note: this write-up was originally written by Zerotime, and most of the info in there is his. also, sorry for the, uh, footnote issues. i was feeling lazy. this is probably as fixed as it's going to get unless someone complains, so if it bothers you /msg me.

last significant update: may 18 2006

Sorted by chipset, in rough technological order.
That is, which chipsets superceded and/or competed with which. Mostly. Nvidia have kind of screwed things up with their refusal to let the GF2MX just fucking die already.

/msg me with corrections and updates! Win fabulous prizes!

I'm trying to do rough performance comparisons here and there (at the start of generations) to make comparisons simple and quick. Bear in mind that I'm not about to put benchmark numbers in here; all I'm doing is using greater-than signs (>) to indicate what's better than what, with multiple signs (>>) indicating a biggish jump and a greater-than-or-equals-to (>=) indicating a small or debatable performance jump. This is all definitely approximative, and while most of these are pretty airtight (often it's just one card being the same as another but with additional features or a clock speed boost), many (for example, the 5800 and 5600) are just approximate placements that can and will vary.

This write-up is not limited-accessibility friendly. Use anything worse than 1024x768 (or, with small font size, 800x600) at your own risk.

First generation (1995-1997) (Voodoo era)

Second generation (1997-1998) (Voodoo 2 era)

Third generation (1999) (TNT2 era)

Fourth generation (2000) (NV10 era)

Fifth generation (2001 to early 2002) (NV15 era)

  • 3Dfx Voodoo5 4 (5000 / 5500 / 6000)
  • ATi Radeon 7000 or "VE" (same thing) (RV100)
  • ATi Radeon <LE / SDR / DDR>(R100)4-3
  • ATi Radeon 7500 (RV250)4-2
  • ATi MOBILITY Radeon 7500 (M7) 5
  • Nvidia GeForce 2 MX <200 / nForce IGP variant / 400> (NV11)
  • Nvidia GeForce2 <(GTS / Pro> (NV15)
  • Nvidia GeForce2 Ultra (NV15A)
  • Nvidia GeForce2 Ti <200 / 400> (NV15A) 6
  • Nvidia GeForce 2 go
  • Nvidia GeForce 4 MX <420 / nForce2 IGP variant / 440 / 460> (NV17) 7
  • Nvidia GeForce "MX" aka MX 4000 (aka MX 440 AGP 8x) (NV18)
  • Nvidia GeForce 4 Go <420 / 440> (well, 420Go and 440Go, but you get the idea) (NV17M)
  • Nvidia GeForce 4 488Go (NV18M)
  • Nvidia GeForce PCX 4300 (NV19)
  • Nvidia Quadro2 MXR
  • Nvidia Quadro2 Pro
  • Nvidia Quadro2 Go (NV17) 8
  • PowerVR Kyro 2

Sixth generation (early to mid 2002) (NV20 era)

  • ATi Radeon 8500 <LE / vanilla> (R200)
  • ATi Radeon 9100 9
  • Nvidia GeForce 3 <Ti 200 / Ti / Ti 500> (NV20)
  • Nvidia Quadro DCC
  • Nvidia Xbox GPU (NV2A) 9-2

Seventh generation (early to mid/late 2002) (NV25 era)
Ti4600, Ti4800 > Ti4400, Ti4800SE > Ti4200
9000 Pro, 9200 Pro > 9000, 9200 > 9200SE

  • nVidia GeForce 4 <Ti 4200 / 4400 / 4600> (NV25)
  • nVidia GeForce 4 Ti4800 <SE / vanilla> (NV28)10
  • nVidia GeForce 4 4200Go (NV25M)
  • nVidia Quadro4 <700 / 750 / 900> XGL (NV25GL)10-2
  • nVidia Quadro4 <780 / 980> XGL (NV28GL)10-3
  • Matrox Parhelia 512
  • SiS Xabre 80
  • SiS Xabre <200 / 400 / 600> 11
  • ATi Mobility Radeon 9000 (M9)
  • ATi Mobility Radeon 9200 (M9+?)11-2
  • ATi Radeon 9000 <vanilla / Pro> (RV250)12
  • ATi Radeon 9200 <SE (64-bit mem. interface) / vanilla (128-bit) / Pro (128-bit)> (RV280) 13

