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Elsa Gladiac Ultra
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The Elsa Gladiac Ultra - Page 1

The Elsa Gladiac Ultra
It sure is fast...but you'll pay for it!

 
By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta - November 14, 2000
 

Anyone who remotely follows the PC hardware scene has no doubt become familiar with nVidia and their very aggressive product cycles.  Ever since the Riva 128 was released, nVidia has consistently and quickly released a new product every 6 - 8 months, that is faster and more feature rich than it's predecessor.  Not all of these releases are for completely new products though.  Some of these products are referred to as a "refresh" release.  Take the TNT2 Ultra for example.  The TNT2 Ultra did not offer any new features over the standard TNT2.  It was simply a TNT2 with a higher clock speed.  The Elsa Gladiac Ultra that we are looking at here today is equipped with nVidia's latest chipset, the GeForce 2 GTS Ultra.  Like the TNT2 Ultra, the GeForce 2 Ultra offers all of the same features as it's older brother the standard GeForce 2 GTS.  However, thanks to a refined process at their fabrication partner TSMC, it has a significantly higher clock speed. 

nVidia has not had any trouble finding OEMs to produce cards using all of these new chips.  One of their loyal supporters has always been Elsa.  Elsa as a company is much better known throughout Europe than they are here in the United States.  Although Elsa has not modified nVidia's reference design with any of their products, they have consistently produced fast, stable boards and get them on store shelves very quickly.  This excellent execution has garnered Elsa some praise as of late and they are gaining market share on this side of the Atlantic.  Their execution and loyalty did not go unnoticed to nVidia.  On July 26, 2000 it was announced that Elsa and nVidia would also form a strategic partnership in hopes of becoming a more dominant force in the workstation market. 

Well, we know that nVidia is capable of making one heck of a 3D chipset and that Elsa sure likes implementing nVidia's parts.  Let's find out what the Elsa Gladiac Ultra is made of!

                   

Specifications Of The Elsa Gladiac Ultra
A New Reference board to get used to

The Board:

  • NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS Ultra GPU

  • 250MHz Core Clock speed

  • High-Performance 4NS DDR memory

  • 230MHz (460MHz Effective) Memory Clock speed

  • AGP 4X with Fast Writes

  • 32-bit color ARGB with destination alpha

  • Cube environment mapping and Anisotropic texture filtering

  • Optimized Direct3D and OpenGL acceleration

  • Complete DirectX 7 support

  • Advanced support for DirectDraw

  • Hardware color space conversion (YUV 4:2:2 and 4:2:0)

  • 5-tap horizontal by 3-tap vertical filtering

  • 8:1 upscaling and downscaling

  • Per-pixel color keying

  • Multiple video windows with hardware color space conversion and filtering

  • DVD sub-picture alpha blended compositing

  • Video acceleration for DirectShow, MPEG-1, MPEG-2,and Indeo

  • RAMDAC/Pixel Cycle: 350 MHz

  • Memory: 64MB DDR RAM

  • Bus Systems: AGP 2x/4x (including fast writes and execute mode) or PCI

  • Standards: DPMS, DDC2B, Plug & Play

  • BIOS: VESA BIOS 3.0 supportHorizontal SYNC Signals: 31.5Hz - 108.5Hz

  • Vertical Refresh Rate: 60Hz - 200Hz

  • Plug and Play installation

Included:

  • ELSA GLADIAC ULTRA gaming accelerator card

  • Installation CD-ROM with on-line users manual

  • Elsa 3D Revelator Glasses 

  • Hard-copy installation manual

  • Software drivers for Windows® 98, Windows® 95, Windows® 2000, Windows® NT 4.0, Windows® Millennium Edition, and Linux

  • Windows utilities including ELSA WINman Suite and ELSA 3D Settings

Optional Items:

  • Video In/Out Module

Warranty and Support:

  • The ELSA GLADIAC ULTRA is backed by a 6-year warranty

  • Online registration at www.elsa.com/america

  • Technical support - toll free 5 days a week at 800.272.ELSA or

  • Sup-us@elsa.com

 

If you?ve been comparing the specification list of other GeForce 2 Ultras, I?m sure you?ve noticed that they are all very similar.  There are some rumors floating around the net that we hardware review sites received ?juiced? reference boards from nVidia with 4ns RAM running at 500MHz.  The rumors also stated that many Ultras would ship with 4.5ns RAM.  Well, let us assure you that the Elsa Gladiac Ultra is guaranteed to ship with 4ns RAM.  It is printed prominently on their box.


It's under there somewhere...

We?re unsure what speed RAM will be shipping on competing products.  Perhaps Elsa and nVidia?s special relationship made access to the premium RAM easier for Elsa.  We?ll let you know as we find out more. 

There are also a few ?goodies? that either ship or are optional with the Gladiac Ultra.  The card ships standard with a decent software bundle, a $75 US set of wireless 3D Revelator Glasses?

   

?and there is an optional video in / out module available for $39 US.  We opted to get the whole package for review.  If you?ve got the cash for a major purchase like the Gladiac Ultra, we assume you?d want the works!

Installation and Drivers

 
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The Elsa Gladiac Ultra - Page 2

The Elsa Gladiac Ultra
It sure is fast...but you'll pay for it!

