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eVGA eGeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card Review
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Date: May 07, 2002
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The eVGA eGeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card Review - Page 1

 

The eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card with ACS2
A "GeForce" To Be Reckoned With

By, Jeff Bouton
May 7, 2002



eVGA.com is a relative newcomer to the video card market, starting their operations in 1999.  Although they may not be a household name just yet, we have a feeling that things are about to change for this "new" company.  Becoming a major player in a market that is fiercely competitive is no small task, however. Early on, eVGA realized that they had to offer the user a product line that would give them something the other manufacturers couldn't.  For starters, the team at eVGA put together a patented install software package, dubbed ADM (Automated Driver Management), that would make the installation process as hassle free as possible, while giving end-users the tools to get out of trouble if any problems arise.  Throw in complete and thorough documentation and some free software and the package becomes a lot more alluring.  But we all know it takes a lot more than some free software to develop a solid customer base.  Knowing that computer enthusiasts are a demanding bunch, they had to come up with something that would grab the potential buyer's attention.  If someone is going to drop $450 on a new video card, they better be getting something the other guys don't offer, otherwise it is a futile battle.  However, aside from offering a standard reference video card, what else could they do?

Today we have an answer to that question, with the review of the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600, with the unique Asymmetric Cooling System², or ACS².  It is no real secret that offering video cards based on nVidia technology is a relative safe bet.  These cards have a well established history of being performance leaders, usually staying a step or two ahead of the competition.  However, adding a unique cooling package that no one else offers, is a sure way to grab peoples attention.

The ACS² is a cooling solution designed for extreme conditions.  With a two piece construction, copper heat-pipe, and high-speed fan, the new eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 with ACS² dares you to overclock it.  So let's get started by taking a look at what the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 with ACS² has to offer.  Then we'll take a closer look at the card and it's impressive cooling design.
 

Specifications of the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 w/ACS2
The Complete Video Card

               

eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti 4600 w/ACS/2 Cooling:
  • 300MHz GPU
  • VGA, TV In/Out, DV
  • 256-bit Graphics Accelerator
  • 1.23 trillion operations/sec.
  • Lifetime Warranty

Nvidia nfiniteFX II Engine:

  • Dual programmable Vertex Shaders, faster Pixel Shaders and 3D textures give developers the freedom to program a virtually infinite number of custom special effects never seen before and gives you the power to play true-to-life characters in hyper-realistic environments. At twice the performance of GeForce3, Xtasy Ti 4600 delivers the most realistic game play available.

Lightspeed Memory Architecture II:

  • With 128-bit DDR Lightspeed Memory Architecture II provides nearly double the memory bandwidth of GeForce3.

Accuview Antialiasing Engine:

  • High-performance visual quality at high frame rates.

TV In and Out Jack:

  • TV In/Out connector allow you to play on any size TV in your house with an S-video connector.
Specifications:
  • Controller: NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600
  • Bus Type AGP
  • Memory 128MB DDR
  • Core Clock 300MHz
  • Memory Clock 650MHz DDR memory
  • RAMDAC 350MHz
  • API Support Direct-X, Open GL ICD for Windows
  • Connectors VGA, DVI, TV In/Out
  • 1.23 trillion operations/sec.
  • 136 Million triangles/sec setup
  • 10.4GB/second memory bandwidth

Features at a Glance:

  • AGP 4x compatible with fast writes
  • 256-bit 3D and 2D graphics accelerator
  • NVIDIA nView display technologies
  • Lightspeed Memory Architecture II
  • Accuview Antialiasing
  • High Definition Video Processing Engine
  • TV In/Out connectors
  • DVI connector
  • eVGA Asymmetric Cooling System² (ACS²)

 

The Bundle:

The eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 that we received for review was a complete retail package with a good amount of bundle items to compliment the video card itself.   Below is a complete list of the retail package contents.