Eighth generation (late 2002 - early 2004) (R300/NV30 era) PCI-Express cards start to filter late during this generation. If a card is PCI-E, it'll be in a footnote.
9800XT > 9800 Pro > 9800 vanilla >= 9700 Pro > 9700 > 9500 Pro, 9600XT > 9600 Pro, 9550XT ...
... 9600 Pro, 9550XT > 9600 Pro, 9550XT > 9600, 9800SE > 9500 vanilla > 9550 >> 9600SE > 9550SE
5950 Ultra, > 5900 Ultra > 5900 >= 5800 Ultra >= 5900XT > PCX 5900, 5900 > PCX 5750, 5700 Ultra, 5800 > 5700 ...
... 5700 > 5600 Ultra flip-chip > 5700LE, 5600 Ultra wire-bond > 5500, 5200 Ultra > 5200

  • ATi Radeon 9500 <vanilla (4 pipelines) / Pro (8)> (R300)
  • ATi Radeon 9550 <SE (64-bit mem. interface) / vanilla (128-bit) / XT (128-bit)> (RV350) 14
  • ATi Radeon 9600 <SE (64-bit mem. interface) / vanilla (128-bit) / Pro (128-bit)> (RV350) 15
  • ATi Radeon 9600 XT (RV360) 15-2
  • ATi Radeon 9700 <vanilla / Pro> (R300)
  • ATi Radeon 9800 <SE (4 pipelines) / vanilla (8) / Pro (8)> (R350)
  • ATi Radeon 9800 XT (R360) 15.5 (yes, again)
  • ATi Mobility Radeon 9550 (M12)
  • ATi Mobility Radeon 9600 <vanilla / Pro / Turbo Pro> (M10) 15-3
  • ATi Mobility Radeon 9700 (M11) 15-4
  • ATi Mobility Radeon 9800 (M18) 15-5
  • NVidia GeForce FX 5200 <vanilla / Ultra> (NV34)
  • Nvidia (GeForce FX 5500) (NV34) 16
  • NVidia GeForce FX 5600 <XT / vanilla / Ultra / Ultra flip-chip> (NV31) 16-2
  • NVidia GeForce FX 5700 <LE / vanilla / Ultra>(NV36)16-3
  • NVidia GeForce FX 5800 <vanilla / Ultra> (NV30) 17
  • NVidia GeForce FX 5900 <XT / vanilla / Ultra> (NV35) 18
  • NVidia GeForce FX 5950 <vanilla / Ultra> (NV38) 19
  • Nvidia GeForce PCX 5300 <vanilla / Ultra> (NV37 (NV34 + PCI-Express))
  • Nvidia GeForce PCX 5750 <vanilla / Ultra> (NV39 (NV36 + PCI-Express))
  • Nvidia GeForce PCX 5900 <vanilla / Ultra> (probably NV35 still, just PCI Express now)
  • NVidia GeForce FX Go <5200 / 5300 / 5600 / 5700>
  • NVidia Quadro FX <330 / 500 / 540 / 600 / 700> (NV34GL) 19-2
  • NVidia Quadro FX <1000 / 2000> (NV30GL) 19-3
  • NVidia Quadro FX 1100 (NV36GL) 19-3
  • NVidia Quadro FX <1300 / 1400> (NV38GL) 19-3
  • NVidia Quadro FX 3000 and 3000G (NV35GL) 19-4
  • XGI Volaris <V3 / V5 / V8> 20
  • XGI Volaris <V5 Duo / V8 Duo> 21

Ninth generation (early 2004 - late 2005) (NV40/R400 era) This is where PCI-Express really replaces AGP. I'll try to note if a certain model family is AGP, PCI-E, or both.
X850 XT Platinum Edition (PE) >= X800 XT PE >= X850 XT >= X800 XT > X800XL, X850 Pro > X800 Pro > X800 ...
... X800 > X700 XT > X700 Pro > X700 > X600 XT > X600 Pro > X600 > X300 > X300 SE HM
6800 Ultra Extreme > 6800 Ultra > 6800GT,6800GS > 6800 > 6600GT > 6800LE > 6600 > 6200 > 6200 TC

