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Elsa Gladiac GeForce2 GTS w/ 32MB DDR SDRAM
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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Elsa Gladiac GeForce2 GTS w/ 32MB DDR SDRAM - Page 1

The Elsa Gladiac
Based on the NVidia GeForce2 GTS With 32MB DDR SDRAM

By Dave "Davo" Altavilla
6/4/00

 

Graphics Card reviews are probably the most regularly covered material that we produce here at Hot Hardware.  Perhaps that is because there is an almost dizzying array of manufacturers to choose from.  Regardless, Elsa has been known in the market for quite some time as a quality Graphics Card vendor with years of experience (15+ to be specific) in design and manufacturing.  In addition, keeping pace with 3D graphics technology, Elsa releases products with every 6 month new release that the graphics chipset giant NVidia, can dish out.  This is our take on Elsa's latest NVidia driven Gladiac.  Powered by the new GeForce2 GTS and 32MB of DDR SDRAM, the Gladiac is targeted at the "Hard Core Gamer".  Let's see if it has the guts to keep up.
  

Specifications & Features Of The Gladiac
A straight forward reference design not built by Elsa, so it seems.

  • Graphics Controller: NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS GPU
    • 200MHz. Core Clock Speed
    • Integrated Transforms and Lighting
    • Per pixel shading and dual texturing
    • Full Scene hardware anti-aliasing, multi-texturing, procedural texturing
    • Environmental mapping, bump mapping, shadow stenciling
    • Bilinear, Trilinear and 8-tap anistropic texture filtering
    • 1.6 GigaTexels per second
  • RAMDAC/Pixel Cycle: 350 MHz
  • Memory: 32MB or 64MB DDR RAM - 333MHz. DDR
  • Bus Systems: AGP 2x/4x
  • Standards: DPMS, DDC2B, Plug & Play
  • Optional Video Module: 1x Video-In & 1x Video-Out
  • BIOS: VESA BIOS 3.0 support
  • API Support: DirectX 6, DirectX 7, OpenGL
  • Internal/Memory Interface Clock: 200MHz/166MHz
  • Horizontal SYNC Signals: 31.5Hz - 108.5Hz
  • Vertical Refresh Rate: 60Hz - 200Hz
  • Software drivers for Windows 95 & 98, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0
  • Optional GLADIAC video-in and video-out module available on
  • 6 year service warranty

What we have here is a very straight forward reference design.  Elsa used Infineon 6ns DDR SGRAM on this board.  There are connectors adjacent to the GeForce2 chip that will let you install a TV In / TV Out daughter card.  The heat sink and fan combo are also fairly standard issue hardware.

On the other hand, I was surprised to see that the Gladiac had almost no sign of the fact that it was an Elsa product.  We received what was clearly a retail ready package yet, the product itself was very "generic" looking.  The fan has a sticker on it from the actual OEM vendor of the fan itself.  After a little investigation we were able to find out the VisionTek is actually private labeling at least the first round of boards for Elsa.  You'll notice on the VisionTek site, that they offer "OEM Contract Manufacturing" services.  Many OEMs are working with this model these days.  Design the hardware and software and have the circuit board outsourced to a "board stuffer" for production, final assembly, test and deployment.  This is a very cost efficient way of bringing a product to market.  It allows for dollars to be spent on R&D versus costly capital equipment for required added manufacturing capacity.  In addition, Elsa can also up or down scale production builds easily with the ebb and flow of market demand, without having wasteful empty line capacity or shortages.  We think this is a good strategy in today's very competitive Graphics Card market.

But enough of the Economics and Manufacturing lesson, you came to see what kind of 3D Thrills this new beast can bring to your PC.  Well then, it is set up time.

Setup, Installation and FSAA

 
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Elsa Gladiac GeForce2 GTS w/ 32MB DDR SDRAM - Page 2

The Elsa Gladiac
Based on the NVidia GeForce2 GTS With 32MB DDR SDRAM

By Dave "Davo" Altavilla
6/4/00

 

Installation / Setup With the Elsa Gladiac
A cake walk...
Our install went flawless in a number of tests systems here at the Hot Hardware lab.  We set up the Gladiac in both an i820 based system and an old stand-by BX chipset based motherboard.  In either case, the Gladiac gave us no trouble whatsoever.

The drivers provided by Elsa are based on the NVidia reference drivers with a wrapper customized by Elsa and a few extra goodies.

click images for full view
 

Again, nothing too exotic here but Elsa does give you the ability to overclock the Gladiac right out of the box.  In addition, 2D image quality on our desktop was superb with the Gladiac and the Elsa drivers. 

As you may know, the latest drivers from NVidia officially support FSAA (Full Scene Anti-Aliasing) in Direct 3D games.  We decided we wanted to see what a couple of games that could really take advantage of FSAA, could look like on a GeForce2.

Direct 3D FSAA With The GeForce2 GTS

click 'em

Things look pretty smooth here for sure.  This shots were taken with the FSAA slider in the Direct 3D control panel, set to maximum.  The image quality here, as you can see, in general is excellent.  We should point out however that at this point, in 32 bit color with FSAA on in both of these games, frame rates were unacceptable. We took both of these shots at 800X600 in 32 bit color and neither game was what we would consider "playable".  In 16 bit color, game play was a lot smoother at 800X600 and 1024X768.  Regardless, in our opinion NVidia still has some work to do with FSAA, for it to be a viable feature with their hardware.

