Its been a while since I have reviewed any hardware and since then I have upgraded the computer so I have to start some benchmarks from scratch, oh woe is me. Now on their third GPU Elsa have taken the chip and as usual slapped it on a graphics board for us all to see (and use), but how will it fare against their older offerings, will this be the jewel in their crown or a big mistake.

Features List:

nVIDIA GeForce3, processor clock: 200 MHz

64-MB DDR SDRAM, 3.8 ns access time, 460 MHz effective memory clock, Lightspeed Memory Architecture™.

AGP2x/4x, includes Fast Writes und Execute Mode.

256-bit 2D acceleration, optimised for 32, 24, 16, 15 and 8-bit colour depths, hardware cursor in True Colour, multi-buffering (2x, 3x and 4x for fluid movements and video playback).

256-bit engine with HyperTexel architecture, optimised acceleration for Direct3D and OpenGL API, complete support for DirectX8, 32-bit Z and stencil buffer, single-pass multi-texturing, full-scene anti-aliasing, high-quality texture filtering, including anisotropic; advanced per-pixel texturing for perspective correction, fog and depth cueing, texture compression.

nFinite FX™ engine - Fully programmable effect processor for realistic 3D representation, e.g volumetric fog, particle effects, reflective bump mapping and animated water surface.

Extended motion compensation for full screen video playback in all DVD and HDTV resolutions, video acceleration for MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and Indeo.

First Impressions:

First impressions seem to be good, the board is not overly sized and the installation into the machine went without a hitch. The card was automatically picked up by Windows and installation of the drivers and software as always went well, upon restarting the system I ran a few games and software products to see how it worked and tried various resolutions, all things work and no display problems were evident.

Usability & Performance Statistics:

Test System:

Intel Celeron @ 700mhz

A-bit BE6 Motherboard

128Mb PC100 RAM

18Gb IBM Deskstar UDMA/66 Hard Drive

Pioneer 6x SCSI DVD Drive

Phillips 32x CD-ROM Drive

Tested Against:

ELSA Gladiac MX, 32mb RAM - GeForce 2 MX

Before I begin, I shall tell you about the brand new thing with the GeForce 3, which is the new nFinite FX™ engine. This is a fully programmable effect processor, which can be used to produce realistic 3D representations, such as volumetric fog, particle effects, reflective bump mapping and animated water surfaces. This, when used by programmers, allows them to specify what kind of effects are to be applied to different objects, certain types of lighting can be applied to one object while another object has another set of lighting conditions.

The problem with this is that at this moment these effects are only available in DirectX8 and those games programmed specifically for it. This means that your current stock of games wont use these features but all of the upcoming games written in DX8 should use these effects to make games look even better.

Now back to testing. The programs used to test the card were Mad Onion's 3D Winmark 2000 and Serious Sam Demo, 3D Winmark was run at 1024x768x32 and was set to run all the tests. Serious Sam was tested in various resolutions during gameplay, the highest being 1024x768, which ran smoothly in the outdoor sections with at least 5 enemies on screen and me shooting like crazy. There were no problems, no slowdowns and no glitches at all.

With Serious Sam, I ran the internal benchmarks via the benchmark command, this produced a number of figures based on the different fill rates using effects that the game can do plus other figures, but the fill rates were the ones I concentrated on. The values were really good for the GeForce 2 MX card, but the Gladiac 920 beat these scores by a lot, almost all of the scores were either double or triple those of the GeForce 2 MX, the benchmark figures can be seen below, GF2 MX on the left GF 920 on the right (Larger images available below).

3D Winmark 2000, set to run all of the tests performed really well. Many of the game examples didn't slow down once and at times in the adventure game the frame rate was well above 80fps. The simple demos such as texture rendering and multiple lighting ran smoothly and nicely with out any hitches. 3D Winmark 2000 gave the GeForce 2 MX 3350 winmarks, compared to 3568 for the Gladiac 920. Now that's not much of an increase and I'm not sure why it's like that, but it could be this system which has not been reinstalled for ages. These scores are compared in the graph below.

Final Verdict:

The GeForce 3 is bound to be a great leap forward in the graphics card department, I don't really see much of a huge market for it until DX8 comes out and developers can start to use the nFinite FX engine for great effects, however being a programmable chip it could be pretty slow. The card is definitely better than all the rest out there. If you are the kind of person who needs the best of everything, then this is for you, otherwise just wait a bit.