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NVIDIA rocks the Boat with TNT2

The Boards

I was testing 3 different versions of TNT2-boards. A 16 MB board with a TNT2 running at 125 MHz chip clock and 150 MHz memory clock, a 32 MB board with TNT2 running at 150 MHz chip clock and 183 MHz memory clock and finally a special Diamond 32 MB board with TNT2 running at 175 MHz chip clock and no less than 200 MHz memory clock. The Diamond board was using 5 ns SDRAM, the other two boards were using 5.5 ns SDRAM. Those three different clock speeds are simply showing some configurations that are possible with TNT2. None of the 3D-card makers could yet confirm which kind of configuration they are planning to use. I am also deliberately avoiding the term 'ultra' for the higher clock speed versions of TNT2, because NVIDIA is not sure if the term 'ultra' will be used to distinguish between the different speed versions. NVIDIA expects to produce a pretty high yield of parts running at 150 MHz or above, they are suggesting numbers in the two-digit percentage range. NVIDIA leaves it up to the card vendor to decide on how high to clock TNT2 on their boards. The two reference boards were equipped with a S-VHS video-out, the Diamond board came without it. None of the boards had a digital output for flat panels. All boards came with a cooling fan on top of the TNT2-chip, which did a very good job on keeping TNT2 pretty cool. The TNT-board from STB is e.g. getting seriously hotter than any of the TNT2-boards did.

The Drivers

TNT2's new driver is an improved version of NVIDIA's latest 'Detonator' driver for TNT. TNT2 runs with TNT-drivers as well, but it shows better performance with its own drivers. TNT does run with the TNT2 driver as well, but it's very unstable. I guess that the TNT2-driver takes advantage of TNT2's improved rendering pipeline timing, which causes problems when using it with a TNT-board. The driver used for the testing was rev. 0170. I just received the new driver 0172b now, which is overall a bit faster and has improved 3DNow!-optimizations, but it came to late to re-run all the benchmarks before publishing. Keep this in mind when reading the results, the new driver makes TNT2 even a bit faster, particularly with K6-2 and K6-3. We should also not forget that this here is a preview, we can expect improved performance once TNT2 starts shipping. NVIDIA's software guru Dwight Diercks has promised me to dedicate a lot of time for including 3DNow! into the drivers, 0172b is only the first step into that direction and it improves K6-2 and K6-3 frame rate results by about 10% already. The TNT2-driver follows Nvidia's tradition and contains a full OpenGL-ICD.


Fortunately this will be a pretty short paragraph, since I hardly stumbled about many problems at all. The most annoying problem was some rare lock ups in Quake2 when 'timedemo' was at '1'. I was assured that this is only a driver issue and Dwight is already taking care of it. The next thing I stumbled across was a problem with Socket7-systems based on the Ali Aladdin V chipset. I could only start Windows 98 when disabling 'AGP Turbo Mode' in the BIOS setup of the Asus P5A, but once that's done TNT2 runs without any problems. I'd still prefer to see this issue sorted out though, because the P5A is simply faster with 'AGP Turbo Mode' enabled. Last but not least was I quite surprised to see that the latest TNT2-driver does not support the resolution 1280x960 of Quake2 in full screen mode. TNT2 is definitely fast enough to make this resolution pretty useful in Quake2 and NVIDIA has recognized the problem. The release drivers of TNT2 will support 1280x960 full screen mode as well.

Image Quality

TNT2's image quality is identical to the immaculate image quality of TNT. There is certainly no reason to show you any screen shots, especially not if you are already the owner of a TNT based graphics card. People who are used to Voodoo2's image quality should really have a look at e.g. Quake2 running on TNT. Many of the Voodoo2-owners seem to still not know how much better Quake2 can look. TNT2 will combine TNT's image quality with 3D performance way ahead of Voodoo2.

Test Systems

Pentium III and Celeron System

  • Asus P2B motherboard with Intel 440BX-chipset
  • 128 MB PC100 SGRAM
  • Adaptec 2940U2W SCSI Host Adapter
  • IBM DGVS-09U ultra wide SCSI hard drive

K6-2 and K6-3 System

  • Asus P5A motherboard with Ali Aladdin V chipset
  • 128 MB PC100 SGRAM
  • Adaptec 2940U2W SCSI Host Adapter
  • IBM DGVS-09U ultra wide SCSI hard drive

Winstone99 was ran at 1024x768x16bit and 1024x768x32bit, 85 Hz refresh rate.

`VSYNC' was turned `off' in all of the 3D-benchmarks.

Driver Revisions Used

3Dfx Voodoo34.11.01.0409-1.00 from February 10, 1999
3Dfx Voodoo24.11.01.0350-2.18 from December 23, 1998
ATI Rage1284.11.6069 from March 3, 1999
NVIDIA RIVA TNT24.10.01.0170 from March 6, 1999
NVIDIA RIVA TNT4.10.01.0110 from February 1, 1999