Tyan Tachyon G9500 Pro Review - HotHardware

Tyan Tachyon G9500 Pro Review

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The Tyan Tachyon G9500 Pro
A Power-packed card for the mainstream

"Burned in" by Robert Maloney
May 8, 2003

The Tyan Tachyon G9500 Pro
Blue is the new red...


 

The Tyan Tachyon 9500 Pro is mostly similar to ATi's reference design, with the differences being that this card is slightly longer, the PCB is a light-blue (opposed to the typical red PCB of many Radeon cards), and the power cable placement is on the edge of the card.  What is the importance of some of these changes?  Well, the extra length of the card is mostly attributable to the placement of the Winbond W83782D monitoring chip and speaker placed directly beneath the power connector in the upper right.  Tyan has produced the only Radeon cards known to support hardware monitoring.  This is used in conjunction with the Tachyon Graphic Monitor (TGM) 2.0 software, which we will cover a bit later on.  The external speaker can alert users to potentially damaging situations such as overheating of the VPU, a feature more common with motherboards.

    

              

Along with the aqua blue PCB, the aluminum heatsinks over the fan and memory chips were also painted a vibrant blue, producing a strikingly good looking card.  Early shots of the card (and pictures on the back of the box as well) show a much larger and connected heatsink/fan combo.  The ones actually placed on the board were smaller, however, with an individual heatsink/fan placed over the R300 VPU and finned heatsink strips placed over the memory chips on the front and back of the card.  These were attached using thermal pads and spring-loaded retention clips.  The fan over the VPU can rotate at over 5000 rpm, but we found it to be quieter than expected.  For those searching for even quieter measures, the fan speed can be lowered using the provided TGM 2.0 software.

As seen in the pictures above, the card has external ports supporting standard 15-pin VGA cables, S-Video, and DVI-out.  Tyan is currently looking into providing dual DVI-out ports, and we may well see this on their next line of Tachyon cards.  Care must be taken to remember to plug in the power cable when installing the card.  Placing the power connector on the edge in the upper corner of the card means easier routing of power cables from other devices to the Tachyon G9500 Pro.

Drivers and Software
Catalyst 3.2 and Tyan's TGM 2.0

ATi's Catalyst 3.2 Drivers

We used ATi's latest Catalyst offering when installing the Tachyon G9500 Pro, Version 3.2, and also installed the accompanying control panel software.  The first thing that we noticed was that this card wasn't recognized as a Radeon 9500, but as a Radeon 9700 instead.  Tyan claims that by doing this, the user will be allowed to overclock the Tachyon G9500 Pro.  As we have seen with other Radeon 9500 cards, overclocking is normally not an option, unless a "hacked" bios is applied.  This may be a bit extreme for some as any problem flashing the bios could lead to a non-functioning video card.  Therefore, Tyan claims another first by natively allowing the Tachyon G9500 Pro to be overclocked. 


     

           

ATi's Catalyst drivers are really coming into their own, providing all of the settings that enthusiasts want and need to control the graphical output.  On the Smartgart tab, the AGP setting can be set, as well as enabling or disabling Fast Writes.  You may note that AGP4X was the highest option listed.  This card does support AGP8X, but for the sake of keeping a level testing field we chose a board, the Abit BH7, which did not.  We're not going to cover each and every tab, but the two that most users will probably look at are the Direct3D and OpenGL tabs.  On these pages are all of the options for optimizing the way games look.  There is an overall performance slider at the top, but by clicking on the custom settings checkbox, the user can choose how many samples of Anti-Aliasing or Anisotropic Filtering they want to use.  For our purposes, we chose all of the highest quality settings available to us.

Tyan's Tachyon Graphics Monitor 2.0

Here's a look at Tyan's new Tachyon Graphics Monitor 2.0 software.  It clearly shows the current speed of both the VPU and Memory, basic system information as well as the fan speed and VPU temperature.  To overclock the card, one only needs to simply move the sliders to the desired speeds for the VPU and/or RAM, and then click on 'Apply'.  After confirming the speed changes, you are off and running.   The VPU temperature gauge can be monitored in realtime to ensure that it is not running too hot when overclocked.

      
 

To get more detailed information about the card, we clicked on the 'Details' button.  There are no less than seven separate items that can be monitored here including: Fan speed, Memory core voltage, Memory I/O voltage, Memory temperatures 1 and 2 (front and back of the card, respectively), the VPU Core voltage, and finally the VPU temperature.  What's especially helpful about these graphs is that not only does it show the current value of the item being monitored, but it also shows what range is considered safe.  Another nice feature found on the detailed page was the fan speed adjustment slider.  Most users will probably feel safest keeping the fan at its highest speeds, especially during 3D gaming when the VPU is running its hottest.  The hardware monitoring system will automatically raise fan speeds should the VPU get too hot, however.  When the system is idle or running 2D applications, the fan speed can be quickly lowered to its "min" setting (about 3000 rpm) to reduce the noise from the system.

Screenshots: In-Game Action
Some Nice Looking Visuals

EA Sports NHL 2003 Screenshots

   

We thought about what game to use to throw up some eye-candy, and decided to use EA Sports' NHL 2003 to honor the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  For these particular shots we put all the game's graphical settings at the highest quality possible.  Each screen shot was taken at a resolution of 1600x1200 with 32-bit color, 4X Anti-Aliasing and 4X Anisotropic Filtering enabled.  We tried using 8X AF as we had used in the testing benchmarks, but NHL 2003 would simply close when loading a game.  When looking closely at the first two screenshots we can see that all the edges are crisp and clean, and the colors are vibrant. For a quick comparison without AA applied, compare the hockey stick in the second picture with the one in the third picture.  Some quality was lost, however, when saving these to JPEG format, so don't confuse the images displayed with actual gaming conditions.  The main point we would like to get across is that even at higher resolutions with AA and Anisotropic Filtering applied, there was almost no noticeable drop in performance, and the game played as smooth as ever.  And yes, that's me in the last frame, courtesy of EA's "put your face in the game" technology.

The testing setup and 3DMark scores

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