On February 5, nVidia unveiled to the press what was likely the worst kept secret in the computer industry. This was the news of their newest Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), the GeForce4. Although Apple’s announcement of their speed-bumped G4 desktop machines equipped with GeForce4 MX-based cards occurred a week before nVidia’s press event, the revelation of nVidia’s new product line was anything but anticlimactic.
Inside Mac Games was fortunate enough to be invited to this exciting event. After seeing what the graphics giant was showing, Mac gamers have much to be excited about. Apple had small but signifigant presence at the event. The company was not only featured in a demonstration area that spotlighted nVidia’s OEM partners, President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took special note of Apple’s achievement in being the first company to ship computers equipped with the GeForce4 MX. “The engineers at Apple were very fast at implementing the GPUs” Huang said. NVidia’s president also praised Jon Rubinstein, Apple's Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, and his team for beating other vendors to market with the GeForce4 MX.
Meet the FamilyThe GeForce4 GPU stretches across nVidia’s entire product line and is designed to replace the GeForce3 entirely. NVidia’s newest mobile GPU is the GeForce4 Go. This mobile product is actually a family of products that feature a number of video RAM and memory bandwidth configurations. While it is possible for this GPU to be integrated into a future PowerBook or iBook, there were no such announcements from nVidia or Apple with regards to this. Mac gamers will be much more interested in the GeForce4 MX and the GeForce4 Ti. Both of these products are absolutely Mac-bound as default or build-to-order options directly from Apple. These two products offer new graphics features and performance across Apple’s entire pro desktop product line.
GeForce4 MX: Power for the MassesThe GeForce4 MX is nVidia’s replacement for their well-respected GeForce 2 MX graphics processor. Like the 2 MX, the 4 MX is designed to be an aggressively priced, mass-market video solution. The GeForce4 MX is currently shipping in all but the lowest end Power Macintosh G4.
This GPU has the ability to render a minimum of 31 million triangles per second and a memory bandwidth that can push up to 8.8 gigabytes of information per second. In terms of its features, the GeForce4 MX offers an impressive range of features for both developers and end users. At the core of the GeForce4 MX is its Lightspeed Memory Architecture (LMA) II technology. The LMA II provides developers with a more efficient way to use the memory bandwidth of the graphics processor. What this means is more 2D and 3D information will be able to travel to where it needs to go with increased efficiency. The result is better overall system performance. The Lightspeed Memory Architecture II sounds impressive, but users will not be able to see what it is doing. The 4 MX does offer new capabilities that users will be able to see with their own eyes.
The first of these additional capabilities is called Accview, nVidia’s high-resolution anti-aliasing technique. The process is a way of smoothing the rough, jagged edges often found in 3D games and scaled 2D images. Anti-aliasing has a somewhat sordid past on the Macintosh. 3Dfx’s Voodoo 5 was the first Mac video card to provide out-of-the-box support for this smoothing technology. ATI is expected to release updated drivers for their Macintosh retail Radeon cards that will enable this feature. The GeForce3 and GeForce2 MX display cards also support a less-advanced anti-aliasing than the Accuview technology found in the GeForce4 family of graphics processors, but this capability has yet to be exposed to Mac users.