Click To Enlarge
   

  • eVGA.com Video Graphics Card
  • Driver Install CD with ADM Technology
  • User's Guide
  • Registration Card
  • Warranty Information
  • PowerDVD XP 4.0
  • Entertainment Software Bundle
  • Warranty ID Tag
  • S-Video Out Cable (Optional)
  • DVI to DB15 Adapter (Optional)

The User's Guide is well laid out, with easy to follow step-by-step instructions for installing, configuring and troubleshooting the video card.  They even go so far as to give a list of recommended BIOS settings for optimal video performance, although we do question some of those settings.  For example, in this list of 27 recommended settings, eVGA recommends setting the AGP Aperture for 4MB and the AGP Transfer Mode to 1x.  We're a little curious how they arrived at those settings and think we may run some tests in the near future to show how variations in those, and other settings affect this video card's performance. 


 

An Installation CD is also included that makes installing this video card as painless as possible.  Using the patented ADM (Automated Driver Management) software, the video card and the Operating System is detected, automatically launching the appropriate software for your system.  In fact, eVGA takes it one step further by programming the software to detect the motherboard's chipset, prompting the user to install updated chipset drivers if they are needed.  eVGA has done a fine job at making installation of the video card a painless process, insuring that the novice and experienced user gets their new video card up and running without any hassles.  Once you're card is ready to go, they've included a demo version of Comanche4, to show how much fun can be had with the new Ti4600, as well as several nVidia demos.. 

 

Quality, Setup and the Drivers

 

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The eVGA eGeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card Review - Page 2

 

The eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card with ACS²
A "GeForce" To Be Reckoned With

By, Jeff Bouton
May 7, 2002



 

Quality and Setup of the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 w/ACS²
Looking Good...

Quality:

As a whole, the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 is a standard reference design, very similar to other cards we've already reviewed.  At the heart of the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 is a GeForce4 GPU running at 300MHz. backed by 128MB of Samsung 325MHz. RAM (650MHz. DDR).  The DDR RAM uses the newer semiconductor packaging called BGA or "Ball Grid Array."  This is a more advanced process of mounting the chip which allows for a smaller form factor.  In turn, the newer RAM can perform more efficiently while running cooler than other "leaded" chips, maintaining better over all signal integrity.  The card provides both VGA and DVI outputs as well as a S-Video output for TV-Out purposes.  What truly sets the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 apart from other Ti4600 cards is the custom tailored cooling package they've applied to the card.  Dubbed the Asymmetric Cooling System² (ACS²), the cooling unit is designed to be a superior solution for efficiently removing heat from the card.  We've seen a number of these "unique" cooling designs from other manufacturers in the past, but this one really caught our eye, making us want to delve a bit deeper into how this unit functions. 

Click To Enlarge


 

The ACS² is a 2 piece cooling unit that utilizes a liquid filled copper heat-pipe to channel heat away from the RAM as well as an oversized heat-sink for keeping the GPU cool.  Actually, the theory is pretty standard, warm water will normally move toward cooler water as will warmer air to cooler air.  So with the liquid filled heat-pipe, the coolest portion of the liquid should be at the fins located at the end of the pipe, at the fan's exhaust.  Through natural attraction, the warm liquid over the RAM should be drawn to the fins, effectively removing the heat from the system.  On the reverse side of the card, the system is less efficient, utilizing finned RAM sinks that rely more on ambient airflow from the CPU and chassis fans rather than the GPU fan.  Thermal pads are mounted over the RAM chips to help conduct their heat to the ACS², however, we think that maybe the point of contact could have been slightly concave to allow the use of a thermal paste instead.  Over all, the system looked like the ACS² had a lot of thought behind it, that is until we started to take it apart.


After releasing the two spring-loaded pins that hold the assembly in place, we were quite surprised by what we found.  Although the ACS² system appeared to by a superior design on the outside, once we exposed the core, we saw that something wasn't right.  It turns out that the heat-sink doesn't completely cover the GPU.  Our first thought was that this can't be good.  With that said, we decided to run a few tests to see how well the ACS² performed at dissipating heat.


Thermal Test:

After seeing how the ACS² didn't cover the GPU fully and taking into account that it is an extra feature that adds $50 to the cost of the card, we decided to run a few quick tests to see how efficient the ACS² actually was.  To start things off, we cleaned off the ACS² and applied a fresh dab of Arctic Silver II to the GPU and then remounted the ACS² to the card.  Before reapplying the back-plate of the cooling package, we adhered a temperature probe from a Thermaltake HardCano II to the back of the GPU.  We then reinserted the card into our test system and applied a barrier between the back of the card and the CPU of the test system so there was no interference in the accuracy of the test from its exhaust.  Once Windows was loaded, we let the system run for a few minutes to let the temperature of the card equalize, determining a baseline idle temperature.  After determining the idle temperature, we applied load to the card with 3 runs of Comanche4 at 1600x1200x32 with 4X AA enabled in the video drivers.  At the end of the 3rd test we averaged the peak temperature recorded during each test, establishing an average maximum temperature under load.  After the test was completed, we installed a reference cooler from a Gainward Ti4600 video card and ran the same tests under the same conditions.


