak fill rate in the multitexturing mode without optimizations is 800 megapixels/sec and 1600 megatexels/sec.

The end of February 2001 brought the new NVIDIA product, fundamentally differing from all previous solutions by memory optimizations. It's known that memory bandwidth was the most vulnerable part of all recent accelerators. New cards required faster and more expensive memory, resulting in increased prices. GeForce2 Ultra with 64 MBytes of the most expensive 4ns memory has become the peak. The incredible prices and sales failure of these cards taught NVIDIA a lesson and the company tried hard to consider all previous mistakes in the new product. It's interesting that GeForce3 had memory with the same clock rate (230 (460) MHz) as GeForce2 Ultra, but the core clock rate was even lower (200 MHz vs. 250 MHz). This resulted in undoubtful victory of GeForce3 in 32-bit color mode, and GeForce2 Ultra was only the second lacking memory bandwidth. GeForce3 cards were the industry leaders (in the 3D accelerators sector) until the fall of 2001. The September Ti200/500 line put an end to the life of the February firstling. Now all manufacturers produce only Ti200/500 couple, having cancelled GeForce3 cards long ago. However, all three cards differ only by clock rates. There are no fundamental differences between them, whatever NVIDIA's marketing department says.

Now GeForce3 Ti200/500 is on the homestretch. The release of GeForce4 Ti, actually being the improved GeForce3, passed the sentence on the previous family. If GeForce4 MX is to strike the GeForce2 line, then GeForce4 Ti is aimed at GeForce3 Ti200/500 - at Ti500 in particular. As GeForce3 cards are not manufactured anymore, leaving the market, it's our last review of this card.

Read more about GeForce3 in the following articles:

Wasn't overclocked.

For the 10th of April 2002 the latest drivers from NVIDIA are 28.32 for Windows 9x/ME and 28.32, 28.35, 28.80 for Windows XP.

Windows ME

Windows XP

We see almost no difference between the latest drivers. But 27.20 and 27.30 are not very stable (especially under Windows XP), but 27.50, 27.51 (and especially 28.32) are better from this point.

I'd recommend version 28.32, as the most stable.

I shall mark that overlay settings tab is disabled in a number of 14.*, 21.88, 22.* versions. It may be enabled with RivaTuner utility.

You can get more information about problems of various NVIDIA drivers at the NVIDIA World site.

And now I want to attract your attention to another important 3D feature - filtering. As many of you know, all chipsets support bilinear filtering that is an important instrument in MIP-mapping, some chipsets support trilinear filtering (true, not the approximation) and only few support anisotropic filtering.

Due to the fact that GeForce2 and GeForce3 do support anisotropic filtering, I recommend you to pay attention to the article concerning this feature.

I shall mark that GeForce3 supports new types of antialiasing based on multisampling (MSAA) technology, including noteworthy Quincunx mode (read about it in our GeForce3 review). Here are two examples:

Interesting technologies of working with vertex and pixel shaders allow to get more realistic lighting effects and to form original solutions like semi-transparent objects on the right screenshot:

As far back as 1999 Matrox released a revolutionary (for those years) technology of relief texturing with usage of environment maps - EMBM. Time passed and some other Bump Mapping technologies began to spread (though slowly), and DOT3 most of all. But however developers didn't like such effective methods of realistic representation of complex 3D objects that had not so smooth surface in the majority of cases. The reason of this attitude was a very small number of graphic accelerators capable of working with Bump Mapping of mentioned types. By the way there's also the Emboss BM, supported by almost all cards, but due to low 3D-realism and high resources requirements it hasn't become widespread. Only after releases of NVIDIA GeForce and especially GeForce2 some mediocre realizations of BM began to appear, namely DOT3. EMBM begins to spread as well because not only Matrox G400, but also ATI RADEON and NVIDIA GeForce3 support it now. The example of EMBM can be seen on the water surface screenshot above. Giants game has become a good example of BM:

Bump Mapping DOT3 is widely used in this game and EMBM is used occasionally. I hope EMBM application would become wider than it has been before. I shall add that a new version of this game, using GeForce3 features, is included into ELSA Gladiac 920 box. Read more about it in the ELSA Gladiac 920 review.

The power and perfomance of GeForce3 is in the best way demonstrated in the demo of the future X-Isle - Dinosaur Island game:

If some are not satisfied with these (as many think X-Isle is just a techno-demo), here you are: the screenshots from the future Unreal2 hit (they were taken from the alpha version, and may developers forgive me for using stolen pictures, but Internet is full of this alpha stuff)!

There's no criticism about 3D quality in all the games tested. Look at the shots taken on this card.

Games / Cards 1 2 3 4 5 6

Games / Cards 7 8 9 10 11 12

Games / Cards 13 14 15 16 17 18

Games / Cards 19 20 21 22 23 24

Games / Cards 25 26 27 28 29 30

Game list:

  • 1. Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  • 2. Unreal2 - for GeForce cards, Unreal - for all other
  • 3. Comanche4
  • 4. No One Lives Forever
  • 5. Serious Sam
  • 6. Colin McRAE Rally2
  • 7. Red Faction
  • 8. Rally Trophy
  • 9. Sacrifice
  • 10. Venom
  • 11. Need For Speed V (Porshe 2000)
  • 12. Real MYST
  • 13. Blade of Darkness
  • 14. Giants
  • 15. 3DMark2001: Game1
  • 16. 3DMark2001: Game2
  • 17. 3DMark2001: Game3
  • 18. 3DMark2001: Game4
  • 19. 3DMark2001: Dot3
  • 20. 3DMark2001: EMBM
  • 21. 3DMark2001: Vertex Shaders
  • 22. 3DMark2001: Pixel Shaders
  • 23. Black & White
  • 24. Undying
  • 25. Command and Conquer: Renegade
  • 26. Max Payne
  • 27. AquaNox
  • 28. Serious Sam II
  • 29. IL2: Shturmovik
  • 30. MoHAA

2D quality is very good and even excellent. 1600x1200x85 Hz mode is comfortable from the point of picture quality. We had no samples of this card with bad 2d-quality (except for MSI StarForce822, that showed slightly worse 2D-quality). So it's hard to draw any conclusions, but the 2D-quality of almost all GeForce3 cards is even better than that of GeForce2 Ultra cards. And I shall mark that 6.* version drivers are not compatible with the software for sound cards based on Yamaha processor, as well as with SoftXG100 software synthesizer. Start or Close Window buttons can be spoiled by some "garbage" in 2D mode. So we recommend to look for the latest WDM drivers from Yamaha.

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