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NVIDIA Ultra TNT2 (Page 1/3)

Posted: April 18, 1999
Written by: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy
Estimated retail price: $199.99

NVIDIA strikes again! To battle 3Dfx's Voodoo3 chipset, NVIDIA has launched the long awaited sequel to their award winning TNT chipset: the TNT2. Although it's little more than a faster version of the TNT, it has all the right features in just the right places. How does this upcoming monster compare to 3Dfx's new cards? Read on to find out.

Chipset Features

Note - Some of these features may change before the product is released.

3D Features
  • 150 MHz core clock speed, 183 MHz memory clock speed (.25 micron)
  • 9 million triangles per second
  • 300 million pixels/second fill rate
  • 2.9 GB/sec memory bandwidth
  • 128-bit TwiN Texel architecture
  • True multi-texturing. 2 texture-mapped, lit pixels-per-clock cycle
  • Single pass multi-texturing
  • 32-bit Z/stencil Buffer
  • Full scene antialiasing, order independent
  • TextureBlend support: multi-texture, bump map, texture modulation, light maps, reflection maps, detail textures, environment maps, procedural textures
  • Per-pixel perspective correct texture mapping: fog, light, mip-mapping
  • 32-bit ARGB rendering with destination alpha
  • Anisotropic filtering
2D Features
  • Hardware acceleration for all Windows GDI operations
  • Optimized for multiple color depths including 32, 24, 16, 15, and 8-bits per pixel
  • True-color hardware cursor
  • Hardware color dithering
  • Multi-buffering (up to quad buffering) for smooth video playback
  • Fast 32-bit VGA/SVGA support
Video Subsystem / Interface
  • 30 frames per second full screen DVD playback
  • DVD sub-picture alpha-blended compositing
  • Video acceleration for DirectShow, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and Indeo
  • Advanced support for DirectDraw
  • Back-end hardware video scaling for video conferencing and playback
  • Hardware color space conversion (YUV 4:2:2 and 4:2:0)
  • Multi-tap X and Y filtering
  • Per-pixel color keying
  • Comprehensive AGP 4x/2x/1x interface with full sideband support
  • NTSC and PAL TV digital output
  • Digital Flat Panel interface
  • Bidirectional Media Port and CCIR-656 capture port
  • 32 MB high-speed SDRAM memory
  • 300 MHz Integrated RAMDAC
The 3D features of the TNT2 are simply put: incredible. NVIDIA did a great job with the original TNT, and because they did such a superb job, they did not need to change much. The only major difference between the TNT and the TNT2 is the clock speed. The TNT ran at 90 MHz core / 110 MHz memory, while the TNT2 runs at 150 MHz core / 183 MHz memory. For those a little slow at math, that's a 66% speed increase. The features that truly distinguish the TNT2 from other cards are the 32-bit rendering support, stencil buffering, AGP 4x/2x/1x and sideband support. With the TNT2, gamers can now play at resolutions as high as 2048x1536. Also, the TNT2 has an onboard fan, to ensure solid performance with no heat related problems.

The 2D features and the video subsystem / interface are both up there with the best in the TNT2's class. NVIDIA incorporated solid DVD playback, and support for numerous video CODECs. The true AGP support could possibly lead to future utilization and performance increases. The card boasts a massive 32 MB SDRAM, running at 183 MHz. The 300 MHz RAMDAC allows usage of high refresh rates at even the highest supported resolutions. NVIDIA included GDI hardware acceleration, a technology that many chipset manufacturers neglect to ensure Microsoft's WHQL certification. TNT2 also has the ability to utilize Digital Flat Panel interface, and retail versions of the TNT2 will support high quality TV-Output.

The TNT2 supports OpenGL, DirectDraw and Direct3D. The TNT2's OpenGL ICD is just like the TNT's: near perfect. NVIDIA is one of the few companies that has a fast, 3D gaming card with a non-beta OpenGL ICD on the market. All OpenGL games I tried worked fabulously, and all additional applications are reported to work very well. Just like the TNT, the Direct3D support is excellent for the TNT2. I have yet to see a problem with a Direct3D game. The one API that some people may want in the TNT2 that isn't there is Glide. Luckily, as support has increased tremendously over the last couple years, OpenGL and Direct3D will give gamers the chance to play just about every new game on the market accelerated, right out of the box.

One issue that concerns me with the TNT2 is 3DNow! support. Although I do not have an AMD system to test the 3DNow! support with, I am assuming the support is much better than it was for the TNT. The TNT2 will be "optimized for Pentium III's KNI and K6-2/K6-3's 3DNow! technologies." NVIDIA has sworn to work hard to support AMD in the future, and I hope that's the case.

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