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Feature Articles

Voodoo Beginnings - 10 Years of GPU Development

By Kenny Yeo - 15 Jan 2009

Timeline: 2006


  • In the early part of 2006, NVIDIA shot back by releasing the 7900 GT and 7900 GTX chipsets. By this time, the battle for top spot was really heating up and it seemed as if both sides were releasing new GPUs every other week.

    The GeForce 7900GTX was meant to recapture the crown of speed-king for NVIDIA, but the ASUS EN7900GTX (GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB) didn't provide us with any conclusive answers. It seemed, at the moment at least, to be a deadlock between the Radeon X1900 XT and GeForce 7900 GTX.

    NVIDIA of course didn't forget about the mid-range market and soon released the 7600GT GPU. We tested ASUS EN7600GT (GeForce 7600 GT 256MB) and Leadtek WinFast PX7600 GT TDH Extreme 256MB and found them to be worthy successors to the 6600 GT. The Leaktek, particular, was our favorite 7600GT card because of its willingness to be overclocked. So happy with it were we that we gave it a full five stars!

This Leadtek 7600 GT Extreme was one of favorite 7600 GT cards. Its willingness to be overclocked and its competitive was enough for us to give it the full five stars!

  • In February 2006, 3Dlabs announced that it would stop developing and selling 3D graphic chips and would instead focus on embedded and mobile media processors.
  • The year also saw the debut of the PhysX physics engine. We had a go at the ASUS PhysX P1 GRAW Edition 128MB (PCI) one of the world's first few Physics Processing Units (PPU). PhysX would later go on to be acquired by NVIDIA, and subsequently be integrated in their graphics cards.

    We tested the ASUS PPU and found that it provided a somewhat better gaming experience. In games that were optimized for it, objects seemed to move more realistically. Of course, these were early days for PhysX and that it would have to be widely implemented in games for a PPU to make any sense.

This was one of the world's first dedicated physics processing units. Looks like any other low-range graphics card doesn't it?

  • Midway through the year, NVIDIA dropped the bomb on ATI by releasing the NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 1GB . Rather than put two GPUs on a single PCB, NVIDIA somehow managed to sandwich to 7900 GTX cards together (two PCBs) and make them run on a single PCIe x16 slot, to give us the monstrosity that was this - the GeForce 7950 GX2.

    What this meant was that you could essentially put two of these together and what you'll end up with is quad SLI! And as an added bonus, it was competitively priced. ATI struggled to come up with an answer to this.

Bring your biggest guns, because the NVIDIA 7950 GX2 is in town! It was the reigning speed-king until the debut of the 8800 GTX.

  • Towards the end of the year, AMD completed the acquisition of ATI. From this point on, they shared technologies and there is an increasing emphasis by AMD to unify the CPU and GPU so that processes become more seamless.
  • Turning our attention back to the mid-range market, we saw a few interesting cards to be released based on the 7600 GPU. One of them was the ASUS EN7600GS TOP Silent (GeForce 7600 GS 512MB) , for its radical-looking cooler; another was the Gigabyte GV-NX76G256HI-RH (GeForce 7600 GS, HDMI) , because it was one of the first cards to support HDMI and HDCP, hence making it a good choice for HTPCs.

    We also did a mid-range GPU Shootout , pitting NVIDIA 7600 and 7300 series of cards against ATI's X1800 and X1600. And if there were ever any doubt of NVIDIA's superiority, this shootout put them all to rest.

The 7600GS chipset was one targeted at the low to mid-end market, and this card by Asus featured a really interesting looking heatsink.

This was one of the few cards we reviewed that was water-cooled. Very cool-looking, but you might find yourself regretting buying it once the novelty wears off.

  • And before ATI had a chance to catch their breath, NVIDIA released their GeForce 8-series of GPUs. These GPUs were the first to be fully DirectX 10 compliant and to incorporate a Unified Shader Architecture. Once again, NVIDIA made big leaps and bounds, leaving ATI looking very shabby.

    We tested the flagship NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX and were once again blown away by what NVIDIA has managed to achieved. Let's put its sheer power in perspective: up to 70% faster than the older 7900 GTX and up to 30% more powerful than the dual-GPU 7950 GX2 combo card.

NVIDIA continues to pound ATI into submission by releasing the supremely powerful 8800 GTX. Look at how big it is!