Instead of being surprised by how well the ACS² system cooled the GPU of the Ti4600, we were doubly surprised at how poorly it performed over the nVidia reference cooling design.  The ACS² ran an idle temperature that exceeded the reference cooler under load!   Perhaps if the ACS² covered the entire surface of the GPU instead of leaving a good portion of it exposed, the scores may have been better.  It is unfortunate to think that many users may pay an extra $50 for something that will, in fact, make there new video card run hotter and potentially shorten the life of their very expensive video card.  Of course we've only scratched the surface of this issue, however, if you are interested in a more complete examination of the ACS²'s performance, head on over to HardOCP where Steve Lynch did a terrific job at testing the ability of the ACS² versus a standard nVidia reference cooler.

OK, before we move on to actually benchmarking the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600, we thought we'd throw a little eye-candy your way and show the visual capability of the card.


A Few Pics, Overclocking and 3DMark2001SE

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The eVGA eGeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card Review - Page 3

 

The eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card with ACS²
A "GeForce" To Be Reckoned With

By, Jeff Bouton
May 7, 2002



 

Benchmarking With Comanche4 and Serious Sam SE
A Little Bit DirectX and a Little Bit OpenGL...

Comanche 4:

Comanche4 is one of the most popular DirectX benchmarking applications on the web today.  The utility does an excellent job of stressing the most powerful video cards available, making it work for every FPS it puts out.  So let's get to it and see how the Ti4600 from eVGA held up in this round of torture.


 

Initially one might think the Ti4600 had difficulty beating the Ti500, inching past it by a meager 2.83 frames-per-second.  However what we are seeing is the limitation of the CPU rather than a fault of the card.  Once we start increasing the resolution, it's a safe bet that the comparison cards will not be able to sustain the same rate as the more powerful GeForce4.


 

At 1280x1024x32 we begin to see the comparison cards lose a bit more ground than the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600.  Let's see how things change at 1600x1200x32...


 

Notice how the other two cards take a nose dive while the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 lost less than 2 FPS from beginning to end.  Clearly the Ti4600 video card is the superior graphic card.  But hey, DirectX is only half of the story.  Next we'll fire up some OpenGL benchmarks and see how the three cards handle the pressure.


Serious Sam SE:

Our first test is one of the few benchmark utilities that can test both DirectX and OpenGL, Serious Sam SE.  Serious Sam SE is also one of the few utilities that can actually detect which video card is installed and adjust the settings for optimal performance.  Although we feel this is great for game play, as a benchmark this can make for lopsided scores since the program plays to the strengths of the video card that is installed.  To help even the playing field, we've opted to use a series of scripts that Anthony "Reverend" Tan has put together that helps to level the playing field between the various cards.  In our tests we ran the script for "Max Quality" settings, with no anisotropic filtering enabled and set the resolution and color depth accordingly. 


 

To show how well the utility stresses a card, note how in the first test the Ti4600 held a solid lead over the Radeon 8500, yet as the resolution increased, the two cards were almost in a dead-heat.  We didn't run 1600x1200 in this test since the results would be too low.

On the next page we've run some Quake 3 scores and then we started tinkering with FSAA and Anisotropic filtering to see how the e-GeForce Ti4600 could handle the increased picture quality.
 

Quake 3 and FSAA

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The eVGA eGeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card Review - Page 4

 

The eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card with ACS²
A "GeForce" To Be Reckoned With

By, Jeff Bouton
May 7, 2002



 

Benchmarking With Quake 3 
OpenGL and More...


Quake 3:

With this round of tests we ran the e-Geforce4 Ti4600 with the "High Quality" setting enabled and textures set to maximum.  We also ran each resolution with the card overclocked as well.


