How Does The GeForce3 Compare To The GeForce2 MX and Radeon?

June 8th, 2001.
by the Bare Feats Mad Scientist

1. Is the
GeForce3 graphics card significantly faster than the GeForce2 MX and Radeon?
2. Is the GeForce3 worth the $250 it costs to add it as a build-to-order option?
3. Is it worth the $499 Apple charges for the kit to upgrade existing G4 Power Macs with 4X AGP slots?
4. Will the version 2.1 nVidia drivers make the GeForce2 MX run faster? (Don't get excited. Apple hasn't posted the 2.1 drivers... yet. They come with the GeForce3 kit.)
5. Which 4X AGP system benefits most from the speed of the GeForce3, the Dual G4/533 or the G4/733?

I figure all you bleeding edge G4 owners will be playing Quake 3 Arena in 1280 x 1024 resolution with textures and geometric detail set to maximum to show off your new 17" LCD Studio Display or 22" Cinema Display. So this graph's for you.

The other boards are gasping for breath while the GeForce3 just cranks along.


I know many of you don't care about high quality textures and high resolution. You want to crank out lotza frames per second. Here's what I call "minimum decent quality." As you can see below, the GeForce3's advantage shrinks in that mode.


What about 2D?

This chart is typical of what I observed with 2D applications. No dominance by the GeForce3. It was faster than the others but only slightly.



If you run 3D OpenGL applications like Quake 3 Arena in high resolution, high texture, high detail mode, the GeForce3's memory bandwidth and fillrate advantages will clearly show. Having 64MB of DDR memory doesn't hurt either. It's a tempting upgrade for speed freaks like me.

However, if you are running 3D applications at low resolution or 2D applications like Final Cut Pro or Photoshop or MS Office, you will NOT see significant improvements in speed with the GeForce3.

The 2.1 version of the nVidia drivers come with the GeForce3 upgrade kit. I thought, "Hmmm. I wonder if they will speed up the GeForce2 MX." That's why the charts above include results for the GeForce2 MX with both versions. As you can see, they won't make a GeForce3 out of a GeForce2. They are not available on Apple's Tech Support section yet but I expect they will be either posted there or included in the next Mac OS 9.x revision. (I noticed the new iBook had version 2.0 of the nVidia drivers.)

A purchase of the GeForce3 is an investment in the future of Macintosh. It's packed with potential but the current Mac hardware, OS and applications barely scratch the surface. For example, did you know it can do High Resolution Anti-Aliasing? That should be useful for applications like Maya and LightWave.

As soon as Id Software releases the "official" OS X version of Quake 3 Arena, I will post those results with the GeForce3 and other cards. Ditto for the AltiVec and Multi-Processor aware version for Mac OS 9.1. Those releases should add some excitement since Graeme Devine, the software designer and project manager of Q3A, has taken the GeForce3 into account when working on the code.

Although Apple's site states that it requires a Power Mac with a 4X AGP slot, some web sites have reported success using the GeForce3 with 2X AGP slotted Mac. But don't expect it to perform near as well as on 4X AGP machines.

If you are buying a new, high end Power Mac, I think the $250 for the optional GeForce3 is money well spent. If you are buying it as an after market addon, it will cost you twice that much. In that case, you might try selling your old graphics card to help recover your upgrade cost.

If you have any other model of Power Mac with 2X AGP, 33MHz PCI or 66MHz PCI graphics card slot, the ATI Radeon is your best option for increased graphics speed. It's a "BEST BUY" when you consider it costs as little as $199 from retail sources like



InnerMac has a very extensive review of the GeForce3 on the Power Macintosh. It includes Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, Rune, Deus Ex results. They also have an interesting rating system for 2D speed and report on DVD support. On page 6, they even include some OS X results. Better bookmark this site. I did.

XLR8YourMac posted a preliminary report on the GeForce3 running on a G4/733 and Dual G4/500 (2X AGP)

Digit Life has a host of fascinating charts and screen shots and technical data on the GeForce3

AnandTech has some fascinating GeForce3 charts on Fillrate, Anti Aliasing, and OpenGL.

Sharky Extreme tests the GeForce3 on an AMD Athlon T-Bird 1.0GHz machine.

Tom's Hardware Guide tests the GeForce3 on an overclocked 1.5GHZ Athlon.

Gamers Depot tests the GeForce3 on a 1.5GHz Pentium 4.

Bare Feats compares the Rage 128 Pro to the GeForce2 MX and Radeon

Bare Feats finds out of the PCI Radeon is that much slower than the AGP version.


Test machines included
Apple's Dual G4/533 Power Mac and "solo" G4/733 Power Mac. They were configured with 512M of PC-133 memory and were running Mac OS 9.1.

Graphics cards tested included:
GeForce3 (2.1 drivers)
GeForce2 MX (1.11 and 2.1 drivers)
ATI Radeon Mac Edition AGP (latest drivers included with Mac OS 9.1 including Radeon 3D Accelerator 6.2.3)

Quake 3 Arena 1.27h BETA
I tested at 1280x1024 "Maximum" (OpenGL, 32 bit Color Depth, Lighting Map, Maximum Geometric Detail, Maximum Texture Detail, 32 bit Texture Quality, Trilinear Texture Filter)
I also posted a run at 800x600 "Normal" (OpenGL, 32 bit Color Depth, Lighting Map, Medium Geometric Detail, Medium Texture Detail, 32 bit Texture Quality, Bilinear Texture Filter)
TEST METHOD: When the main screen appears, I press "~" and enter "timedemo 1" (return). Then enter "demo demo127" (return). When the demo sequence finishes and returns to the main screen, I press "~" once more to get the frames per second readout.

Photoshop 6.0 Tryout
Zoom Scroll Test: I zoom to 400% on a 27MB document. Then time how many seconds to scroll from top to bottom of the file.



LINKS to SPEED tests on other web sites


DOWNLOADS that add more SPEED


© 2001 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Feel free to email , the webmaster and chief mad scientist