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Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200 Review with NVIDIA's nForce
By: Mike Chambers - January 8, 2002

OpenGL Performance - Quake 3

Beginning with the GeForce2 Ultra and continuing with the GeForce3, 3D graphics performance on the personal computer has reached a point where modern games can be configured to use high quality graphics settings at a resolution of 1024x768 and offer solid performance.

However, the GeForce3 Ti 200 has the extra headroom to provide acceptable levels of performance when advanced graphics settings are used. For example, if I can play Quake 3 and maintain an average frame rate of 90+ frames per second, I might be able to use a higher degree of texture filtering or antialiasing to get the best visuals possible.

Where performance begins to decline is when advanced texturing filtering, antialiasing, or features specific to the GeForce3, such as pixel and vertex shaders, are used. In these cases, additional work is being placed on both the graphics processing unit and memory sub-system. Performance deteriorates even further when a combination of these features is used simultaneously.

On this page, I continue my testing of the Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200 with Quake 3 using four different graphics settings. Each setting provides improved visual quality at the expense of performance.

Quake 3 Test Settings

Setting Description
High
Quality
Standard High Quality
Setting
Maximum Quality Include High Geometry and Maximum Texture Detail
2X Anisotropic Maximum Quality with 2X Anisotropic Filtering
4X Anisotropic Maximum Quality with 4X Anisotropic Filtering

Maximum Quality with 4X Anisotropic Filtering

Click to Enlarge - 176KB.

Each setting was tested at resolutions of 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1600x1200, and 2048x1536 (60Hz refresh rate). Results from a GeForce3 Ti 500 reference card are also provided for comparative purposes.

Quake 3 - Demo Four - 32-Bit Color

Resolution NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200
High Quality Setting
1024x768 Avg: 212 Avg: 186
1280x1024 Avg: 165 Avg: 129
1600x1200 Avg: 122 Avg: 92
2048x1536 Avg: 83 Avg: 63
Maximum Quality Setting
1024x768 Avg: 193 Avg: 161
1280x1024 Avg: 139 Avg: 108
1600x1200 Avg: 102 Avg: 77
2048x1536 Avg: 71 Avg: 54

Under high quality settings, the Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200 slices and dices through Quake 3 as it reaches over 90 frames per second at a resolution of 1600x1200. At resolutions higher than 1024x768, the GeForce3 Ti 500 outperforms the Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200 by 25-30%. As the performance of these two graphics cards is compared, continue to ask yourself - "Does the GeForce3 Ti 500 provide a significant advantage over the GeForce3 Ti 200 in terms of performance at settings that are considered playable?" With high quality settings, the answer is probably not since both cards offer acceptable performance at all resolutions up to 1600x1200.

Notice that the GeForce3 Ti 500 managed 83 frames per second at a resolution of 2048x1536. I ended up convincing myself that this outrageous resolution was playable by hosting a local match with 8 bots.

Adding high geometry and maximizing texture detail (maximum quality setting) places additional workload on the GeForce3's core and memory. The performance of both cards decreases around 20% across the board by moving from high to maximum quality settings. If high quality sound were enabled, playing at a resolution of 1600x1200 on the Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200 becomes questionable for heavy-duty deathmatch. However, with 108 frames per second at 1280x1024, there's plenty of room to spare.

Performance on the The GeForce3 Ti 500 with maximum quality is impressive as it manages over 70 frames per second at a resolution of 2048x1536. A case could be made with maximum quality settings that one might have to move up to a GeForce3 Ti 500 in order to maintain a respectable frame rate at a resolution of 1600x1200. However, this setting will be re-visited in my overclocking tests.

