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The last checkpoint stands before you, and by some miracle it looks to be unguarded. The not-too-distant rumble of grenades reminds you that this could change soon though, so you decide to make a run for it. Skirting the patches of rubble on this war-torn street, you sprint the final few yards towards the flag. Unfortunately, a pair of Axis soldiers round the bend to face you, one already raising his flamethrower in anticipation. As you ponder what happened during the respawning wait period, you realize it isn't the fire that killed you. Instead it's the fact that your framerate dropped into single digits while his partner turned your dapper officers jacket into Swiss cheese.
Just as the original Quake and Unreal instigated many users to purchase their very first 3D hardware accelerator card, so are gamers now looking to ensure their video hardware can keep up with the latest titles, such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Soldier of Fortune II, and Jedi Knight II (hopefully avoiding unfortunate situations like the one described above).
As of this writing, the NVIDIA GeForce4 Titanium is the unabashed champ of Mac video cards. Sporting a staggering 128MB of DDR SDRAM, I can assure you nothing else available on the market right now (in the Mac market) can top it. If money is no object, then by all means stop reading this review and get your order in right now. For the rest of us back here in reality, there are a number of factors to weigh. Is my computer fast enough to keep up with the card? Will the increased framerate warrant a $400 price tag ($350 if you order with a new G4)? Are there other features better supported by ATI's line of Radeon cards? Will there be something better coming down the pike soon?
HistoryYou may be curious why there are no third-party aftermarket NVIDIA cards with support for the Mac. As it stands right now, NVIDIA just designs the chipsets for these video cards, which are then licensed to a number of manufacturers (on the PC side at least) who each make slightly different versions of whichever GeForce is currently popular. It works for NVIDIA because it ensures healthy competition for their cards among the various brands, which sells more chipsets and means more money for them.
Potentially one of these PC card manufacturers could do the same on the Mac side of things, but at the moment only Apple is taking the GeForce4 chipset and making a card which works on a Mac. This means Apple works closely with Nvidia on the graphics drivers too, so they are usually updated with new releases of the operating system (unlike ATI, who has gotten into the habit of releasing new drivers almost every month for their supported retail Mac cards).