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Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples"
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Date: Dec 02, 2002
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples" - Page 1

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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Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples" - Page 2

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

By - Jeff Bouton
December 03, 2002

The Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Pro 600 8X TV/DVI
The Basic Package

Aside from the addition of AGP8X, Gainward has redesigned the GF4 MX Pro 600 8X/XP 'Golden Sample' so it hardly resembles the "standard" Pro 600 Marco reviewed back in April.  With 64MB of DDR-RAM, RAM sinks, a DVI connector and a new core, the GF4 MX Pro 600 8X/XP has much more to offer than before.  The card comes configured with slightly more aggressive timings than standard MX cards, pushing the new core to 275MHz vs. the 270MHz common of other GeForce4 440 MXs.  The memory also enjoys a little boost over standard speeds, running a full 100MHz faster than previous MX440s at 500MHz. 

     

The RAM sinks were attached with thermal tape, but we were not as disappointed as we normally would have been, since the RAM really doesn't get all that hot.  Thankfully, Gainward used real thermal paste when applying the cooler to the GPU and we were equally pleased to see an even spread when we checked the application.  Unlike the previous Pro 600 series, the GF4 MX Pro 600 8X/XP adds full TV In/Out functionality and also supports LCD monitors with its DVI port.  If a LCD monitor is out of your reach, a DVI to VGA adapter is included.  With the adapter on the DVI port, running dual analog monitors is a snap and a great way to go if you have the room. 

Clearly Gainward is looking to gain an edge in the MX market, giving the GF4 MX Pro 600 8X/XP a little extra muscle.  Next we'll take a peek at the Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 8X/XP TV/DVI.

The Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 8X/XP TV/DVI
A Little More Muscle

 
The Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 8X/XP TV/DVI is a new revision of the GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 TV/DVI that we reviewed in September.  The difference between the two cards is much less than what we saw with the Pro 600 model.  Essentially, the Ultra/650 8X TV/DVI has a new core (the NV28) that supports the AGP 3.0 standard and it comes with a total of 128MBs of DDR-RAM compared to the 64MB on the original Ultra/650.  This time around Gainward opted to pass on the RAM sinks that came equipped on the older 650, leaving the newer card's RAM bare.  The reason they decided to omit the RAM sink is most likely cost, but we suspect it will have little effect on the overclocking performance of the card.

     

We were happy to see that the heat sink was mounted to the card with spring clips, and that it had an even layer of thermal grease applied, making for maximum thermal transfer to the heat sink.  The remainder of the card was standard Ti4200 fare, offering up a VGA and DVI output, as well as a port for the TV-In/Out functions of the card.  The cooler was the common circular low-profile cooler that is often found on Gainward products. 

There really isn't a whole lot that we haven't seen before with this model aside from the AGP 8X.  Before we get into the benchmarking of these two cards, we thought we might throw some you a few quick screenshots from one of our favorite games. 

Some Eye Candy
Examples of Visual Quality

No video card review would be complete without a few screenshots for your viewing pleasure.  So we rummaged through our extensive game collection and came up with one of our favorites, Medal of Honor - Allied Assault.  This has to be one of the best games ever, and if you haven't played it, you are really missing out!  Below are a few teaser shots taken with the Ultra/650 8X/XP 'Golden Sample' in the driver's seat.  To see just how nice things could get, we enabled 64-Tap anisotropic filtering and 4X FSAA.  Enjoy!

Medal of Honor - Allied Assault

    

OK, let's get back to work.  Next we're going to take a quick look at some overclocking before we fire up the HH test bed and get the benchmarks going!

Overclocking
Just a Quickie

With these two cards, we put the EXPERTool to work to see what speeds we could reach.  With the Gainward GF4 MX Pro 600/8X-XP ?Golden Sample?, we set the EXPERTool to Enhanced mode which increased the card from 275/500 to 290/590 and the card seemed more than happy with it.  In the end, the enhanced mode offered an increase of 5.4% on the core and 18% in memory speed.  The GF4 Ti Ultra 650/XP ?Golden Sample? started out at a default 250/444 which increased to 260/520 in Enhanced Mode.  With this card we had no trouble completing a run of 3DMark2001SE at 310/530!  In the end we gained 24% in core speed and boosted the memory by 19%.  Obviously these two products are built with overclocking in mind and should keep the avid overclocker quite happy. 

Next we'll get cranking on some numbers to see how the addition of AGP8X compliance affects performance versus AGP4X.

The Test Rig and Some DirectX Testing...