Quake 3 - Demo Four - 32-Bit Color

Resolution NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200
2X Anisotropic Filtering
1024x768 Avg: 161 Avg: 125
1280x1024 Avg: 109 Avg: 82
1600x1200 Avg: 80 Avg: 60
2048x1536 Avg: 55 Avg: 41
4X Anisotropic Filtering
1024x768 Avg: 133 Avg: 101
1280x1024 Avg: 88 Avg: 66
1600x1200 Avg: 65 Avg: 48
2048x1536 Avg: 44 Avg: 33

Enabling 2X anisotropic texture filtering (with trilinear filtering) takes its toll as frame rates decrease by 30% on both cards. However the improvement in image quality, which is examined below, may be worth the loss in performance. With 82 frames per second at a resolution of 1280x1024, maximum quality combined with 2X anisotropic filtering could be the sweet spot in Quake 3 for the Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200 when paired with a fast processor.

Of course the image quality associated with 4X anisotropic filtering is better than 2X, but it's probably best to only use 4X anisotropic filtering at a resolution of 1024x768 on the Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200. The GeForce3 Ti 500 is able to maintain an average frame rate of 88 frames per second at a resolution of 1280x1024, but is it worth the extra expense? This particular setting is a good candidate for overclocking.

While Quake 3 has been around for more two years, the more recent Team Arena graphics engine continues to be a popular choice of game developers. Return to Castle Wolfenstein and upcoming titles such as Medal of Honor Allied Assault and Soldier of Fortune II. After having spent time playing the single and multiplayer demos of RTCW and Medal of Honor, you should expect the Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200 to provide solid performance in these new games. However, don't expect the same level of performance as you would get with Quake 3 since these new games are more graphically intensive.

Return To Castle Wolfenstein

Click to Enlarge - 118KB

Medal Of Honor

Click to Enlarge - 133KB

I spent more time than I should have playing the RTCW and Medal of Honor demos. Both games are certainly taking the on-line gaming community by storm.

As was shown with Soldier of Fortune, there were marked differences in image quality between the various texture filtering methods. In this series of maximum texture detail screenshots from Quake 3, you see that at this angle and texture pattern there's little difference between bilinear and trilinear filtering.

Texture Filtering - Quake 3

Bilinear Trilinear
Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes
2X Anisotropic 4X Anisotropic
Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes

It's not until anisotropic filtering was used that value was added to texture quality. In some cases the benefits of anisotropic filtering are minor, but for the majority of uses it's quite an improvement in image quality.

A better example of the benefits of anisotropic texture filtering is shown in the following screenshots from the Assassin's Roost map in Team Arena. The Team Arena add-on is known for its vibrant and color-rich textures and in this instance the variations in texture quality are more pronounced. In this example, your attention should be focused on the floor tiles and the seams between them.

Texture Filtering - Quake 3

Bilinear Trilinear
Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes
2X Anisotropic 4X Anisotropic
Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes

With anisotropic filtering enabled on the GeForce3, you'll notice a gradual and seamless transition between mipmap levels. Using the images below as an example, you'll also notice that anisotropic texture filtering appears to push mipmaps levels further away from the camera point of view.

Quake 3 Mipmaps - Trilinear Filtering

Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes

Quake 3 Mipmaps - Trilinear Filtering w/4X Anisotropic

Click To Compare Texture Filtering Modes

Notice that the initial mipmap boundry in the screenshot with trilinear and 4X anisotropic filtering is farther back than the image with only trilinear filtering enabled. So what happens when anisotropic filtering is applied with bilinear filtering? Well a couple of things. First, by clicking on either of the mipmap images, you'll see that the image quality associated with 4X anisotropic and bilinear filtering rivals that of 4X anisotropic and trilinear filtering. And second, you get better performance.

Bilinear vs. Trilinear Filtering - Prolink GeForce3 Ti 200

Anisotrophy Bilinear Filtering Trilinear Filtering
1024x768 - Maximum Quality
None Avg: 188 Avg: 161
2X Avg: 147 Avg: 125
4X Avg: 117 Avg: 101
8X Avg: 99 Avg: 87

Next Page: Serious Sam Performance

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Last Updated on January 8, 2002

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