The first GeForce revolutionised 3D rendering by incorporating transform and lighting functions into the graphics chip, freeing the main processor of some of its load, and winning a place as the fastest 3D accelerator on the market. The GeForce 2 was mostly an enhancement of the original design, but the GeForce 3 introduces some radical new features.
The most significant new feature of this chip is its "nfiniteFX Engine". This is a programmable graphics processor capable of performing custom graphics operations of up to 128 instructions in length. This means that the graphics card now contains what amounts to a tiny computer which can be utilised by game designers to create new graphic effects without placing an extra burden on the CPU, unlike earlier graphics cards which were restricted to a limited set of pre-defined functions. This has the potential to add new levels of realism to games, though they would have to be programmed to take advantage of this feature.
Other new developments include improved shadow mapping, bump mapping and anti-aliasing, all of which help to deliver faster and more realistic rendering of images. A new memory architecture and an 0.15 micron production process - more advanced than that of current CPUs - add to the potential for speed of the GeForce 3.
Besides the chip itself, the other important parts of a graphics card are contributed by the manufacturer, who decides on extra features and assembles the final product that goes into your computer. Hercules has a well-deserved reputation for speed and build quality, and the Prophet III does nothing to diminish this. With its 64MB of DDR RAM effectively running at 460MHz, careful construction and digital flat panel output, this card promises to please every games geek.
Unfortunately, our publishing deadline arrived before the first driver software for the GeForce 3 was available, so we were unable to perform any benchmarks. However, going by the history of earlier GeForce chips and Hercules Prophet cards, it's a pretty safe bet that this one will take 3D gaming to a new level for those fortunate enough to be able to afford it.
Hercules 3D Prophet III
Distributor: Guillemot Australia
Phone: (02) 8303 1818