  • ATi Radeon X300 <SE HM / vanilla> (RV370) (PCI-Express only) 22
  • ATi Radeon X600 <vanilla / Pro / XT> (RV380) (PCI-Express only) 23
  • ATi Radeon X700 <vanilla / Pro / XT> (RV410) (PCI-Express only)
  • ATi Radeon X800 <SE (8 pipelines) / Pro (12) / XT (16) / XT Platinum Edition (16)> (R420) (PCI-E and AGP flavors)
  • ATi Radeon X800 XT PCI-Express (R423)
  • ATi Radeon X800 <vanilla (12 pipelines) / XL (16)> (R430) (PCI-Express only) 23-2
  • ATi Radeon X850 <Pro / XT / XT Platinum Edition> (R480) (PCI-Express only) 24
  • NVidia GeForce 6200 <TC / vanilla> (NV44) 25
  • NVidia GeForce 6600 <vanilla / GT> (NV43) (PCI-E and AGP flavors) 26
  • NVidia GeForce 6800 <LE (8 pipelines) / vanilla (12) / GS (16) / GT (16) / Ultra (16) / Ultra Extreme (16)> (NV40) (AGP 8x, the PCI-E versions are listed separately) 27
  • NVidia GeForce 6800 (PCI-E variant) <GT / Ultra>(NV41) (can be run in SLI mode)28
  • NVidia Quadro FX 3400 (NV45GL) 29
  • NVidia Quadro FX <4000 and 4000 SDI / 4400 and 4400G> (NV40GL) 30
  • XGI PCI-Express cards 31

Tenth generation (late 2005 - )

  • ATi Radeon X1300 <LE HM / LE / Pro> (RV515) 32
  • ATi Radeon X1600 <Pro / XT> (RV530)
  • ATi Radeon X1800 <LE / Pro / XL / XT> (R520)
  • ATi Radeon X1900 <GT / XT / XTX> (R580) 32-2
  • nVidia GeForce 7300 <LE / GS> (G72?)
  • nVidia GeForce 7600 <GS / GT> (G73) 32-3
  • nVidia GeForce 7800 <GS / GT / GTX> (G70) 33
  • nVidia GeForce 7900 <GT / GTX>(G71) 33-2
  • nVidia GeForce 7950 GX2 (G71M) 33-3 U
  • nVidia Quadro FX 4500 (G70?) 34

Thanks to NotBridgetJones for reminding me about the i740 and Rage 64/128/Pro.

Thanks to jasonm for the reminder about where the GF4MX/2Go chipsets fit in.

Thanks to mfk for telling me about the GF4 Ti 4200 and Radeon 9700.

Thanks to mkb for telling me about the GF3 Ti 200 / 500.

Thanks to GoodKingNerdnor for telling me about the Radeon 9000 / Pro, 9700 Pro, the ATi Rage chipsets from the 128 up, the GF2 Ti 200, and the NV35.

Thanks to nonhuman for telling me about the 9500/Pro, NV35, the NV40/R400 thing, and the FX 5600.

U Not released yet, somewhat speculative.

1 Possibly the same as the Savage4?

2 Released after the Voodoo5, but was supposed to be this generation.

3 At least, I think this is the right generation.

4 Released somewhere between generations four and five.

4-2Despite the code name, this is really just a die-shrunk upclocked original Radeon/R1xx. Came out around the time of the 8500, but technologically it's not in the same generation.

4-3Both the SDR and DDR variants are often called the "Radeon 7200", but there's a pretty big difference between SDR and DDR in terms of performance.

5 Designed for laptops.

6 Released around the same time as the GeForce 3 Ti, but they're just die-shrunk versions of the earlier GeForce2 GTS/Pro/Ultra cards.

7 Updated GF2 core. The GF 420/440/488Go == the mobile version of this, and the nForce2 integrated video is a version of this.

8 A chipset designed for laptops, but possibly being released for the desktop.

9 Indecative says re Computer And Video Games : 3D Accelerators ; This is relatively minor and silly, but there's also the Radeon 9100 now. The Radeon 9100 Pro and regular are identical to the 8500 and 8500LE, respectively. Apparently ATI decided the 8500 line still had life left in it and upped the number so it could compete with 9000s. Those wacky marketers.

9-2This is an interesting animal-- half GeForce3, half GeForce4, all cop. Okay, so it's a GeForce3 with two vertex shaders instead of one, but it's not as if there's that much that separates the GeForce3 and the GeForce4 in terms of technology.

10 Indecative says There's the GF4 Ti4800 and GF4 Ti4800SE, which are AGP 8x Ti4600s and Ti4400s respectively.

10-2The 700, 750, and 900 are the workstation versions of the Ti4200, Ti4400, and Ti4600 respectively. No, I don't know what's up with the numbering. I guess they pick them out of a hat or something. Workstation graphics card nomenclature is inconsistent and ridiculous even for video cards. At least higher == better within a single line for these, right?

