Just 10 years back when NIVIDIA started making contributions to the early years of 3D graphics/game development, it is now the worlds leading provider in visual processing solutions. Currently they have more than a third of the entire graphics card provider base including graphics solutions built in to notebooks and motherboards of desktop PCs. When narrowing down to the retail graphics card solutions using NVIDIA chipsets and graphics cards geared for gaming, NVIDIAs share is more than 60% (well, that's according to NVIDIA though).
This wasnt the case always. For a very long time in graphics history, ATI remained as the most dominant graphics solutions provider. It was only ATIs relatively slow pickup into the 3D gaming scene that propelled 3dfx and NVIDIA to become leading innovators of powerful 3D graphics cards. 3dfx has since been bought over by NVIDIA after suffering manufacturing problems and being unable to supply new graphics products in a timely fashion. ATI being a much more financially capable firm had no problems rebounding with good products since the inception of the RADEON.
NVIDIAs early days were anything but smooth; back in the 1997/1998 period, they were in such a tight spot that if their RIVA 128 chipset had not been well received, there might not have been an NVIDIA today. The past 5 years after that were an exceptionally enjoyable period for NVIDIA, ringing out successful graphics solutions, such as the RIVA TNT. They practically had very little to worry about their competitors because of their rapid succession of product cycles and each one brought significant improvements in performance and in terms of leaping to the GeForce, GeForce2 and GeForce3. There were significant technological advances and features introduced in each of them. The GeForce4 Titanium was more of an evolutionary step up the GeForce3 than revolutionary but it is still a good product because it offers a lot of raw power and is more than sufficient to power current games and upcoming games still based on current game designs and engines.
As of now, the GeForce4 Titanium graphics core is a whole year old, yet we see no sight of new retail graphics cards based on their next generation graphics core. This is an unusually long wait for their highly anticipated product codenamed NV30. ATIs next generation graphics core that is DirectX 9 compliant is already on the shelves for well over six months. The normal cycle for NVIDIA is just over half a year, but the NV30 has slipped well past that and only now we get to have a glimpse of the reference sample. What caused the NV30 to be late? What does it boast and how did it perform? We shall touch on some of these matters but not delve too deep to keep it easy to read and relevant to the review. The white papers from NVIDIA are good reading material should you need more detail.