Next Generation Cards
As promised, we present the second half of Jakub's Snapshot of the computer industry. Here he covers the next generation 3D accelerators and takes a long look at the CPU scene.
The New Stuff
So, onto the next generation. Currently, the entries I'll be discussing are the NVIDIA GeForce 256, the S3 Savage 2000 and the next generation 3dfx part (which I'll call, for the sake of convenience, Voodoo4). I'd like to say more about the Glaze 3D but not much is known about the card besides the spec numbers, and it's a whole generation away.
First, let me explain why I'm still including the GeForce256 in the 'future' section instead of current. Right now, it's almost impossible to find one of these boards, at least here where I live. I actually found an Athlon and motherboard for sale at a local store, but no GeForce256. (We haven't seen any in the stores here either. ETA: 10/15 -ed.)
GeForce 256 and Console Systems
The GeForce256 has three features distinguishing it from most previous generation cards - two good, one bad. First, the really, really good that is the engine that NVIDIA likes to refer to as the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) has an onboard hardware Transform and Lighting engine (T&L). Onboard T&L is designed to take the load off the CPU so that we may use the CPU's power for other tasks such as AI, collision detection, and so on. The other interesting thing is that the GPU can push 15 million triangles per second (whether or not this is sustained or peak, I don't know.) This is amazing when you consider that current P3s are stressed to put 3 million triangles out. The Athlon might do 4 or 5. For everyone who was worried that the Sony Playstation 2 will take away the graphics crown from PCs, calm down. :) By the time the PSX2 comes out, PCs will likely have a triangle throughput very close to that of the PSX2, and within a year they will likely surpass it.
That's the nature of the game - consoles come out first with greater technology, but due to the inherent static (read: no upgrades) of console systems, PC technology quickly rises to surpass the console. Eventually, a new, better console comes out (currently that would be the Dreamcast... a worthy buy, as long as you get Soul Calibur and a second controller with it! :), but the next generation graphics cards already blow away the Dreamcast on the spec sheets. Perhaps the Sony and Nintendo will also face a similar greeting from the 3D card manufacturers when they finally release the PSX2 and Dolphin console systems. The other major console limitation is television resolution. HDTV or not, a monitor can go way, way higher than any TV, and we all know that higher resolutions make games much better looking.