10-3The 780 and 980 are the workstation variants of, uh, the Ti4800 and the Ti4800SE respectively, which I guess makes them AGP8x versions of the Ti4600 and Ti4400.

11 These are all AGP 8x and DirectX 8.1 compliant, but the Xabre 80 isn't (or at least isn't advertised as such). The 400 is also apparently the "world's first AGP 8x compliant chipset". I don't have any evidence to discount this, but the difference is basically like the difference between a four-lane highway and an eight-lane one: all cars are still limited to the same speed, the second highway can just carry twice as many of them, but you won't really notice any difference until there's too many cars to fit on the four lane one. The problem with 8x right now is that we just can't put enough enough cars on the road to need an eight lane highway. Or a four lane one, really. The Xabres all sucked, anyway.

12An 8500 that's been chewed up and spat o-- uh, modified to make it cheaper to produce. Slower, too, but hey.

13AGP 8x 9000, ATi's budget card during the R3x0 era. Performance is effectively identical. (Well, there was no 9000SE model, but if there was it would have sucked the same amount as the 9200SE.) The Pro variant is rare-ish.

14 The SE is an underclocked 9600SE, the 9550 is an underclocked 9600, and the XT is between the 9600 and the 9600 Pro. Apparently ATi felt that they lacked parts in the low-mid-budget, low-upper-budget, and low-mid-midrange. Sheesh.

15 Indecative says WORSE than the 9500 Pro!

15-2 RV360 and R360 are RV350 and R350, respectively, on a low-k process. Able to be clocked higher, but no other difference. The line between __350 and __360 is muddy, and a lot of the Pros (supposedly 350s) actually had XT cores (360s). (This applies to both cases, yes.)

15-3 There's some kind of clock limit that ATi set for manufacturers to be able to call the cards Pro or Turbo Pro (or Pro Turbo? Sellers are inconsistent). I, uh, forget what it is, though. It doesn't really matter, considering that actual laptop accelerator clock speeds vary wildly (you can see anywhere from 200MHz to 450MHz core, depending on how much they care about selling battery life and cheaping things up wrt cooling and yields).

15-4The Mobility Radeon 9700 is just an upclocked low-k Mobility Radeon 9600. You can consider it a mobile variant of the 9600XT..

15-5.. but the Mobility Radeon 9800 is definitely a different animal. Eight pipelines, power hogger (ATi advanced PowerPlay again for this one!). You can consider it a mobile variant of the desktop 9700.

16 A "pumped-up" NV34, sez Indecative. (Note by Indecative: Still sucks, though.)

16-2 The flip-chip Ultra version is in flip-chip instead of wire-bond packaging. End result was that it could be clocked higher, so the flip-chip Ultra was faster.

16-3 5700s come in DDR, DDR-2, and GDDR3 flavors, because it has cool memory controllers that let manufacturers do what they want.

17 Mysterious Alien Battleship Hovering Over New York Later Revealed To Be GeForce FX 5800 Ultra. (meet the dustbuster!)

18 Indecative says NV35 is here-- the 5900 Ultra. Probably a new generation (ATi's R400's supposed to challenge it in July). (note: i should have said new half-generation, or something similarly confusing. didn't hit a new generation until NV40, really.)

19 Indecative says - Say hello to the soon-to-be-released GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. They're STILL not giving up on the dustbuster idea! (note: don't worry, this one's not loud.)

19-2 NV34GL = workstation variant of NV34, AKA FX 5200. FX 330 and FX 540 are PCI-E, FX 330 is painfully crippled (64-bit memory interface, half the RAM of the 500). Otherwise, they go pretty much in ascending order of performance (PCI-E normally provides no real boost, but the 540 is upclocked a little from the 500). There was also a PCI (not PCI-E, plain old PCI) version of the FX 600, for some reason. Oh, also, the 700 was pitched as a low-midrange solution, which is fair enough, since unlike the rest of these cards it had a 256-bit memory interface.

19-3This is going to get messy, but stay with me. The original midrange Quadro FX was the 1000, which was based on the workstation variant of the original NV3x core (NV30). Think of it as a downclocked workstation GeForce FX 5800. The FX 1100 was based on a more modern core, but also on a midrange core (NV36GL being the workstation variant of the FX 5700's core) instead of a high-end one like NV30/GL, which is why it had a 128-bit (not 256-bit) memory interface. The 1300 and 1400 were both based on the NV38GL core (workstation version of the high-end NV38 core), and they were both PCI-Express rather than AGP 8x.

