The historical past of Nvidia’s graphics playing cards

Nvidia was initially based in 1993 nevertheless it wasn’t till 1995 that the corporate launched its first graphics product – the NV1.

Issues have modified quite a bit since then and we’re now spoiled with ray tracing, DLSS and different great applied sciences that make our gaming experiences much more pleasing.


We’re looking again by way of the historical past of Nvidia graphics cards and what these gadgets have seemed like through the years.

Nvidia NV1


The Nvidia NV1 launched in 1995 and was capable of deal with each 2D and 3D video. It was offered because the “Diamond Edge 3D” and even sported a Sega Saturn appropriate joypad port.

A number of Sega Saturn video games had been ported for PC together with Panzer Dragoon and Virtua Fighter Remix. These options alone weren’t sufficient to attraction to the market although because the Saturn was struggling to compete with the unique PlayStation.

NV1 was off to a tough begin that was made worse by the discharge of Microsoft DirectX which was incompatible with the GPU and lots of video games wouldn’t run.

Nvidia RIVA 128

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 2
Mathías Tabó/Wikipedia

In 1997 Nvidia launched the NV3 aka Riva 128, Riva stood for “Actual-time Interactive Video and Animation”. This graphics card used each 2D and 3D acceleration together with polygon texture mapping.

On the time Nvidia’s rival 3dfx was dominating the market however the NV3 had a 100MHz core/reminiscence clock and basically doubled the spec of 3dfx’s Voodoo 1.

There have been two variants of the NV3 within the type of the Riva 128 and the Riva 128ZX. The latter was extra highly effective with 8MB of VRAM and a 250MHz clock pace.

The NV3 was far more profitable than the corporate’s first GPU and helped Nvidia get widespread recognition.

Nvidia NV4

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 3

In 1998, Nvidia unleashed NV4, aka Riva TNT. This graphics card improved over the earlier fashions by together with help for 32-bit True Color. The NV4 additionally had extra RAM with 16MB of SDR SDRAM which meant it provided larger efficiency too.

It was round this time that Nvidia began to make strikes to frequently replace graphics drivers to make sure good efficiency and compatibility for the top consumer, one thing the corporate continues to be doing to today.

Nvidia’s Riva TNT was extra reasonably priced on the time than 3dfx’s Vodoo2 if a bit of slower when it comes to efficiency. The driving force help was key to NV4’s success.

Nvidia NV5

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 4
Uwe Hermann/Wikipedia

In 1999, Nvidia adopted up NV4 with the RIVA TNT2. NV5, because it was codenamed, purchased various updates together with 32-bit Z-buffer/stencil help, as much as 32MB of VRAM and 2048 x 2048 texture help.

Extra importantly, this graphics card had improved clock speeds (as much as 150+ MHz) which gave it as a lot as a 17 per cent efficiency enhance over the earlier mannequin.

This card was a direct competitor to the 3dfx Voodoo3 and each had been extremely in style.

Nvidia GeForce 256

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 5

Late in 1999, Nvidia launched what it pitched because the “world’s first GPU” within the type of the Nvidia GeForce 256.

This was a intelligent advertising and marketing transfer from Nvidia and the start of a love affair with GeForce-branded graphics playing cards for years to return.

It improved upon earlier RIVA playing cards by growing the pixel pipelines but additionally provided an enormous leap in efficiency for PC gaming.

This card supported as much as 64MB of DDR SDRAM and operated as much as 166MHz. As such it was 50 per cent sooner than the NV5.

Extra importantly, the GeForce 256 additionally totally supported Direct3D 7 which meant it might energy most of the finest PC video games obtainable on the time.

Shortly after this launch 3dfx went bankrupt and ATI turned Nvidia’s major competitor.

Nvidia GeForce2

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 6

Nvidia adopted up the world’s first GPU with the aptly named GeForce2.

This GPU got here in a number of completely different variants together with the Ti, Professional, GTS and Extremely fashions. These had been basically NV11, 15 and 16 playing cards. Growing pipelines and better clock charges adopted all through the 2000 and 2001 releases.

The factor that made GeForce2 fascinating was the beginning of help for multi-monitor setups.

