The NVIDIA GeForce chipset based cards are great solutions available right now but just what else is out there at the moment and what might we be seeing in the near future? Let's take a look at each company at a glance.
3dfx has been unfortunate to have major delays on their latest product and has taken major flak from many of the online press for it. What seemed like a cool product months ago is now turning into average as folks like ATi and NVIDIA will soon be offering products that may be just as fast and offer the once unique features it had. On top of this, 3dfx's upcoming Voodoo4/5 cards do not have the T&L ability that everyone is moving to. I will give them credit that most software companies haven't moved onto the T&L bandwagon yet but by the time they ship, many people will be curious or interested in T&L that's coming soon and just might skip their product to go with something "safe" that supports it. I think the biggest thing that 3dfx has going for them in their upcoming cards is the fact that they promise killer fill-rates. We're of course assuming this so don't hold your breath. NVIDIA, ATi and Matrox were all gaining ground after all those delays. 3dfx will be showing what they've got to offer this month so we'll see.
The Rage Fury MAXX wasn't released long ago and is currently ATi's flagship graphics card. Although the card performance isn't too shabby, the cost for the performance have rated it a card I would pass on as there are so many better choices at the same price. However, the MAXX will probably be short lived as ATi recently released some information about their next generation product. It is said to have incredible fill-rates. T&L that is an improvement over what NVIDIA is currently offering, and a few other unique special effects. We should be seeing hardware in the coming weeks as well as a full-depth analysis of the graphics engine.
Bitboys are a new player in this area of well established players but is showing the hardcore graphics community some pretty promising technology as they plan to release detailed information on their product this month (supposedly). Extreme Bandwidth Architecture (XBA) is something that I'm really looking forward to as it's a change from the norm and promises to kick major behind. XBA is essentially imbedded DRAM into the graphics core. This gives the Bitboys the control to make the memory bus as wide as they'd like it to be (rumored to be 512-bit vs. the conventional 128-bit) and control over the speed at which the memory runs at since its internal. Granted there are limitations on the speed but such easy control over the memory bus width is going to give them killer memory bandwidth. The drawbacks? Well we've never seen a product from this company (keep in mind that they recently missed a self-set release date) and we're still waiting on more details so until they ship, it's all hype.
Matrox has been extremely quiet on what they're up to and unfortunately I have zero information on what's to come. As soon as I find out, however, you can bet you'll see a post.
Our current reigning champion of 3D, NVIDIA, hasn't been sitting back wasting the money you've been spending to buy their cards but has actually been improving the existing product. Rumor has it that we'll see the die shrink we never saw (less heat, more frequency), increased performance in the rendering pipelines (multi-texturing per pipeline and/or filtering), and rumored to have improved T&L ability due to popular demand. I can't give more detail than that but we'll see what's going on in the next few weeks.
One of the biggest flops in my opinion this past year (aside from RAMBUS) was the Savage 2000. I really don't appreciate the fact that their product hasn't lived up to many people's expectation because it puts so much pressure on the great press people and driver guys I know at S3. There has been much criticism about S3 technical support, that the card came up short on performance, T&L didn't ship enabled on the card and the list goes on. So what do we have to look forward to in the near future? An improved version of the S2000 from what I hear. I wonder if the S2000 T&L unit was just buggy in the first place and driver fixes were merely software workarounds. Maybe this next release will be the "working" T&L unit that has greater clock speeds and will allow S3 to compete as they had once hoped. Well, it had better be more than that because the competition is flexing much more than average hardware.