3DNow! Enabled 3D Adapters - Which solution offers the best performance?


3D-gaming used to be a tough call with non-Intel CPUs for a long time. The floating-point performance of CPUs from AMD, Cyrix, IBM, IDT, etc. could never really come close to the number crunching ability of a Celeron or Pentium II. Last year AMD finally did something against this and introduced their own 'streaming SIMD'-solution called '3DNow!'. This extension to the CPU instruction set was particularly targeted to make AMD-processors perform better in 3D-games and other applications that require floating point calculations on arrays of numbers. It has been taking a while until software developers optimized their games or other applications for 3DNow!, but today there's quite a variety of titles you can get with 3DNow!-optimization. 3Dfx used to be the first hardware developer who optimized their drivers for 3DNow! as well. This is why so far every owner of a K6-2 or K6-3-system was trying to get a 3Dfx-product, if he wanted to do 3D-gaming. Now NVIDIA claims to have optimized their TNT2-drivers for 3Dnow! as well. The question underlying this article is pretty simple: Does any new 3D-chip perform better than Voodoo3 under 3DNow! ? We found the answer to that question for you, testing products from 3Dfx, NVIDIA, Matrox, S3 and ATi.

Platform Compatibility

Unfortunately, we've been working on this article for several weeks now. What should have taken several days turned out to be quite time consuming. Getting an Nvidia TNT2 based board to work in an ALI-V based motherboard along with getting a Voodoo3 clocked at 183 MHz to work on the FIC PA-2013 with an AMD-K6 III 450 MHz was nothing more than amusing.