 
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Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples" - Page 3

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

By - Jeff Bouton
December 03, 2002

OpenGL Benchmarks with Quake 3
Synthetic Goodness

When it comes to OpenGL tests, Quake 3 is the ?Granddaddy? of them all and it continues to prove its worth everyday.  In this round, we focused on the ?High Quality Settings? at both 1024x768 and 1600x1200 resolutions.

With Quake 3 ?DEMO004?, the increase in performance with both cards was nominal at best.  The 650/XP offered an increase of roughly 3.5 FPS while the MX Pro 600 was a little more impressive.

More OpenGL Benchmarks with Quake 3
Full Screen Antialiasing Performance!

Next we enabled 4X Full Screen Antialiasing to give the two cards more of a challenge, gauging their performance with high quality output.  Let?s see how each faired.

With the higher quality 4X FSAA enabled, each card posted similar scores with the MX Pro 600 obviously having the widest gap.  The 650/XP managed less than 2 FPS at either resolution and was the only card to post playable frame rates at 1024x768x32.

 

More Quake3 and Some Serious Sam: TSE...

 
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Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples" - Page 4

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

By - Jeff Bouton
December 03, 2002

OpenGL Benchmarks with Quake 3
Anisotropic Filtering

In this final round of Quake 3 OpenGL benchmarking, we ran the same combination of tests again, this time enabling 4X Anisotropic filtering, otherwise known as 32-Tap.

With 32-Tap anisotropic filtering enabled, the performance trend continued with each card.  The 650/XP posted an increase ranging from 3-5FPS and the MX Pro 600 held the lead with its increased clockspeeds.  We opted not to run 64-Tap tests since the GeForce4 MX doesn't support it.

More OpenGL Benchmarks with Serious Sam: TSE
"Serious" OpenGL Performance.

Croteam's Serious Sam:  The Second Encounter is another excellent tool for testing a system's OpenGL performance.  In fact, it is one of the rare games that can be configured for both DirectX and OpenGL, however, it seems to have found a home with OpenGL.  Let's take a look and see how things shaped up.

Once again we saw some rather unremarkable increases in performance when comparing the 4X cards to the 8X.  Perhaps things will improve as newer software is developed to take advantage of the increased bandwidth?

 

Final Words...

 
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Gainward's AGP8X NVIDIA Powered "Golden Samples" - Page 5

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

By - Jeff Bouton
December 03, 2002 

When we completed giving the Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Pro 600 8X TV/DVI and Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 8X/XP TV/DVI a workout, we were left wondering what the big deal was.  Don't get us wrong, as far as affordable video cards, both have their virtues.  Each card offered good performance and a decent collection of software and hardware to take full advantage of their respective capabilities.  What we found unimpressive was the effect of AGP 3.0 (8X) on performance versus the AGP 2.0 (4x) comparison cards.  Even with these two cards increasing their AGP bandwidth by 100% versus AGP 2.0 (4X), the performance gains were minimal at best.  With current hardware and software barely taking advantage of the bandwidth AGP 2.0 offers, we were not entirely surprised.  It is important to note that future software products should be intensive enough that the benefits of AGP 3.0 should be more obvious.  We suspect that the much anticipated Doom III will push enough data to show the benefits of AGP 8X.  But until this software arrives, the benefits of AGP 3.0 are minimal.  Fortunately, the inclusion of AGP 3.0 has little effect on the price of the product versus previous models, so you won't have to invest much more money to get an AGP 8X card.  What's more, if you just went out and picked up a new card that doesn't support AGP 8X, you can rest assured that you are not missing much...yet.

In the end, when we stopped comparing the two cards AGP performance versus older 4X cards, each proved to be a decent card in its class.  We did feel that the GF4 MX Pro 600 8X/XP was a bit weak compared to the Ti series card, but you get what you pay for.  When we take into consideration the price of the two cards, the GF4 MX Pro 600 8X/XP is tough to beat.  With its aggressive clock speeds, dual monitor output and TV In/Out capability, it's a good deal.  You'll get good 2D performance and average gaming performance for around $100.  However, when we look at the GF4 Ti4200 Pro 650 8X/XP for an additional $50, it becomes a very good choice.  It comes with all of the features of the Pro 600, less the RAM-sinks, plus a more powerful GPU that has pixel and vertex shaders and an additional 64MB of RAM.  Take into account the excellent overclocking potential of the card and it will prove to offer the best balance between performance and price.  When it comes to value minded graphics cards with better than average performance, the Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 8X/XP TV/DVI is very attractive.

We give the Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Ultra/650 8X/XP TV/DVI a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a 9.

 


We give the Gainward GF4 Powerpack! Pro 600 8X TV/DVI a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of an
7.5.

 

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