To study the MR appearance of knee joint hyaline cartilage, 120 subjects were examined with MRI of the knee. Axial SE proton-density (PD) and T2, GE T1 and GE-MTC sequences were used, as well as coronal SE T1 and sagittal SE PD and T2 sequences. At the patellar and femorotibial cartilages the following variables were investigated: thickness, surface, signal intensity and visibility. Moreover, the three patellar sequences were compared qualitatively, by giving a 1-to-4 score to the images, depending on their yield in the four variables. As for articular cartilage thickness, a statistically significant difference was found between men and women in nearly all measurement sites, the mean values being always higher in men. A statistically significant inverse correlation between cartilage thickness and age was found, in men only, at the three load-bearing regions of the medial femoral condyle. Cartilage surface was irregular and/or its signal intensity altered in 28% of patients at the femoral condyles, while the cartilage of tibial plates exhibited normal surface and homogeneous signal intensity in most cases. The visibility rate of trilaminar cartilage was 82.5% for the medial femoral condyle, 87.5% for the lateral femoral condyle, 70% for the patella, 12.5% for the medial tibial plateau and 14.5% for the lateral tibial plateau. No statistically significant correlation was found between cartilage thickness, surface, signal intensity and visibility and age, sex, and body weight. The GE sequence was the best tool to study cartilage thickness and signal intensity, while the SE T2 sequence was the most accurate one to depict the articular surface and, together with the PD SE sequence, to visualize the trilaminar structure. Our study suggests that articular cartilage surface, thickness, and signal intensity can be studied accurately with SE PD and T2 sequences, combined with a GE T1 sequence.