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This week’s GPU Flashback Archive article is all about the GeForce 3 series of graphics cards from NVIDIA, a company that by this stage in history was recognized as industry leader in GPU development and innovation. The third iteration of its GeForce brand launched with a hiccup or two in early 2001 and enjoyed status as the company’s top tier offering for around a year before it was usurped by its successor, the mighty GeForce 4 series. Let’s take a peek at the new technologies and innovations that arrived with GeForce 3, the cards that proved to be most popular with overclockers on HWBOT and of course, the notable scores and benchmarks that it spawned.
First let’s set the scene. NVIDIA’s arrival on the graphics card market in the late nineties had been wholly disruptive. After TNT and RIVA series cards, NVIDIA blew the doors of the industry with its first GeForce series and simply didn’t look back. By the time we arrive at the GeForce 3 series, we find that Matrox had left the market to focus on more niche markets while S3 Graphics were basically clinging on by their front teeth. NVIDIA eventually put an end to 3dfx and their classic Voodoo cards by buying the company out. Only ATi endured, and we all know what eventually happened to them.
We return for our next episode of the GPU Flashback Archive with another classic graphics platform from NVIDIA, the GeForce2 series. It was unleashed on the scene in early 2000 and proved conclusively that NVIDIA had become the number one graphics company on the planet. Let’s take a look at the GeForce2 series as a whole, the cards that were popular at the time and of course a few of the scores that have been submitted to the HWBOT database using GeForce2 cards.
With the launch of the NVIDIA GeForce 256 card series in late 1999, the company had truly announced its presence on the graphics card market. Competing cards from ATI, S3, Matrox and 3dfx could not compete with the GeForce 256 DDR. Based on the NV10 GPU, it was the first to offer a hardware solution for T&L (Transform and Lighting) tasks, offer fastest ever vertex shading and probably the best gaming experience that anyone could imagine. NVIDIA stayed true to their core company identity and continued to follow a pretty aggressive product launch cadence. The GeForce brand was expanded to include the GeForce2 series just six months later, in sharp contrast to the release schedule the company keeps today.
Our GPU Flashback Archive series continues today with what can only be described as a pivotal moment in GPU history. The NVIDIA NV10 was in fact the first chip to be called a GPU, a term coined by NVIDIA themselves back in 1999. Let’s take a look at the chip itself and the two cards that were produced using it, plus a few of the more notable score submissions that have been made using first ever generation of NVIDIA GeForce branded cards.
The NVIDIA RIVA series put the company firmly on the graphics card map, proving that the silicon they were producing could compete with offerings from other companies. It’s important to remember also that at the end of the nineties, you could purchase a card from one of several companies including ATI, S3, Matrox and Voodoo. NVIDIA as we all know would go on to become leader of the GPU market and one of the most successful companies in the industry. The direction taken with the first GeForce-branded GPUs, the GeForce 256, reflects NVIDIA’s bold and ambitious approach as a company generally. The GeForce 256 was unique, offloading geometric calculations to a specific engine while also increasing the amount of fixed pixel pipelines. The outcome was the first Direct3D 7-compliant card, one that offered a genuine leap in 3D gaming performance.
Having exhausted most of history’s CPU platforms and motherboards, this week we are launching a new series of historical articles that focus on Graphics Cards, GPUs and 3D benching. The series kicks off with arguably the first successful, commercial GPUs from industry leader Nvidia, the Nvidia RIVA series. Join us as we take a look at the technologies that arrived with the RIVA series of graphics cards, the most popular cards that have been used by overclockers on HWBOT and also a few of the more notable score submissions that have been made using Nvidia RIVA cards.
The Nvidia RIVA 128 graphics chip (codenamed the NV3) was the first version of the RIVA GPU series. It arrived on the scene in April of 1997 and was arguably the company’s first ever commercially successful graphics processing unit. The RIVA 128 was actually a departure from the very first Nvidia GPU series, the ST-G-2000 (NV1) being the first GPU on the market from Nvidia that could manage both 2D and 3D video acceleration. Unlike its predecessor the Nvidia RIVA was designed specifically to accelerate rendering of Direct3D 5.0 and OpenGL 1.0 API workloads.
The RIVA 128 was fabricated on the 350nm manufacturing process, supported both PCI and AGP 2x interfaces and arrived with the GPU clocked at 100MHz with 4MB of SGRAM (Synchronous graphics RAM) also clocked at 100MHz with a memory bus width of 128-bits. Cards based on the RIVA 128 GPU were able to rival equivalent offerings from industry leader Voodoo.
The final article in our Motherboard Memory Lane series brings us right up to date with a look at the current AMD AM4 platform. AM4 series motherboards support AMD Zen architecture CPUs, a new platform which AMD hoped would finally elevate the company back into the upper-mainstream PC component ecosystem, a place that had been utterly dominated by Intel for most of the last decade. The platform arrived with a new socket, new chipset series, new AMD Ryzen CPUs and a newly invigorated sense of purpose. Let’s take a look at the key platform features, the motherboards that are currently most popular and the CPUs that are being used to make some very decent scores on the HWBOT database.
The first systems to use the AMD AM4 Socket were in fact built by OEMs HP and Lenovo in late 2016 who were given exclusive access to the new platform. It arrived with Bristol Ridge-based APUs that featured Excavator cores, the last iteration of AMD’s Bulldozer CPU architecture. As far as the mainstream DIY PC consumer and enthusiast space, it barely registered a blip on the radar. We were all far too preoccupied with waiting for Zen to arrive.