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NVIDIA rocks the Boat with TNT2

Conclusion

Before I let you know my thoughts about TNT2, let's try and compare TNT2 to its toughest competitor Voodoo3:

TNT2Voodoo3
Support of 32-bit rendering, which seems to have an impact of around 10-15%.No support of 32-bit rendering.
Support of AGP-texturing, enabling the proper and fast display of scenes with highly detailed textures.No support of AGP-texturing.
AGP 4x supportAGP 4x support only in Voodoo3 4000 coming up later this year, but still no support of the AGP-texturing
Highest frame rates in 3D-gamesHigh frame rate in 3D-games, but less than TNT2
Full OpenGL-ICDOpenGL-ICD still not finished, questionable if it will be available once Voodoo3 ships
Digital flat panel output integrated into chipDigital flat panel output on extra-chip called LCDfx, possibly more flexible solution
RAMDAC 300 MHzRAMDAC 350 MHz, supporting higher refresh rates at highest resolutions
32 MB onboard memory16 MB onboard memory, thus only limited color depths at highest resolutions
Available from several different graphics card vendors, thus possibly better prices due to competition between themAvailable only from 3Dfx via STB, no competition, prices will only be influenced by products with different chips
No Glide supportGlide support, possible advantage
No impressive 3DNow!-supportExcellent 3DNow!-support
NHVIDIA expects good availability of TNT2 at 150+ MHzProbably low yield of Voodoo3 3500
Expected mass shipment starting mid April 1999Mass shipment expect to start end of March 1999

I guess the frame rate numbers as well as the comparison above shows it pretty clearly. TNT2 seems to be the better product indeed. It has certainly got the better technology, supporting e.g. 32-bit rendering as well as AGP-texturing. The frame rates scored by TNT2 speak their own language, the 300 MHz RAMDAC should hardly be a problem for the vast majority of us, who had to live with 250 MHz RAMDACs so far. We also will still have to wait what's happening on the flat panel market in terms of screens with a digital input. NVIDIA offers a full OpenGL-ICD, whilst 3Dfx is working on theirs for a really long time now, alas with no result yet. The most interesting story is hidden behind 3Dfx's acquisition of STB though. 3Dfx has pissed off a lot of 3D-card makers after buying STB and logically not supplying any other 3D-card maker with their chips anymore. Companies like Diamond and Creative, but also Elsa, Guillemot and even Asus felt as if 3Dfx was trying to put them out of the 3D-business. Those companies were waiting for their chance to kick 3Dfx's butt and thus they all teamed up with NVIDIA. Now the disaster has happened to 3Dfx. NVIDIA has indeed produced a chip that's superior to their new and not even yet released Voodoo3 and Creative, Diamond and the likes can't wait to screw up the sales of Voodoo3. NVIDIA is in a lucky situation, almost everybody in the business is on their side against 3Dfx. I wonder what is going to happen to poor and soon 'bullied' 3Dfx in the next few months.

NVIDIA called their new product 'TNT2', clearly marking that this new chip is based upon its predecessor 'TNT'. Still the performance of that 'TNT2' lies at magnificent 70 to 100% above the performance of TNT. At the same time 3Dfx created a new chip that is only some 5-15% faster than their previous top-performer 'Voodoo2'. Instead of honestly calling this chip 'Banshee2', which would come close to the truth, they call it 'Voodoo3', suggesting a new technology. It seems pretty obvious that NVIDIA overtook 3Dfx only by continuously doing their homework properly. The mediocre performance increase of Voodoo3 over previous 3Dfx-products as well as Voodoo3's lack of new technologies like e.g. AGP-texturing or 32-bit rendering make it look as if 3Dfx's developers either got lazy or they are simply not up to doing their job right anymore. It may sound harsh, but the time was due for 3Dfx to lose their leading position. The Romans used to say 'Carpe diem!' - NVIDIA did, 3Dfx didn't.

From what I have seen of Voodoo3 and TNT2 I would not even hesitate a second and go for TNT2. It's overall the better chip and it will most likely even be cheaper than Voodoo3. As long as NVIDIA hasn't finished the 3DNow!-optimized driver though, AMD K6-2 or K6-3 owners may rather prefer Voodoo3, because it has an excellent 3DNow!-support.

NVIDIA has in any case got all reason and all rights to throw a huge party now. They've managed to push 3Dfx from the throne that 3Dfx occupied for over 3 years. The company that produces the fastest 3D-chip for PCs is from now on to be called NVIDIA! What have I read recently? "The King is dead, long live the King?" - I may be excused for altering that a bit to "The old King lies on his death bed, long live the new King from a different and more progressive tribe". Let's hope that the new king won't get as lazy as the old king did ...