(This test also available in FRENCH at MacGeneration.)

Which is faster, the GeForce2 MX or the Radeon? -- PART 2

Post Date: January 26th, 2001
Updated January 29th to include
tbe GeForce2 MX results from a Sony VAIO Pentium III 1GHz.

by rob ART morgan, chief test pilot

Serious 3D

Serious 2D

Notice the "GeForce2 MX (P3)" on the Bar Charts? It is a Sony VAIO desktop with GeForce2 MX and 1GHz Pentium III. I could not resist adding its figures to the mix. Note that with Quake III, it was faster than the three Macintosh cards at lower resolution but slower at higher resolution. It was surprisingly fast with Cinema 4D fly-through but depressingly slow on the Photoshop scrolling test. Stay tuned for a CPU crunching contest between the 1GHz VAIO and the 466MHz G4 Power Mac.

Performance Analysis

If you already ordered your Power Mac G4 with a GeForce card, you'll be happy. It's a good card. If you chose the Radeon, you'll be happy. It's a good card. If you chose the RAGE 128 Pro... ooops. If you haven't ordered your G4 Power Mac yet, continue reading...

BEST MAC GAME BOARD? As you can see on the first page of this test, the GeForce2 is faster at lower resolutions in Quake III. The Radeon comes on stronger at the higher resolutions and texture settings. As one game developer explained it, the Radeon has a higher fill rate which helps at high rez, but the GeForce has a more streamlined driver architecture and faster throughput to push polygons, giving better speed at low rez. If you are like most gamers and play with Quake III set up somewhere in the middle, it's pretty much a TIE between the Radeon and GeForce2.

BEST MAC CARD FOR 3D PROFESSIONALS? I say the GeForce2 for three reasons. First, it flies through the 3D model best. Second, in a side by side comparison of each board's ability to display advanced 3D effects, the Radeon struggled with some of the effects. Third, half the time I tried flying through my Cinema 4D model with the Radeon, the "skin" disappeared and only the wireframe was visible. At first, I thought it was a driver bug but it turned out to be a Cinema 4D feature. If the graphics card is too slow, it switches to wireframe. I rest my case.

BEST MAC CARD FOR 2D? In my one scrolling test, the Radeon was fastest. If that's indicative of overall 2D performance, then the Radeon "2D king."



One More ThroughPut Test...


RAGE 128






The table above shows the results from an application called ThroughPut 1.5. It measures how much data your Power Mac can move through the AGP slot to your graphics card. All numbers are MEGABYTES PER SECOND. The documentation indicates that 3D gamers and 3D professionals want a high FPU number. Photoshop "jockeys" and other 2D application lovers want a high CopyBits number. Clever programmers will write software and card drivers to do "write combining," using more than one 'vehicle' for sending data to the graphics card.

So which card do you order with your new G4 PowerMac? ATI contends that the Radeon has more potential than the nVidia GeForce2 MX, especially at higher resolutions. (nVidia didn't dispute that and are just happy their card does as well as it does against the Radeon, considering it's the "mid range" chip set.) Apple's web site states that the GeForce2 MX processes 20 million triangles per second while the Radeon processes 30 million per second. The GeForce2 MX uses SDRAM while the Radeon uses faster DDR RAM. So, on paper, the Radeon the edge. Contrary to what you may have heard, BOTH CARDS take over the processing of transform and lighting from your main CPU.

After this latest series of tests, if I had to choose one card today for a new machine, I'd have to go with the GeForce2 MX... but what I really want is a GeForce2 Ultra* or GeForce3 or a more radical Radeon. I admit it. I'm a pig. Oink, oink!

If you are looking to buy a faster graphics card for anything but the newest G4 Power Macs, your best option is the ATI Radeon Macintosh Retail Card in either AGP or PCI version. (See WHERE TO BUY below.)


*The four versions of nVidia GeForce chip set are GeForce 2 MX, GeForce 2 GTS, GeForce 2 GTS Pro, GeForce 2 Ultra. The MX is a slower, lower cost version of the GTS with SDRAM. The GTS has a faster processor, DDR RAM, and is faster than the Radeon. The GTS Pro and Ultra are overclocked versions of the GTS (the memory and processor are faster). The Ultra goes for about $500 right now. (Info provided by a reader whose initials are S. C.)

Only the MX chip set is compatible with Macintosh so don't expect to see any GeForce Ultra or GTS for the Mac. Hopefully, we'll see a GeForce3 Ultra for the Mac in the near future. (Rob-Art)

Related Speed Tests

InnerMac has a most excellent comparison of the Radeon versus GeForce2 MX.

MacWorld Labs has their own comparison of the GeForce to the Radeon and RAGE 128.

HARDOCP.com has an interesting comparison between the Radeon and the GeForce2 GTS on a Windows PC.


Test Specs & Procedures

There were two test machines but both were an
Apple G4/466 Power Mac minitower with 384MB of RAM, 30GB or 40MB Maxtor hard drive. Graphics cards tested included the GeForce2 MX (32M), RAGE 128 Pro (16M), and Radeon (32M). All three cards use the AGP slot. The GeForce2 and RAGE 128 had ADC & VGA connectors. The Radeon had a DVI and VGA connector since it was the retail version.

The Sony VAIO desktop was added to the mix on January 29th. I chose to test model PCVRX250DS because it had a GeForce2 MX and 133Mhx bus speed like the new G4 Power Macs. It came with 1GHz Pentium III, 128MB of 133MHz RAM, 60GB ATA/66 hard drive, 16X DVD, 8X CD-RW, 2 PCI slots, 3 USB, V.90 modem, and 10/100BaseT Ethernet for $2099.

Id Software's
Quake III Arena (Build 117) was used at four TEST SETTINGS:
"Fastest", 640x480 , 32 bit
"Normal", 800x600, 32 bit
"High Quality," 1024x768, 32 bit
"Maximum" ("High Quality" with Geometric Detail set to HIGH and Texture Detail set to Maximum), 1280x1024, 32 bit.
TEST METHOD: When the main screen appears, I press "~" and enter "timedemo 1" (return) and "~" once more. Then I click on DEMOS and run Demo1. Once it finishes and returns to the main screen, I press "~" once more to get the frames per second readout.

Adobe Photoshop 5.5 was given 200MB of application size. The test file was a 27 MB Photoshop photo. I zoomed in at 400 percent after doing a rotate, Gaussian blur, and flashlight lighting effect. I timed how long it took to scroll from top to bottom using a stopwatch. (Screen set to 1024 x 768 x millions)

Maxon Cinema 4D 6.1 is an award winning 3D modeling application. I used the "scene2.c4d" document from their Cinebench 2000 benchmark application. I hit "PLAY" button and timed how long it took to "fly" through the "Hall of Columns" using a stopwatch. (Screen set to 1024 x 768 x millions)



Many thanks to the University of Hawaii Outreach College and Campus Bookstore for the use of the first G4/466. And many thanks to Mac Made Easy of Honolulu for the use of the second G4/466. And thank you to ATI for the use of the retail Radeon test card.



LATEST RESULTS translated into FRENCH by MacGeneration.

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