 
By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta - November 14, 2000
 

Quality and Installation Of The Elsa Gladiac Ultra
Let's get down to business...

When we did our usual physical quality inspections, we didn?t find anything negative to report.  We didn?t want to rip apart our new Ultra, so we?re unsure what type of interface material is used between the chipset and the heatsink / fan combo.  However, we did not experience any heat related issues throughout testing so we don?t think this is a huge issue.  As you?ll see a little later we had some good luck overclocking this board in it?s stock configuration. 

One thing everyone should notice is that although the feature set is the same as any other GeForce 2, the Ultra reference boards are quite different.

                 

Here you?ll immediately see that even compared ?side-by-side? with Elsa?s non-Ultra 64MB Gladiac (reviewed here), there are some major differences.  First, notice the size difference of the heatsink / fan combo.  The cooler on the Ultra is approximately 15-20% larger.  

Then there are the obvious heatsinks on the RAM.  With an effective stock clock speed of 460MHz., it was wise to use something to keep the chips running cool.  Everyone should remember though, that in a poorly ventilated case where heat cannot escape, heat sinks will actually warm what they?re mounted to!  If you?re planning on adding an Ultra to that rig of yours make sure you?ve got good ventilation! 

The extra components mounted to the right of the RAM are another fairly obvious difference.  These items are there to provide smooth, clean power to the very fast 4ns DDR RAM on board.  Having these extra ?power filtering? components on the board help insure stable operation at what is a relatively high clock speed.  These components also add to the overall size of the board which is evident in the above picture.  What you?re looking at in the picture on the right is a non-Ultra 64MB Elsa Gladiac sitting on top of the newer Ultra model.

Because we also opted for the optional Elsa Video Module, we had a little bit of extra work to do before installing our board into the test system.

                  
Before...                                                                          After...

In it's stock configuration, the Elsa Gladiac Ultra has a single analog monitor connector available.  The optional video module comes with a nut-driver to remove the front plate.  Once we had the plate removed, we connected the video module and new front plate.  With the video module installed the Elsa Gladiac Ultra is capable of video in and out.

Installation of the drivers was as easy as every other card.  Plug and Play really has come a long way :).  Just set your display adapter to "Standard VGA" and shut down your system.  Re-Boot and install the new drivers at the "New Hardware found" prompt...it's as easy as that.  Once installed, Elsa's drivers offer a good amount of "tweakabilty".  Here are some screenshots to give you an idea of what to expect...

           

There is also a system tray icon installed that gives you quick access to these options... 

The system tray icon gives you an easy to follow menu to access all of the display properties.  This isn't anything new to the video card world but anything that makes it easier to change your settings is cool in our book. 

Something overlooked as of late is 2D image quality.  We're happy to report that with it's 350MHz RAMDAC 2D image quality is excellent.  

 
FSAA, Over-clocking and Gaming Performance
 

 
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The Elsa Gladiac Ultra - Page 3

The Elsa Gladiac Ultra
It sure is fast...but you'll pay for it!

 
By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta - November 14, 2000
 

H.H. Test System
Smokin'

InWin Full Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, Pentium III 933EB, Asus CUSL2 (i815) Motherboard and Elsa Gladiac Ultra 64MB AGP Card, 256MB of PC133 True CAS2 SDRAM from Mushkin, IBM 30.7Gig 7200 RPM ATA/100 Hard Drive, Plextor UltraPlex 40max CDROM, WinME, DirectX 7.1, nVidia reference drivers (Detonator 3 6.34)

Benchmarks With The Elsa Gladiac Ultra
More OpenGL...
 
We also ran Quake 3 Arena's Demo001 to further test the Elsa Gladiac Ultra in OpenGL.  Let's find out how it ran using Quake 3's "Fastest" setting.

Quake 3 Arena (OpenGL)

Over 100FPS at 1600x1200 is amazing.  Quake 3's "Fastest" setting isn't very pretty though.  How does the Gladiac Ultra do at the "Normal" setting?

Does that answer the question?  Again we're seeing some very high numbers.  Time to move on the "High Quality" setting.

Not only did we set Quake 3 set to "High Quality", but we turned Geometry and Texture Detail all the way up.  The performance was excellent, almost hitting the "magic" number of 60FPS at 1600x1200x32.  We also ran this test with our board overclocked.

Overclocking yielded small gains in performance, hovering around 10% at the higher resolutions.

Now for the dilemma.  With blistering performance, excellent stability and great compatibility the Elsa Gladiac Ultra is an amazing product.  How much are you willing to pay for this kind of performance?  The Elsa Gladiac Ultra alone has a suggested retail price of $549. Add in the $39 video module and you're up to $578. This is a hefty price to pay for a video card in a time when 6 months down the road something faster and probably cheaper will be available. If you've got a ton of disposable income you won't be disappointed with the Gladiac Ultra.   However, mainstream users should be very comfortable with a standard GeForce 2, a Voodoo5 or Radeon.  If you've got the money, go for it.  Otherwise we advise waiting for the next generation of 3D accelerators.  We give the Elsa Gladiac Ultra a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of...   

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The Elsa Gladiac Ultra - Page 4
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