Apple: GeForce 3 to reach older Power Mac G4s

The Mac maker says Nvidia's hot new graphics chip - due first as a build-to-order option - will be available to earlier models starting in April

Arguably the most significant announcement to come out of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs' keynote address to Macworld Expo/Tokyo attendees is the news that Power Mac G4 systems will soon gain a build-to-order option for Nvidia's GeForce 3 graphics chip -- an industry first. More good news followed today: it appears Apple will also make the new graphics card available to users of older Power Mac G4 systems, as well.

Nvidia and Apple first announced a partnership at January's Macworld Expo/San Francisco. During that show, Apple unveiled three new Power Mac G4 configurations that sported cards featuring Nvidia's GeForce 2 MX graphics chip.

Mac users have been waiting a long time for Nvidia's products to reach the Mac market, so the news was greeted with enthusiasm. The enthusiasm was tempered by the recognition that the GeForce 2 MX was not Nvidia's premier chipset -- in fact, the chip is targeted at mass-market consumer computers. At the time of the announcement last month, however, Nvidia's premiere products were not available in Mac-compatible forms.

That situation changed yesterday with the announcement of the GeForce 3. The new graphics chip from Nvidia sports the nfiniteFX engine, which provides programmers with the ability to program realistic, stylised special effects in their games and 3D applications using Vertex Shaders and Pixel Shaders.

GeForce 3 also sports what Nvidia calls the "Lightspeed Memory Architecture", which it said provides high-resolution anti-aliasing samples at nearly four times the rate of the GeForce 2 Ultra. The GeForce 3 processes data at more than 800 billion operations per second (or BOPS), more than twice the raw performance of today's consumer graphics processors, according to Nvidia.

But Jobs' announcement last night may have led some users to believe that the GeForce3 would only be available to Mac buyers who purchase new Power Mac G4s. The GeForce 3 is available as a build-to-order option that will add $350 (about £238) onto the price of a Power Mac G4, which would otherwise ship with the GeForce2 MX card.

The Apple Store notes that the card is available as a separate accessory for older Power Mac G4 systems as well. (Look in the Displays section in the Apple Store's Accessories area for details.) The kit contains the same card that is featured as an option for the Power Mac G4 -- an AGP-based video card equipped with 64MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM.

The Power Mac G4 Nvidia GeForce 3 Video Card Kit will retail for $599 and will be available in late April, Apple said.

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