Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples" - HotHardware

Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples"

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Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples"
Giving Things a Boost with AGP 8X

By - Jeff Bouton
December 03, 2002


W
hen it comes to maintaining longevity in the video card market, nVidia seems to have the process down to a science.  Since the release of the GeForce4 series of GPUs last year, the product line has enjoyed a rather successful maturation process.  This maturity in nVidia's products has given manufacturers the ability to be creative with their designs, offering a wide variety of graphics card combinations.  Now, it isn't uncommon to see Ti4200 cards being offered with higher core and memory clock speeds, giving them Ti4600-like performance levels at a fraction of the price.  With the AGP8X (AGP 3.0) standard gaining acceptance, the Ti series is poised for yet another incremental upgrade.

Today, we are going to take look at two new cards from Gainward that bring AGP 3.0 compliance to the GeForce 4.  The main advantage to the improved AGP bus is the doubling of its bandwidth to 2.1 GB/s when compared to AGP 2.0.  While this may sound like a significant increase, that would have a seemingly major effect on performance, we have some reservations.  The truth is that today's hardware and software rarely tap the full potential of the AGP 2.0 standard, leaving us with little expectations with the new standard, at least for now.  Gainward, on the other hand, was not looking for a simple AGP8X upgrade, instead they added new features to each card to help them stand out in their respective crowds.

Let?s take a look and see what Gainward has to offer to us this time around.

Specifications and Features of the Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Pro 600 8X TV/DVI
GeForce4 'Lite'

   

FEATURE OVERVIEW:
  • Integrated NVIDIA GeForce4 MX series high performance GPU. (275MHz.)
  • Supporting 64MB/128MB high-speed 128bit DDR RAM/SDRAM memory. (200MHz DDR)
  • NVIDIA nVIEW TM Display Technology
  • Lightspeed Memory TM Architecture (LMA) II
  • Accuview TM Antialiasing
  • Video Processing Engine (VPE) enables the highest-quality, full-frame rate, full-screen HDTV and DVD without requiring a high-performance CPU.
  • Integrated hardware transform and lighting engine.
  • Integrated 32-bit color and 32-bit Z/Stencil Buffer.
  • Integrated Cube environment mapping, and true reflective bump mapping.
  • Multibuffering (double, triple, quadruple) for smooth animation and video playback.
  • AGP 2X/4X supporting and Execute Mode.
  • Integrated Dual 350MHz DACs and Dual Channel TMDS Transmitters. Driving dual independent displays with crisp and clear image quality at 2048x1536 resolution at 75MHz and enabling two independent Digital Flat Panels (DFP) displays at resolutions up to 1280x1024.
  • Video-out support (NTSC/PAL) TV system. (Optional)
  • Fill Rate: 1.1 Billion Texels/Sec.
  • Triangles per Second: 34 Million
  • Memory Bandwidth: 6.4GB/Sec.
  • Maximum Memory: 64MB

nView Display Technology:

The nView hardware and software technology combination delivers maximum flexibility for multi-display options, and provides great end-user control of their desktop. nView allows end-users to select any combination of multiple displays, including digital flat panels, analog CRTs, and TVs, and to modify the display properties using an intuitive software interface.

  • Windows® Integration: Seamless integration within the familiar Windows environment
  • Setup Wizard: Enables quick and easy installation of nView multi-display
  • Transparency Effects: Quickly view hidden applications on cluttered desktops
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer® Extension: Enables more efficient web searches
  • Hot keys: Bind every nView action to a keyboard hot key
  • Advanced zoom features: Quickly enlarge portions of the screen to view information easier and to do precision editing
  • Desktop management: Create up to 32 different Windows desktop workspaces to control information flow
  • Window and application management: Gives users full control over repositioning dialog boxes and application windows
Accuview Antialiasing (AA):

The Accuview Antialiasing subsystem with advanced multisampling hardware delivers full-scene antialiased quality at high performance levels.

Lightspeed Memory Architecture (LMA) II:

LMA II boosts effective memory bandwidth by up to 300%. New technologies―including Z-occlusion culling, fast Z-clear, and auto pre-charge―effectively multiply the memory bandwidth to ensure fluid frame rates for the latest 3D and 2D games and applications.
  • A crossbar-based memory controller: Ensures that every aspect of the memory system is balanced and that all memory requests by the graphics processor are handled properly. Under complex loads, LMA II?s memory crossbar architecture delivers 2-4 times the memory bandwidth of other standard architectures.
  • A Quad Cache memory caching subsystem: High-speed access buffers that store small amounts of data and operate at tremendously high bandwidth, ensuring that data is queued and ready to be written to the memory. These caches are individually optimized for the specific information they deal with, resulting in almost instantaneous retrieval of key data.
  • Lossless Z-buffer compression: Reduces Z-buffer traffic?one of the largest consumers of memory bandwidth in a graphics subsystem?by a factor of four, without any reduction in image quality or precision.
  • A visibility subsystem: Determines whether or a not a pixel will be visible in a scene. If it determines a pixel will not be visible, the pixel is not rendered, saving valuable frame buffer bandwidth.
  • Fast Z-clear technology: Minimizes the time it takes to clear the old data in the Z-buffer, boosting frame rates up to 10% without compromising image quality.
  • Auto pre-charge: Warns the memory device of areas of the memory likely to be used in the very near future, allowing the GPU to spend less time waiting for memory and more time rendering pixels.

