We've seen the successful launch of nVidia's newest iteration of graphics cards. The NV25, in its various guises, has reasserted nVidia's mantle of having the fastest consumer-level graphics cards on the market. The NV25 is set to arrive in the market place with 3 distinct flavours. The Geforce4 Ti 4200 has yet to debut, but should arrive with standard core / memory speeds of 250/500 respectively. The widely available Ti 4400 sports 275/550 clocks, and the flagship model, the Geforce4 Ti 4600, ships with 300/650 core and memory clocks respectively. The underlying architecture is the same for all three cards, however. Impressive speeds from what is still a 0.15 micron manufacturing process.
It's obvious to those with a passing interest in the graphics card world that ATI's Radeon 8500 posed a very real danger to nVidia's then flagship card, the Geforce 3 Ti 500. The Radeon proved that it could usually hold its own against the Ti 500 in a gamut of benchmarks, its greater hardware potential was slowly being exploited by more efficient driver revisions.
nVidia's retort was not to simply increase operating frequencies, much as it had done with the transition from the original Geforce3 to the slightly revamped Geforce3 Ti500, but to borrow the best parts from the Geforce3 architecture and enhance them with primarily a second vertex shader, improved anti-aliasing and memory optimisation logic. The end result is a video card that is not only faster, but is also better than its predecessor in almost every possible way.
We'll have a quick yet concise look at what makes the Geforce4 Ti 4600 superior to its predecessor in a little more detail, the resulting knowledge should help you better understand the benchmark numbers that will follow.
We alluded to the fact that the Ti 4xxx series of cards boast a second vertex shader. The use of vertex shading allows developers to create more life-like figures. Skin composition and textures can be modeled far more accurately with the increased vertex shading available on the Ti 4xxx cards. The total shading ability of the Geforce4 Ti 4600 has been increased by 125% when compared directly to the Geforce 3 Ti500.
Even with today's extremely high memory frequencies and resulting bandwidth, video card developers need to utilise the bandwidth efficiently. One method is to only draw what the user will see. There is nothing to be gained by rendering a scene in its entirely if only the front portion will be visible. nVidia eliminate the overdraw by using their lightspeed™ memory architecture. This has been further optimised on the Geforce 4, resulting in additional bandwidth savings of up to 25% when considered on a clock-for-clock basis with the Geforce3 Ti 500.
The third major improvement comes in the form of a much improved anti-aliasing logic. Not everyone is blessed with large displays capable of producing high resolutions with ease. Indeed, even now, the most common desktop resolution is still considered to be 1024x768x32. The improved anti-aliasing logic, dubbed Accuview™, takes up a substantial part of the Geforce4 GPU die, almost 13% in fact. Accuview plans to allow users to utilise full screen anti-aliasing with a minimal performance hit, something that the industry has been crying out for.
nVidia have also redesigned their support for dual displays, taking a leaf out of Matrox and ATI's books respectively. This new technology is rather uninspiringly called nView.
That should give us a grounding for the card in review today. Today we're casting our reviewing eye over Creative's interpretation of the Geforce4 Ti 4600, appropriately named the Creative 3D Blaster Geforce4 Ti 4600.
Established over 20 years ago, Creative is a company which is well regarded within the computing industry. Anyone with a vague interest in PCs will most likely of least heard of Creative. Their initial forte has been that of manufacturing quality soundcards, but they have been steadily branching out into all things multimedia related. The Blaster range of video cards have gained quite a following due to their low street price, excellent support, and widespread availability. Naturally, a company with considerable resources such as Creative, can ensure that their products are out to the market soon after a GPU revision is announced by nVidia.