19-4That's right, the cards based on the workstation version of the FX 5950's core were slower than the cards based on the workstation version of the FX 5900's core. The wonders of playing with clock speeds. Oh, and the 3000G is just a 3000 with frame lock and genlock, it's not actually any faster.

20 XGI is the merger of SiS' graphics division and Trident. Yes, really. Stop that laughing.

21 "Duo", of course, meaning that the card has two (or dual, if you wish) GPUs. When Indecative says that it "unleashes the power of suck", he's actually being quite diplomatic about it.

22 A die-shrunk 9600. The X300's "SE" means the same thing as it did with the 9600 and 9200 (64-bit memory interface), and it still cripples the card badly. The "HM"/HyperMemory variant can use system memory as graphics memory. Kind of like integrated graphics, but there's still some memory on the card itself, so it doesn't suck quite as much. Obviously, the more memory actually ON the card, the better. (This isn't always the case with graphics cards; a 256MB Radeon 9600 is not necessarily any better than a 128MB one. Enough is as good as a feast. However, unlike the 128MB Radeon 9600 in the example, none of these cards actually have enough memory onboard to do everything you'd want them to do, so you have to settle for getting as close to "enough" as possible.)

23 A midrange chipset, designed to replace the 9600XT. Oh. Apparently it is a 9600, just with PCI-express nonsense tacked on. Recycle old technology. (Replaced by the X700 pretty quickly, because people weren't going for the whole "paying more just to get another X in the name" thing. And yeah, it's PCI-E only, AFAIK.)

23-2 Die-shrunk R423. The X800 line as a whole now goes, um, SE < vanilla < Pro < XL < XT < XT Platinum Edition. Initially, only PCI-E X800XLs were available, but AGP versions became available after a few months.

24 The dustbuster returns, apparently. These manufacturers really love their two-slot coolers, don't they? Anyway, nothing can top the obnoxious whining of the original dustbuster, so don't worry too much about noise. (Just worry about the ridiculous price you pay for high-end cards! :)

25TC or TurboCache is the same basic idea as ATi's HM / HyperMemory. PCI-E initially, AGP versions of the 6200 vanilla are also available.

26 NV39 replacement. Available in PCI-E before it was available in AGP, which was apparently supposed to make PCI-E become popular more quickly. PCI-E versions are SLI-capable, like the 6800s. Unfortunately, 2x6600GT < 1x6800GT. Fail.

27Big line, isn't it? The 6800 Ultra was the first out, followed by the 6800GT. The 6800 vanilla tricked out later, the LE later still, and the GS was released late in the series' lifetime (which is why it's as fast as the GT but had an initial MSRP much lower than the GT's).

28 ♪ And it's all just a little bit of history repeating... ♪

29Another PCI-Express card. This one is basically the workstation version of the 6800GT.

30The 4400 is clocked higher than the 4000, and it has 512MB of memory instead of 256. Also, it's PCI-E, but the 4000 is AGP 8x. The 4000 SDI is a 4000 with SDI connectors, intended for use in broadcast and film production. The 4400G is to the 4400 as the 3000G is to the 3000; same thing with frame lock and genlock.

31 No, really! They've actually said they'll be releasing cards that use PCI-Express! That'll make their chipsets not suck!

32 HM = HyperMemory, as before. LE HM means it's "LE w/ HyperMemory".

32-2Look at all that.. X. How can anyone resist? Crossfire editions available. Again, Crossfire == ATi's SLI.

32-3No idea if the GS is an OFFICIAL variant, but it seems to be out there all right.

33 Yes, G70. Basically a refresh of NV40 with more pipes.

33-2 7800GT < 7900GT < 7800GTX < 7900GTX. A refresh of G70, just die-shrunk (110nm to 90nm) and upclocked. Curiously, several reviews have stated that G71 has several million FEWER (!) transistors than G70. If this is true, it's a pretty impressive bit of engineering, to be sure.

33-3Two cores, two PCBs, one card. Can also be run in SLI with another card, for something that's basically Quad SLI. It's not even worth mentioning history repeating at this point. Also, hooray for footnote #33-3!

34 Workstation variant of the 7800. Numbering is curious, considering the performance gap between the 4400 and the 4500. I'm actually not sure what nVidia has decided to name this core (G70GL sounds a bit silly, doesn't it)... it doesn't really matter, since it's pretty much the exact same thing, tech-wise, as G70-based consumer cards, but I'll see what I can find out anyway.

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