#ThrowBackThursday 3D graphics turned a dull PC industry into a light and magic show after generations of innovative endeavour. Here's our extensive look at the history of the GPU, from the early days of 3D, to game-changing hardware and the industry's consolidation.
With DX10's arrival, vertex and pixel shaders maintained a large level of common function, so moving to a unified shader arch eliminated a lot of unnecessary duplication of processing blocks. The first GPU to utilize this architecture was Nvidia's iconic G80.
Four years in development and $475 million produced a 681 million-transistor, 484mm² behemoth -- first as the 8800 GTX flagship and then with cards aimed at several segments. Aided by the new Coverage Sample anti-aliasing (CSAA) algorithm, Nvidia saw its GTX demolish every single competitor in outright performance.
With the turn of the century the graphics industry bore witness to further consolidation. Where 3dfx was once a byword for raw performance, its strengths before its dismissal laid in its full screen antialiasing image quality. By the time 2001 dawned, the PC graphics market consisted of a discrete card duopoly (Nvidia and ATI), with both of them in addition to Intel supplying the vast majority of integrated graphics chipsets.
Prior to the Voodoo 5's arrival, ATI had announced the Radeon DDR as "the most powerful graphics processor ever designed for desktop PCs." Previews of the card had already gone public on April 25, and only twenty-four hours later Nvidia countered with the announcement of the GeForce 2 GTS (GigaTexel Shader).
Launched on November 1996, 3Dfx's Voodoo graphics consisted of a 3D-only card that required a VGA cable pass-through from a separate 2D card to the Voodoo, which then connected to the display. Voodoo Graphics revolutionized personal computer graphics nearly overnight and rendered many other designs obsolete, including a vast swathe of 2D-only graphics producers.
The 3D landscape in 1996 favoured S3 with around 50% of the market. That was to change soon, however. It was estimated that 3Dfx accounted for 80-85% of the 3D accelerator market during the heyday of Voodoo's reign. Later on Nvidia would revive with the RIVA series and eventually land their greatest success with the first GeForce graphics card.
A powerful graphics card is likely the most expensive component in your PC if you're a gamer, but with all current and past-gen GPUs available in the range of $100 to $500, it can be tough to pick the right solution for your needs.
In an effort to narrow things down, we're about to compare today's most relevant gaming cards that sell for $200 or more, testing them in a slew of games to see how it breaks down as we look for the best graphics cards for gaming at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.
AMD offers a valid alternative to its flagship GPU with the Radeon HD 7950, which is essentially a lower-specced and lower-priced version of the HD 7970. The HD 7950 is set at $419 for the 1536MB version, while the full 3072MB variant is $449. Although it's currently possible to find a 3GB model for $449, you can expect to pay closer to $500.
Gigabyte has redesigned the PCB and included an upgraded cooler on the WindForce 3 that is meant to lower temperatures and improve overclocking. Considering the HD 7970's respectable performance, we expect a solid showing from the HD 7950.
By utilizing three monitors games can become roughly 3x more demanding as the graphics card is required to render an overwhelmingly higher number of pixels. While we commonly test graphics cards at single monitor resolutions, today we are adding two more LCDs for effective resolutions of 5040x1050, 5760x1200 and 7680x1600.
In this article we will explore the kind of performance you can expect from the GeForce GTX 590 and Radeon HD 6990 graphics cards when playing several popular games using triple 22", 24" or 30" monitor configurations.