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GeForce - the Next Generation Discover what makes the latest nVidia 3D chipsets, the GeForce 3 Ti500 and Ti200, special

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GeForce - the Next Generation
Discover what makes the latest nVidia 3D chipsets, the GeForce 3 Ti500 and Ti200, special

What's in a Name?

At first glance, the new GeForce3 Ti500 and GeForce3 Ti200 certainly sound new. And, they are the newest ultra-high performance chips in the widely acclaimed GeForce3 family. They also have a sibling, the GeForce2 Ti. The "Ti" stands for "Titanium", but there's not a speck of that metal anywhere near these cards. Instead, what Ti refers to in these new chipsets is their use of a new die-shrink .15 micron chip design, which, as processor makers have discovered in recent years, has several benefits, including:

  • more yields per same square footage of chip material
  • lower cost

Lower cost is definitely the aim of the new series. Cards based on the new chipsets are available from the same vendors who sold previous nVidia-based cards (Hercules, VisionTek, PNY, etc.). Pricing for the high-end Ti 500 is under $400, making it a much better deal initially than the first GeForce3 cards were at introduction.

In some cases, using a more compact chip design speeds performance, but that is only 1/3 true with the Titanium-series chips. The Ti500 runs at 240MHz (compared to 200 MHz with the "old" GeForce3), but it is the only one of the new trio that has faster hardware.

Out With the Old, In With the New?

How do the new GeForce Ti-series chips perform in comparison to the chips they replace?

The GeForce3 Ti500 is faster than the current GeForce 3, there is no doubt about that. But what about the GeForce3 Ti200? Surprisingly, it is significantly slower than the GeForce2 Ultra, which the GeForce2 TI is slated to replace. The GeForce2 Ti's performance is comparable to the GeForce2 Ultra. This table will help you sort out how the new chips (and cards) perform compared to their predecessors.

GeForce Ti-Series Chips Versus Existing GeForce Chips (Fastest To Slowest)

New Chip

Old Chip

Core Clock Rate

Memory Clock Rate

Fill Rate


GeForce3 Series (all feature Lightspeed Memory Architecture and programmable Transform and Lighting (vertex and pixel shader)

GeForce3 Ti500



960 Mpixels/sec

DVI-I, VGA, and TV-out ports






Replaced by GeForce3 Ti500

GeForce3 Ti200



700 Mpixels/sec

DVI-I and VGA ports

GeForce2 Series (all feature fixed-function Transform and Lighting)

GeForce2 Ultra



1 Gpixel (1000 Mpixel/sec)

Replaced by GeForce2 Ti

GeForce2 Ti



1 Gpixel (1000 Mpixel/sec)

DVI-I, VGA, and TV-out ports; lower memory bandwidth than GeForce2 Ultra

GeForce2 Pro



800 Mpixel/sec

Getting New Chip Performance from "Old" GeForce Chips

All of the new Ti-series chips from nVidia are supported by nVidia's new driver, the DetonatorXP. nVidia's biggest advantage against long-time rival ATI isn't in hardware (in fact, ATI's newest portable chipset, the Mobility Radeon 7500, blows the doors off nVidia GeForce Go chip), but in drivers. ATI has struggled with driver issues for years, while nVidia's drivers are excellent and unified: download one driver set to handle all its current graphics chipsets.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the DetonatorXP driver, which works with old and new GeForce chips, rather than new hardware features in the Ti-series chipsets, is actually responsible for these "new" features in the Ti-series chips:

  • shadow buffer technology
  • 3D textures

So, if you're satisfied with your current high-end GeForce2-based or GeForce3-based card, just download the DetonatorXP driver, install it, and you have the same "new" features that nVidia is pitching in its Titanium-series chips. You'll also have much-improved performance.

What, No Dual Display?

As you may recall from our September 2001 look at the new ATI Radeon 8500 and 7500 chipsets/cards, ATI has decided to make dual-display compatibility standard across its product line. Using a dual display is almost like having two computers in one: you can use it for comparing old and new versions of a document, perform drag-and-drop editing between documents, surf and read your e-mail, watch a movie and (pretend to) work at the same time, and so forth. Although all three of the Ti-series chips feature multiple display connectors (VGA and DVI-I for digital display panels, plus TV-out on two of the three chips), none of them support multiple monitors. That task is still relegated to the low-end GeForce2 MX series chipsets.

Performance or (Single) Display Flexibility? You Can Get Both

If you're in the market for a new video card because your aging TNT or Rage 128 card just can't cut the pixels anymore, any of these new Ti-series chipsets will be a good choice. If you're looking for GeForce3 performance and features, you can now get a better card (the Ti 500) for a bit less than the regular GeForce3. If you want the fancy 3D graphics effects possible with the GeForce3, but find that $350 is a bit beyond your budget, cards based on the Ti 200 can fill the bill for around $260 but at a sacrifice in performance - and no TV-out. The "old" GeForce2 Ultra will beat it in most benchmarks.

If the GeForce2 series is more what you had in mind, keep your eyes on price changes on cards based on the "old" GeForce2 Ultra chipset if you don't need DVI-I or TV-out support. The GeForce2 Ultra is faster than its replacement, the GeForce2 Ti, but if you want DVI-I or TV-out on a budget, the GeForce2 Ti is the wiser choice.

If you're seeking high-end video performance and dual-display, then forego the GeForce line altogether and pick up an ATI Radeon 8500; just be prepared to download new drivers from the ATI web site http://www.ati.com as soon as you open the box.

Finally, the cheapest way to get a "new" performance from your existing GeForce2 or GeForce3 card is to get the the most up to date DetonatorXP drivers from your video card vendor. Test results indicate that you'll see a big speedup (nVidia claims 30-to-50% increase under OpenGL and DirectX) as well as new 3D features for software vendors to exploit. Tests run at various hardware sites do indicated these drivers provide more of a boost for GeForce3 owners than those with a GeForce2 based card.

Web Resources

nVidia's official GeForce3 site, including the GeForce3 Ti series, is at:

nVidia's official GeForce2 site, including the GeForce2 Ti, is at:

Compare the "new" features of the Ti series with the DetonatorXP driver's new features and see for yourself (requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader from http://www.adobe.com):

The Guru of 3D's website incorporates an excellent explanation of shadow buffering into its review of the GeForce3 Ti500:

Tom's Hardware's detective work discovered the "new" in the GeForce Ti series was mostly in the drivers. Read all about it in their full-line review at:

Wondering if your current PC would benefit from a change to a new nVidia-equipped video card? Use the browser-based performance analyzer on the nVidia website, powered by MadOnion.com:

Copyright©2002 Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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