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Feature Articles

Voodoo Beginnings - 10 Years of GPU Development

By Kenny Yeo - 15 Jan 2009

Timeline: 2004

2004


  • As graphics cards got faster, AGP became inadequate and a new interface was needed. It was in this year that Intel introduced PCI-Express, which brought about many improvements; chief among them was greater bandwidth.
  • With so many graphics cards flooding the market, we decided to hold a shoot-out, and this 3-Way GeForce FX 5700 Ultra Mini-Roundup was perhaps our first graphics card shoot-out.

    This was the year NVIDIA finally got back in the game and reclaimed its position as being the fastest graphics cards maker. Its weapon? The awesome GeForce 6 series.

    This card was so important that we dedicated a massive 28 page article to it, making it one of our most comprehensive and largest articles ever. Written by our Editor Vijay, it provided an extremely detailed look at the new NVIDIA GPU.

    We had a NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra to play around with and were absolutely astonished. The increase in performance over the previous generation was more than just substantial, it was phenomenal. With it, NVIDIA was instantly back into the game.

Finally, NVIDIA counters with the 6800 Ultra, landing a uppercut right to ATI's chin! First to fully support Shader Model 3.0, something ATI would only offer 1 full year later!

  • Not wanting to rest on its laurels, NVIDIA introduced their Scalable Link Interface (SLI), a technology for connecting two or more graphics card together to produce a single output. This meant more processing power for computer graphics.

    However, there were a couple of problems. For one, performance was a mixed bag and was very much dependent on whether or not the application was optimized to take advantage of multiple GPUs. Another problem that NVIDIA faced at that time was that few motherboards, at that point of time, had true dual PCIe x16 slots to take full advantage of SLI.

    Our conclusion then was although SLI was promising, it clearly needed more time to mature more before it could become an accessible technology, which it eventually did.
  • ATI is not one to sit back and soon they launched their successor to the Radeon 9800 - the X800. We tested HIS Excalibur X800 PRO IceQ II (256MB) and given its outstanding performance, we thought that a shoot-out was necessary, and hence this Q3 2004 High-End GPU/VPU Shootout article.

    Here, we noted that ATI's latest GPUs do not offer full support for Shader Model 3.0. As more games began to be optimized for Shader Model 3.0, ATI began to see a drop in performance. Its GPUs, which were not Shader Model 3.0 compliant, could not handle games that were optimized for Shader Model 3.0 as well as NVIDIA's GPUs could.

ATI retaliated with the X800 XT, which inexplicably failed to provide support for Shader Model 3.0. This particular model from HIS had a custom cooling unit from cooling specialists, Arctic Cooling.

  • Towards the year of the end, NVIDIA introduced the extremely popular GeForce 6600 GT. We had a Leadtek A6600 GT TDH in our labs and found that it completely obliterated the competition.

    Later, we pitted the GeForce 6600 GT against a Radeon X700 XT to find out which would be the best mid-range graphics card. Our findings were recorded in this Performance Midrange GPU/VPU Shootout (PCIe) article and unsurprisingly the GeForce 6600 GT came out tops. Interestingly though, the Radeon X700 XT never made it to retail and only the slower PRO version ever made it to retail. And thus began the infamous 'paper launches' that ATI was often caught doing.

NVIDIA scores another home-run with its 6600 GT chipset, targeted at mainstream and casual gamers. It was more than a match for ATI's X700 XT and was therefore, unsurprisingly, the choice of many.

  • Now that SLI has been around for some time, we finally had a go at it in our labs. MSI GeForce 6600 GT PCIe SLI Performance Review documents our findings. In summary, we found the performance it offered to be a mixed bag. It offered tangible gains on some games, yet on some others, there was no difference at all. Nevertheless, it boosted sales of GeForce 6600 GT cards.

This was probably our very first SLI test. 6600 GTs were reasonably priced at that time, and we sought to find whether or not two 6600 GTs would offer any significant gains in performance.