It was additionally round this time that Nvidia acquired 3dfx.

Nvidia GeForce3

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 7

Shortly after GeForce2 got here GeForce3. Codenamed NV20, this collection of graphics playing cards represented Nvidia’s first DirectX 8 appropriate GPUs.

There have been three variations – the GeForce3, GeForce3 Ti 200, and GeForce3 Ti 500. This subsequent GeForce GPU added programmable pixel and vertex shaders, multisample anti-aliasing into the combo.

A model of GeForce3 known as NV2A was used within the unique Xbox console.

Nvidia GeForce FX collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 8

Leap ahead a few generations and in 2003 we now have the discharge of Nvidia’s GeForce FX collection.

These had been the fifth era of the GeForce graphics playing cards and supported Direct3D 9 in addition to various new reminiscence applied sciences. These included DDR2, GDDR2 and GDDR3 in addition to Nvidia’s first try at a reminiscence knowledge bus wider than 128 bits.

In the meantime, the GeForce FX 5800 made waves for being the primary GPU to be outfitted with a big cooler. One so huge that it was usually referred to as the “dustbuster” due to the quantity of fan noise it gave off.

Nvidia GeForce 6 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 9

Shortly after the discharge of the GeForce FX collection got here the 6 collection (aka NV40). GeForce 6 was the beginning of Nvidia pushing SLI know-how permitting individuals to mix a couple of graphics card for extra energy.

The flagship of this vary was the GeForce 6800 Extremely, a graphics card which boasted 222 million transistors, 16-pixel superscalar pipelines and 6 vertex shaders. It had Shader Mannequin 3.0 help and was compliant with each Microsoft DirectX 9.0c and OpenGL 2.0.

The collection additionally featured Nvidia PureVideo know-how and was capable of decode H.264, VC-1, WMV and MPEG-2 movies with diminished CPU use.

Because of all this, the GeForce 6 collection was extremely profitable.

Nvidia GeForce7 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 10

In 2005 got here the GeForce7 collection together with the spotlight considered 7800 GTX.

That card alone was an actual powerhouse for the time and with some intelligent cooling, Nvidia was capable of push the clock pace to 550MHz. On the identical time, the corporate additionally managed to cut back latency and enhance the bus to 512 bit.

Apparently a model of the 7 collection was crafted because the RSX Actuality Synthesizer which was the proprietary CPU co-created by Nvidia and Sony for the PlayStation 3.

Nvidia GeForce8 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 11

In 2006 Nvidia launched the GeForce8 collection and unveiled its Tesla microarchitecture. This was the corporate’s first unified shader design and could be one in all its most used architectures in future playing cards too.

The much-loved Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX was the flagship of the vary and was extremely in style. It boasted 681 million transistors, had 768MB of GDDR3 reminiscence and got here with 128 shaders clocked at 575MHz.

Most importantly, this graphics card might run Crysis, which was all that PC players needed on the time.

In 2006 issues had been additionally heating up as AMD bought ATI for $5.4 billion and would change into a thorn in Nvidia’s facet for years to return.

Nvidia GeForce9 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 12

Firstly of 2008 Nvidia launched the GeForce9 collection. These playing cards continued to make use of the Tesla structure but additionally added PCIe 2.0 help, improved color and z-compression too.

By this time Nvidia was pushing efficiency up a notch with clock speeds hitting as much as 675MHz and but energy consumption was being diminished as nicely.

Nvidia GeForce 400 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 13

The subsequent vital replace got here in 2010 when Nvidia launched the GeForce 4000 collection. This was when Nvidia revealed the Fermi microarchitecture which was the corporate’s subsequent main structure.

This collection additionally noticed help for OpenGL 4.0 and Direct3D 11 and was a direct competitor to the Radeon HD 5000 Sequence.

Nonetheless, the collection was let down by excessive working temperatures and energy consumption which induced numerous grumbles from customers.

Nvidia GeForce 600 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 14

The GeForce 600 collection launched Nvidia’s Kepler structure which was designed to extend efficiency per watt whereas additionally bettering upon the efficiency of the earlier Fermi microarchitecture.

