NVIDIA 2001 Spring Lineup
By: Mike Chambers - April 23, 2001
Today NVIDIA will be announcing their 2001 Spring line up of consumer graphics processing units which is aimed at strengthening the company's top to bottom product strategy. This includes the newly released GeForce2 MX 200 and 400 along with new price points for the GeForce2 Pro and the GeForce3 which is NVIDIA's latest high-end graphics processing unit.
- GeForce2 MX 200
Announced on March 6, the GeForce2 MX 200 expands the GeForce2 MX family at a sub $100 price point. The GeForce2 MX 200 is configured with a 175MHz core clock, a 166MHz memory clock, and 32MB of 64-bit SDR DRAM.
- GeForce2 MX 400
Also announced on March 6 is the GeForce2 MX 400 which will be priced at $129 which includes dual-monitor support (TwinView). The GeForce2 MX 400 sports a 200MHz core clock, 166MHz memory clock, and 64MB of 128-bit SDR DRAM.
- GeForce2 Pro
The GeForce2 Pro moves in to the performance segment with a suggested retail price of $199 and features a 200MHz core clock, a 200 MHz memory clock, and 64MB of 128-bit DDR DRAM.
The price point for the GeForce3 has dropped to $399.
While NVIDIA suggests the retail price, on-line vendors have already taken action as can be seen in the following price table. The prices are based on the average of the three best deals at Pricewatch at the time this article was published.
GeForce2 Price Chart - April 23, 2001
|GeForce2 MX 200
|GeForce2 MX 400
The price of the GeForce2 MX's are without TwinView which would add another $20 to the price. Notice that price for the 64MB GeForce2 Pro is already down to $185 and the GeForce3 is beginning to drop down to the $399 price point.
Since we have most of these cards in-house, we put them through a quick test using Quake 3 Arena which provides a good measure of graphics scalability. The test system consists of the following configuration:
- Pentium 3-700E @700MHz
- Asus CUSL2 Motherboard
- 256MB Mushkin PC150 RAM
- NVIDIA Detonator 11.01 Drivers
- Default Core and Memory Speeds
- 85Hz Monitor Refresh Rate
- Vsync and Sound Disabled
- Windows 98 First Edition
- DirectX 8.0
- Quake 3 Arena Version 1.17
The benchmark results are based on high quality settings using the Demo001 map:
- Color Depth - 16/32 Bit
- Lighting - Lightmap
- Geometric Detail - Medium
- Texture Detail - 3/4
- Texture Quality - 32 Bit
- Texture Filtering - Trilinear
- Texture Compression - Enabled
Note that 32-bit textures were enabled when 16-bit color was used. Also, the GeForce2 MX and GTS that were tested are 32MB models while the GeForce3 is a pre-retail board.
Quake 3 - Low Resolution Performance
At a resolution of 640x480 in both 16 and 32-bit color, performance is similar on all GeForce2 cards and is primarily based on processor speed. At 800x600 in 32-bit color, performance of both GeForce2 MX cards drops by 15-16 fps compared to when 16-bit color is used. The extra 25MHz core clock speed of the GeForce2 MX 400 over the GeForce2 MX doesn't buy much in this case.
Quake 3 - High Resolution Performance
The importance of having a graphics card with DDR memory when gaming at high resolutions and 32-bit color is evident in these results. All the non-GeForce2 MX cards perform well at 1024x768 in 32-bit color and 1280x1024 in 16-bit color.
Moving to a resolution of 1280x1024 in 32-bit color shows the scalability of the nanosecond rating associated with DDR memory. In the case of the GeForce3, which runs at a memory clock speed some 50MHz less than the GeForce2 Ultra, the benefit of its Lightspeed Memory Archtecture is apparent.
Quake 3 - Super High Resolution Performance
The GeForce3 definitely shows it's power at a resolution of 1600x1200 in 32-bit color. However, the 16-bit color scores of the GeForce3 have consistently been less than those of the GeForce2 cards which may be due in part to using a pre-retail board and/or unoptimized drivers.
It's also worth mentioning that the potential of the GeForce3 will not be fully realized until games that make use of its programmable transform and lighting unit are developed. Refer to our writeup on DroneZ for details.
NVIDIA is now using the GeForce2 series of graphics chipsets in continuing its top to bottom product strategy. From the low-end GeForce2 MX to the high-end GeForce3, consumers will have an even greater variety of graphics cards to choose from when upgrading or purchasing a new system. Based on this brief analysis of performance and price, I would have to pick the GeForce2 Pro as the best bang for the buck at this time.
When purchasing a new high-end system, the GeForce2 Ultra and the GeForce3 should be considered although it would be worthwhile to also get a 19 or 21-inch monitor. On the other hand, upgrading to a faster graphics card requires a bit of homework as processor speed is also a key variable in determining performance.
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