 

Overclocking The Gladiac
Sweetness

As we noted, the Gladiac does allow for overclocking within its own set of drivers.  With this feature easily at hand, we couldn't help but try our luck at higher core and memory clocks.  We are happy to report that the Elsa Gladiac (at least the card we tested) had plenty of margin in both Core and Memory Clock Speeds.  We were able to get our Gladiac to run stable and with no visual artifacts, at a core speed of 220MHz. and memory speed of 380MHz. DDR.  In addition, the card was totally stable with an overclocked AGP bus all the way up to 100MHz.  We set up our Intel BX chipset board with a 100MHz. Front Side Bus and a 1/1 setting for the AGP divider.  The Gladiac hung tough through all of our testing at this setting.  Kudos to Elsa for designing a VERY stable graphics card.  In addition, the somewhat "standard" heat sink and fan combo that is on the Gladiac provides adequate but not what we would call robust cooling and heat transfer.  With a larger heat sink installed on the GeForce2 GTS chip, the possibilities for even higher clock speeds are very intriguing.  In our final assessment, overall we were very impressed by the Gladiac with respect to overclocking and the card's built in speed "margin".

 

Bring on the Benchmarks

 
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Elsa Gladiac GeForce2 GTS w/ 32MB DDR SDRAM - Page 3

The Elsa Gladiac
Based on the NVidia GeForce2 GTS With 32MB DDR SDRAM

By Dave "Davo" Altavilla
6/4/00

Our Test System
i820 and BX chipset based - Some of the old and new

Full Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, Pentium III 866EB,  Pentium III 600E, Soyo SY-6ICA i820 Motherboard and 128MB of  800MHz (400MHz. DDR) RDRAM, Soyo SY-6BA+IV and 128MB of PC133 SRAM, WD Expert AC418000 7200 RPM ATA66 Hard Drive, Kenwood 72X CDROM, NVidia GeForce Reference Drivers Version 5.22, Elsa Drivers v4.12.01.0202-0060, Win 98SE, DirectX 7.0a

 

Benching the Gladiac
The fastest frame rates money can buy right now, except for FSAA

Now that you've seen the Direct 3D and Digital Video performance of the Gladiac, let's see what impact FSAA has on the card in Quake3 Arena.  Again, personally I would love to be able to show scores in a wider variety of actual game play but no game on the market today even comes close to Quake 3 on measuring OpenGL performance with repeatability and accuracy.

Again, with the exception of 640X480 resolution, in 32 bit color, the GeForce2 GTS is not "playable".  If you are willing to drop back to 16 bit mode, things are pretty smooth even at 1024X768.  We have heard reports of the ability to scale back to different levels of FSAA in OpenGL with the GeForce2.  However, the neither the NVidia reference drivers nor the Elsa drivers support this out of the box for the end user.  Again, the hardware definitely has the power, NVidia needs to improve on the software side of things for FSAA to really perform the way it should. 

Let's turn up the frame rates a bit and turn off FSAA.  Here again, we are testing on the P3-866 with Max Texture resolution.

In a word, WOW.  There is no question that the GeForce2 GTS is the frame rate leader in the market today.  The Gladiac shows strong scores across the board. 

So, let's see what a little overclocking can do for the numbers.

Perfectly stable throughout all of our tests, the Gladiac posted over 85 frames per second at 1024X768 in 32 bit color.  You just can't beat that with technology that is on the market today.  Very nice indeed.

So what impact will this have on our FSAA numbers?  Let's have a look.

Still not quite there yet but getting closer.  The 1024X768 16 bit color frame rate is darn good and looked pretty snazzy as well.


Finally, many of you folks out there are probably not running a system with a 866MHz. Pentium and RAMBUS memory.  So here is a look at performance numbers NOT overclocked on our P3-600 BX chipset test bed.

Once again, these are the fastest scores in Quake 3, we have ever produced on a Pentium 3 at 600MHz.  If you are still using a TNT2 or Voodoo 2, upgrading to a Gladiac will provide better performance improvements than even a 200+ MHz. processor upgrade would yield.  We have no compaints, with respect to these scores on our mainstream test setup.

 

The NVidia GeForce2 GTS powered Elsa Gladiac showed up, here at Hot Hardware, ready to play.  We were very impressed by the raw horsepower of this card and the quality with which it was built.  We can say with confidence that the stability and compatibility with the Gladiac is excellent as well as the potential for even better performance with its overclocking prowess.  On the downside, although FSAA is being marketed as a feature, the NVidia approach is not fully mature yet, at least in our eyes.

We have seen the Gladiac retail on line for around $325.  It seems as if all of the latest rounds of graphics cards are being released in this $300-ish price bracket.  Comparatively, the Gladiac delivers good bang for your buck.  It just depends on what your budget may allow for a new graphics card.  With memory prices going up along with the density that is available on these cards, higher prices were inevitable by comparison to cards of yesterday with 16MB of slower SDRAM.

All things considered, the Elsa Gladiac is a top end performer that will provide a significant improvement in your overall gaming and multi-media experience.  As we noted, you can't buy faster overall frame rates right now.  With that in mind, we tip our hats to Elsa and NVidia for a providing such an impressive combination. 

 
We'll give the Elsa Gladiac a Hot Hardware Heat Meter rating of...

 

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