GeForce4 more than twice the speed of GeForce3

Benchmarks show that some components of the new GeForce4 graphics chips run up to 115 percent faster than their predecessors, but not all systems will reap the benefits
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Graphics acceleration enthusiasts can expect the new GeForce4 chip to deliver a significant performance boost over the fastest previous core from Nvidia, the GeForce3 Ti 500, with some components showing up to 115 percent improvement according to ZDNet tests.

Generally, the increased performance will mean users can turn on more features, such as anti-aliasing and filtering, for any given frame rate.

The fastest GeForce4, the Ti 4600, has six million more transistors than the Ti 500, bringing the total to 63 million -- more than Intel's flagship Pentium 4 processor. It includes a number of new features, including better anti-aliasing and the ability to drive up to 16 monitors, as well as generally better 3D performance.

Rendering performance increases are largely due to doubling the amount of frame-buffer memory to 128MB, although the midrange GeForce cards will still use 64MB. Nvidia has also added a second vertex shader, a component for rendering light and shadow graduations.

Under test conditions, the vertex shader component of the Ti 4600 showed a 115 percent improvement over the Ti 500. The 3DMark 2001 tests, carried out by ZDNet Germany, used an Athlon XP/2000+ with 256MB of DDR memory, running at a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels in 32-bit colour.

In tests, the Ti 4600 runs faster with Nvidia's basic level of anti-aliasing, called Quincunx, than the Ti 500 with no anti-aliasing. The Ti 4600 hit 8603 on 3DMark 2001 with Quincunx anti-aliasing, while the Ti 500 reached 8363 without anti-aliasing. Anti-aliasing is a technique for smoothing the jagged lines of computer graphics so that they appear more realistic.

With increased image quality features, the Ti 4600 maintains its significant lead over the Ti 500. For example, with 4x anti-aliasing, the Ti 4600 reached 5678, topping the Ti 500 with Quincunx anti-aliasing, which hit 5312.

The performance gap between the two chips particularly shows up with anti-aliasing turned on, according to benchmarks. With both chips running Quincunx anti-aliasing, the Ti 4600 hit 8603 in tests, while the Ti 500 reached 5312, a 62 percent difference.

With 4x anti-aliasing the Ti 4600 is 58 percent faster, while with 4x anti-aliasing and 64-tap anisotropic filtering turned on, the Ti 4600 is 39 percent faster. Anisotropic filtering is a technique for rendering images more clearly.

In Standard Mode, without anti-aliasing, Ti 4600 is 23 percent faster.

The new cards won't come cheap, with a recommended price for the Ti 4600 of about £279, and some doubt whether there are any games at the moment that require so much power. Some analysts have said that Return to Castle Wolfenstein, from Id Software, could tax the top-of-the-line GeForce4 cards, and upcoming games like id's next version of Doom will be designed to take full advantage of the new technology.

Nvidia says it ultimately wants to achieve the super-realistic effects of computer-animated films like Shrek on PC games.

To find out more about the computers and hardware that these chips are being used in, see ZDNet UK's Hardware News Section.

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