API SUPPORT

  • DirectDraw
  • Direct3D
  • DirectVideo
  • DirectX 8.1
  • Open GL ICD for Windows 95/98/2000/XP/NT

OS SUPPORT

  • Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP/NT
 
Specifications and Features of the Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 8X/XP TV/DVI
GeForce4 Value

   

Key Features
  • Integrated nVIDIA GeForce4 Ti4200 - the most powerful GPU.
  • Support 128MB high-speed 128bit DDR RAM/SDRAM memory.
  • Support high quality TV-OUT for NTSC/PAL system
  • TV-out connector support S-VHS mini Din and one Composite .
  • Support capture Video from TV,VCR,DV or camcorder with Composite and S-Video.
  • Video capture rate up to 30f/s.
  • Support LCD Monitor with DVI connecter.
  • DVI on board support up to 1600x1200 resolution.
  • AGP 4X/8X AGP support and easy Plug-and -play AUTORUN installation From CD-ROM include.

Specifications

  • Support nfiniteFX TM II Engine for full programmability.
  • NVIDIA nView Display Technology provides flexibility an control for using multiple displays.
  • Accuview Antialiasing delivers unbeatable visual quality and frames rates.
  • Dual Programmable Pixel product surface details never before seen on the desktop
  • Integrated 32-bit color and 32-bit Z/Stencil Buffer
  • Integrated Cube environment mapping, and true reflective bump mapping.
  • Multibuffering (double, triple, quadruple) for smooth animation and video playback.
  • Video-out support (NTSC/PAL) TV system. It can providing best-of-class TV-out functionality up to 800x600 resolutions.
  • Support LCD output with DVI connect, the resolution up to 1600x1200

Gainward's XP-Feature for Video-In and Video-Out

  • Gainward's award-winning XP feature, also known as "VIVO", provides two video-in connectors and two video-out connectors (both composite video and s-video for PAL and NTSC) for smooth video recording and video editing including accelerated DVD playback with enhanced motion compensation in hardware.
EXPERTool TM Performance Tuning Utility
  • EXPERTool TM is Gainward's performance tuning utility that allows the user to easily adjust the engine clock and memory clock of any Gainward product from nVIDIA's recommended default settings to even higher settings. Gainward offers the end user the choice to either run the board in "Safe Mode Setting" or at "Enhanced Setting" ("Golden Sample" products only, featuring a more stable design with faster memory) which offer enhanced real-world 3D performance for higher resolution. Performance tuning is the most commonly used method among the ultimate power gamers to extract the utmost performance out of a high quality 3D graphics card.

API SUPPORT

  • DirectDraw(R),Direct3D(R)
  • DirectX 8.1
  • FULL Open GLR ICD 1.3 support

OS SUPPORT

  • Windows 95
  • Windows 98
  • Windows ME
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows XP
  • Windows NT

BUNDLE:

The bundles of the two cards were virtually identical.  Each came with a comprehensive Drivers/Setup CD, a copy of Serious Sam ? The Second Encounter, WinProducer, WinCoder and a full version of WinDVD.  A cable was included to support the built in TV-In/Out functions while a DVI to VGA adapter was included for connecting a standard VGA monitor to the DVI output.  This is particularly handy if your planning on using dual VGA monitors with either card.  The Driver CD comes loaded with two sets of drivers, one deemed the ?Faster VGA Driver? which were 29.80s and the others were ?WQHL VGA Driver?, also version 29.80.  3D stereo drivers were also included for use with 3D accelerator glasses (not included).  Video Capture Drivers are also provided to enable the TV-Capture capability of either card.  The Driver CD came with a decent set of utilities for maximizing your experience with the 'Golden Sample', however, one of these really stood out above the rest.


   
 


Generally we are not a big fans of the free utilities manufacturers often supply with their hardware.  Usually we feel that these "freebies" tend to be focused more on looks than proper functionality and are more often a marketing tactic than anything else.  With Gainward, however, this couldn't be further from the truth.  What they have done is put together an excellent little application called EXPERTool for tweaking, adjusting and overclocking your Gainward video card.  EXPERTool is a small taskbar utility that offers easy access to all of the key settings available for the video card.  Whether you want to change screen resolutions, adjust the color of the desktop, or overclock the card, EXPERTool gives you simple one-stop access. 

We were particularly fond of the Performance section which provided overclocking with a single click.  By starting off with the Safe Mode settings, the card was configured to run at its default clock speeds.  Once we clicked on the ?Enhanced Mode Settings," the card was overclocked to the highest setting that Gainward has deemed safe for that model card, but you can obviously go even higher.  With the ?Enable Maximum Clocked Settings? selected we were able to manually push the card even higher than Gainward's recommendations, squeezing the card for all that it was worth.  Certainly the EXPERTool may not be quite as robust as such programs as Powerstrip, but it was much more useful than the popular Coolbits registry hack and it was the same price (which would be free).

Now let's turn the page and take a quick look at each of the 'Golden Samples'.

The Cards... 

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