The Wind of Change
Times are changing in the graphics business. Prices of graphics cards are dropping and this might change a lot in the card makers business. We shouldn’t be surprised if the company structure of well renowned businesses as Diamond or STB should look a lot different in twelve months from now. The trend is going towards cheap card productions and designs from Taiwan or even better the combined chip and card production by the same company, as e.g. very successfully done by ATI. The price awareness of the people is a lot higher than 12 months ago and why should anyone be surprised about it? Who likes to spend a lot of money for a product that’s obsolete in 3-6 months?
Another change had to be learned the hard way by the former technology leader in the PC 3D graphics sector. 3Dfx’s sales are dropping and the sales of boards with Voodoo2 chip are "below expectations", e.g. Diamond has got a large stock of Monster 3D II boards because they expected to sell a lot more of then than they do. The latest product of 3Dfx, Voodoo Banshee, is certainly no bad product at all, however it can not satisfy the expectations people had of the ‘technology leader’. Banshee is good, but not good enough, more importantly it is not better than the previous, although different, product Voodoo2.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, now there is a chip out that is even up to threatening Voodoo2 itself. 3Dfx is facing tough times after 2 great years, they need a new product that will rock the boat pretty soon.
The Voodoo2 challenger is NVIDIA’s new RIVA TNT chip. Now NVIDIA didn’t and still doesn’t have an exactly great time themselves. First of all the product specs published in the first press release about TNT had to be retracted and replaced by lower specs. This cost quite a bit of reputation and the people became pretty skeptical. Now since it looks as if TNT was still a great product, there comes 3Dfx and files a lawsuit against a business that is trying its hardest to go public and get some cash. Not that NVIDIA wouldn’t be experienced with lawsuits. No, almost every important company in the 3D area filed lawsuits against NVIDIA. However, you don’t really need pending lawsuits just before your initial public offering. The lawsuit filed by 3Dfx is of some touchy nature. It’s about 3Dfx’s patent on ‘multi-texturing’. I don’t want to rant about the fact that it’s included into DirectX6 and that ATI as well as 3DLabs are implementing it into their upcoming chips as well, but I wonder why the very company owning the patent for ‘multi-texturing’ is the one that is NOT using it in their very own 2D/3D solution called Banshee.
Anyway, I do certainly realize that there are more competitors of Voodoo2 out there than only NVIDIA, but the RIVA TNT is available and has the highest potential of competing against the current 3Dfx products. Thus I won’t talk about Matrox G200, because it’s not fast enough, I won’t talk about S3’s Savage3D, because it’s still not stable and bug free enough as well as slower than TNT, I will also not talk about ATI’s Rage 128 nor 3DLabs’ Permedia3, simply because those chips are still closer to the scratch board than reality. Oh yeah, and I haven’t forgotten about Rendition as well, but tell me, is this company still alive?
This article shall answer the question if NVIDIA’s RIVA TNT will be able to replace Voodoo2 and if it’s indeed better than Banshee. I did a whole lot of research about that and I will be able to give you a clear answer. To already answer this question for my part, yes, I am using TNT and there are no 3Dfx cards in my own system anymore, the first time after more than 2 years. Let’s find out if this will be feasible for you too.