Conclusion And Performance Analysis, Continued
This brings us to the aspect that is likely to be most important for potential buyers of the GeForceFX - raw performance, which is still of paramount importance in current games.
Where pixel fillrate is concerned, the GeForceFX is clearly superior to ATi's Radeon 9700 PRO. The case is not so clear-cut with vertex shader performance, i.e., triangle throughput. Although the GeForceFX leads the Radeon by a small margin, ATi could bridge this gap with a simple clock speed increase from 325 to 350 MHz. This does not account for the fillrate, though. ATi's 0.15 micron design simply can't weather such high clock speeds, while NVIDIA's 0.13 micron product is bound to have some headroom left over.
The memory performance is harder to judge from paper alone. Although ATi has the higher nominal memory bandwidth, thanks in part to its 256 bit memory bus (19.6 GB/s vs. 16 GB/s), NVIDIA can compensate this gap with its new color compression feature. We've already emphasized the importance of an optimized memory interface. Again, let's take Matrox' Parhelia as an example, which comes nowhere near the performance levels of a GeForce4 Ti (10.4 GB/s) or R9700 PRO despite its impressive memory bandwidth of 18 GB/s. Only real-world tests will reveal whether NVIDIA's memory interface is up to the task.
NVIDIA has made giant steps forward where performance and image quality are concerned. Thanks to its adaptive anisotropic filtering technique and the fast trilinear filter, the performance penalties of a GeForce4 Ti4600 should be a thing of the past. Another positive aspect is that the user still has full control over the filter settings, making it possible to switch back to "classical" filtering techniques any time. In FSAA, the GeForceFX should be superior to the Radeon 9700 PRO, since color compression should give it a major performance boost, in turn allowing for much higher sample rates.
Without a doubt, NVIDIA has once again brought us closer to the big goal of photo-realistic rendering in real-time on a PC. It's now up to the game developers to ensure that even people outside of Hollywood studios also get to benefit from this development. However, NVIDIA has created an attractive bundle even for today's games. Right now we're lacking one very important thing to draw any definite conclusions, though - review samples! At least NVIDIA has announced it will ship the first batch of GeForceFX chips to card makers in December, making it only a matter of time before we can take a hands-on look at a real card. I'm afraid if you were hoping to find a brand-new GeForceFX in your Christmas stocking, you'll be disappointed to hear that cards won't be widely available in stores before February. Test samples should become available in November, though.
To finish up, here is a summary/timeline of the GeForceFX's production status:
Tapeout: complete - First samples: November 2002 - Mass production: December 2002 - Retail launch: February 2003.