With Kepler, Nvidia managed to extend the reminiscence clock to 6GHz. It additionally added GPU Enhance which assured the GPU would be capable of run at a minimal clock pace, but additionally enhance efficiency when wanted till it reached a pre-defined energy goal.

This vary additionally supported each Direct3D 11 and Direct3D 12. It additionally launched a brand new anti-aliasing methodology referred to as TXAA.

Nvidia GeForce 700 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 15
Marcus Burns

In 2013 Nvidia kicked issues up a notch with the 700 collection which was topped off with the insane high-end fanatic GTX Titan card.

This collection was a refresh of the Kepler microarchitecture however some later playing cards additionally featured Femi and Maxwell architectures.

The GTX Titan boasted 2688 CUDA cores, 224 TMUs and 6GB of RAM. By this time Nvidia was managing to squeeze as many as seven billion transistors into its GPUs.

The GeForce 700 collection was designed to maximise vitality effectivity but additionally included different options corresponding to {hardware} H.264 encoding, PCI Categorical 3.0 interface, help for DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4a 4K x 2K video output in addition to GPU-Enhance 2.0.

Nvidia GeForce 900 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 16
Marcus Burns

In 2014 Nvidia seemingly skipped a era and went straight into the GeForce 900 collection. This was the introduction to the Maxwell microarchitecture which provided improved graphics capabilities in addition to higher vitality effectivity.

This collection had the GeForce GTX 980 as its preliminary flagship, later adopted by the 980 Ti and GeForce GTX TITAN X on the excessive finish.

NVENC was additionally improved for this collection and help appeared for Direct3D 12_1, OpenGL 4.6, OpenCL 3.0 and Vulkan 1.3.

Nvidia GeForce10 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 17
Marcus Burns

In 2014 Nvidia revealed the GeForce10 collection primarily based on the Pascal microarchitecture. The GTX 1080 Ti is probably probably the most well-known of the GPUs from this collection and cemented itself in historical past as maybe one of the crucial vital playing cards Nvidia launched.

This graphics card dominated the market and provided such very good efficiency and vitality effectivity vs price that it will usually be referred to in comparison with future GPUs.

The ten collection additionally included new options corresponding to GPU Enhance 3.0, a dynamic load balancing scheduling system, triple buffering and help for each DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0b.

Nvidia GeForce20 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 18
Marcus Burns

The GeForce 20 collection was launched in 2018 and launched the Turing microarchitecture to the world.

Notably, these graphics playing cards had been the first-gen of RTX playing cards and noticed Nvidia pushing ray tracing as the principle promoting level.

The usage of Tensor Cores and different enhancements helped these playing cards current a large leap in graphical prowess. Leading to lifelike lighting and convincing reflection results in-game.

Enhancements got here at a price although, with the RTX 2080 Ti retailing for an eye-watering $1,199 (in comparison with the $699 of the 1080 Ti).

Nvidia GeForce30 collection

Nvidia GPUs through the ages photo 19

The GeForce30 collection succeeded the 20 collection in 2020 and sadly turned most well-known for merely being not possible to pay money for as a result of silicone scarcity.

Nonetheless, the Nvidia RTX 3080 was meant to retail for $699 making it far more reasonably priced than the earlier generations flagship and the collection purchased vital enhancements too.

The flagship GeForce RTX 3090 Ti introduced in March 2022 packed 10,752 CUDA cores, 78 RT-TFLOPs, 40 Shader-TFLOPs and 320 Tensor-TFLOPs of energy. This highly effective beast was additionally famous to be power-hungry, requiring no less than 850 watts of energy which means you’d probably want a 1,000-watt PSU to run it.

Nvidia GeForce 40-series

Nvidia's smoldering RTX 4090 power connector labeled a 'disaster' photo 1

Nvidia has continually been making an attempt to push the boundaries with every iteration. With the RTX 40-series, one consumer proved it was attainable to run games at 13K resolution.

This was the primary collection of GPUs to make use of the 12VHPWR connector which led to some problems, however in any other case largely had glowing critiques.

The flagship card of this vary, the RTX 4090, had 24GB of GDDR6X, 16384 Cuda cores and a few critical processing energy. With these playing cards, Nvidia additionally launched DLSS 3.

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