 

When you see how well the eVGA card ran Quake 3 at 1024x768, there is only one thing to say...turn up the resolution.  Clearly the card is not being taxed at this resolution, so let's turn it up a bit and see if we can slow the Ti4600 down...


 

At 1280x1024 we see a fair drop in FPS, but still the Ti4600 put out enough to beat the Radeon and Ti500 with plenty of room to spare.
 


 

Wow, I can remember when it was a big deal if we broke 60 FPS at 1600x1200.  Now we're doubling that with the Ti4600, although even the comparison cards were putting up some decent numbers.  Once again we see how the Ti4600 card reigned supreme in the Quake 3 benchmarks with enough muscle to churn out an enormous amount of frames at even the highest of resolutions. 

One thing is for sure though, we're not done trying to hurt this card yet!  Now we're going to start applying some FSAA and Anisotropic filtering and see if we can find the Ti4600's Achilles heel.


FSAA and Anisotropic with Quake 3:

In our next test we ran Quake 3 with 4X FSAA enabled at 1280x1024x32, comparing it to the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500...


 

The Ti4600 smoked the Radeon card, more than doubling the output of ATi's flagship video card.  Next up...Anisotropic filtering.

 

Quake 3 and Anisotropic Filtering

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The eVGA eGeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card Review - Page 5

 

The eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card with ACS²
A "GeForce" To Be Reckoned With

By, Jeff Bouton
May 7, 2002



 

In our final two tests, we enabled Anisotropic settings to see how well the various cards could perform, however, there is a caveat.  Marco noted in his recent 8500LE review, that nVidia and ATi both handle Anisotropic filtering somewhat differently.  What NVIDIA calls 32-Tap Anisotropic filtering is 4X in their drivers yet what ATi calls 32-Tap Anisotropic filtering is 8X in their drivers.  On top of that, the Radeon 8500 is not capable of true trilinear filtering with Anisotropic filtering turned on, so with this test we set Quake 3 to bilinear to keep things equal. 
 


 

Ahhh...here we see the Radeon card give the Ti4600 a lesson in Anisotropic performance, posting a solid triple digit score while the Ti4600 maxed in the low 80's.  So ATi has the advantage in Anisotropic Filtering and nVidia has an even greater edge when it comes to FSAA.  So what do you say we run the same test again, but this time tack on 2X FSAA?
 


 

When it comes to a balance between the two features, it looks like the Ti4600 is a more well rounded card, capable of pumping out a good amount of frames any way you slice it.


 

As we bring this review to a close, I find myself in a bit of a "rating" quandary.  From a performance stand point, the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 with ACS² is a solid card that demonstrated superior performance on our test bench.  In each test we saw the pure might of the GeForce4 GPU as the video card continually posted great scores in virtually every test.  While the card did struggle a bit with Anisotropic filtering in comparison to the ATi All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500, it still proved to be a more well-rounded card when enabling both FSAA and Anisotropic filtering.  As we saw with the in-game screenshots, the picture quality of the Ti4600 is fantastic, showing extreme detail and realism.  On the other hand, we have the Asymmetric Cooling System² performance issues.

On the surface, the Asymmetric Cooling System² looked like nothing we've ever seen before.  With its innovative "heat-pipe" system and two piece sandwich-like construction, the ACS² looked to be a marvelous cooling package.  However, as we began to look closer at the way the ACS² was implemented, as well as comparing its performance to a reference cooling package, we soon discovered it was not the superior cooling unit we hoped it would be.  As we, and other websites have begun to question the effectiveness of the ACS², we hope that eVGA will take the steps necessary to improve upon its design, making it the advanced cooler that we expected.  From a consumers standpoint, there is another solution to this problem, don't upgrade your purchase to the ACS² ready model, but instead opt for the stock cooling model and spend the $50 you saved on a game like Jedi Knight II, you'll be glad you did.

Not only did the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 with ACS² demonstrate excellent over all performance and picture quality, the retail package was complete, with good documentation and installation software.  Unfortunately, we have to take into account the lackluster performance of the Asymmetric Cooling System², which weighed heavily on this reviewer since it is an upgrade feature.  With that said, we give the eVGA e-GeForce4 Ti4600 w/ACS² a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a 7.


 

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The eVGA eGeForce4 Ti4600 Video Card Review - Page 6
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