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Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD GeForce4 Ti 4600
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Date: Mar 24, 2002
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD GeForce4 Ti 4600 - Page 1

The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD
The GeForce4 Ti Card With A Massive Heat Sink

By -Dave Altavilla
March 26 2002

We've been working with Leadtek hardware, here at HotHardware, since our beginning way back in late 1998.  At that point in time, Leadtek was known for designing and building top end graphics cards with various chipsets, including workstation "professional" level graphics.  Since that time, Leadtek has diversified its portfolio of product, with TV Tuners, Motherboards, EIDE/SCSI Controllers and even video conferencing technologies folding into the mix.

However, what has always been a focus for Leadtek is producing consumer level graphics cards based on the latest technology available on the market.  Which of course brings us the the present day.  Leadtek has been an NVIDIA "house" way back throughout their roots.  It's no surprise that they were one of the first manufacturers to release a new product based on NVIDIA's new 3D Gaming powerhouse, the GeForce 4 Ti 4600.  It's also no surprise that Leadtek took the NVIDIA base design and made it their own.

   

Specifications and Features of the WinFast A250 Ultra TD
VGA, DVI, TV-Out and Heatsink with attitude

 

WinFast A250 Ultra TD
  • 300MHz GPU
  • VGA, TV In/Out, DV
  • 256-bit Graphics Accelerator
  • 1.23 trillion operations/sec.

Nvidia nfiniteFX II Engine:

  • Dual programmable Vertex Shaders, faster Pixel Shaders

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 Out Jack:

  • On-board TV-out support both RCA and S-video up to 1024x768 resolution.

Cooling solution:

  • on-board active heat-sink cooling fan
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 Out connector
  • DVI connector

Package Contains:

  • WinFast A250 Ultra TD Graphics card.
  • User Manual
  • Leadtek WinFast Software Pack
    (Contains Software Driver, WinDVD program & bundled utilities)
  • 2 full games (DronZ and GunLok)
     

That's right folks, on the surface, this board reads like any other GeForce 4 Ti 4600 based card.  This isn't a bad thing of course.  The GeForce4 Ti 4600 has an impressive list of features for sure.  However, this card's outward appearance is even more impressive.

   

Our first thought, when we removed the Winfast A250 Ultra TD from its static bag, was that this card looked like "professional modder" had a field day with aluminum and fans.  However, upon closer inspection, you'll notice that the HSF assembly is a well designed tailored custom fit to the PCB, RAM Chips and GPU. Even the fans have mesh filters inserted in the top covers, to keep the dust down to a minimum inside the fan assembly.  Please excuse the light blue plastic covering on the top side of the fans.  They are there only for protection during shipping.  In any event, drop in the DVI, TV-Out and VGA connections, and you have one pretty looking GeForce4 card and one that looks like it also means business.

Quality, Setup and the Drivers 

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The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD GeForce4 Ti 4600 - Page 2

The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD
The GeForce4 Ti Card With A Massive Heat Sink

By -Dave Altavilla
March 26 2002

Before we dig into the drivers and setup of the card, let's give you another look.  We would call it a thing of beauty.

Leadtek's Winfast A250 Ultra TD
Plug and play, literally

 

     

 

Drivers and Utilities
Detonators with a wrapper
 
OK then, enough drooling.  The folks at Leadtek decided to go with the 27.50 version of NVIDIA's reference drivers for their base driver set.  They have the exact same basic functionality as the refernce drivers but Leadtek also adds a few bells and whistles to their setup.

 

 

So, as you can see, you get your standard issue reference driver interface, complete with FSAA and now Anisotropic Filtering settings, along with Leadtek's display adjustment and "Speed Runner" overclocking slider.  We'll cover more on the overclocking side of things later.  Finally, you'll also notice that Leadtek also has an option for hardware monitoring, in their advanced properties control panel.  We certainly would have liked to see this feature activated but unfortunately it was not highlighted and unavailable.

We did run into one small snag with these drivers.  We like to use pure NVIDIA reference drivers, when testing.  When we went to uninstall the Leadtek version of the 27.50 drivers and reinstall NVIDIA's version, the Leadtek drivers caused the OS to not accept the new NVIDIA driver install and the only way we could work around this problem was a complete reinstall of the OS.  Since this is standard procedure for us in the HH Lab and reinstalling WindowsXP for us, is a short 15 minute ordeal, it was only small speed bump in our testing.  However, novice users could run into this snag and may be forced into a reinstall or complete format of their system.  Leadtek most likely will have this rectified shortly but we felt compelled to let you know the details regardless.

Screenshots
NVIDIA's Chameleon Tech Demo

We always like to give you a little "eye candy" with a review of each new graphics card to hit the market.  After all, we are taking about 3D Graphics here, right?

We fired up NVIDIA's "Chameleon" Tech Demo and ChameleonMark (benchmark numbers later) to grab some screens of this impressive 3D reptilian rendering.  Here's what NVIDIA has to say about their Chameleon Demo.

"The changing skin of a chameleon is no match for the number of effects possible with the GeForce4 nfiniteFX II engine. See the wide range of skin treatments on the chameleon as it makes it's way up a vine of shading effects. The walking motion of the chameleon is accomplished with nfiniteFX Vertex Shaders. The skinned model is manipulated through a 25-bone skeleton. The skin surface of the chameleon obtains a new level of realism through nfiniteFX Pixel Shaders. Combining color maps, specular maps, and reflection maps, Pixel Shaders give a multitude of possible skin treatments - enough to make a real chameleon green with envy."

   
Shots taken on Leadtek's A250 Ultra TD GeForce 4 Ti 4600 Card
Click for full viewing

Needless to say, these screens look great but really don't do this NVIDIA tech demo justice.  To see the Chameleon in motion is like night and day compared to these still captures.  On the GeForce4, the skin textures, lighting and reflections are simply jaw dropping.  What the world needs now is a game developer to implement a new title with this level of detail.  Can you say Unreal II?  We knew you could.

2D Desktop Image Quality:

We also felt compelled to let you know what to expect from a desktop image quality standpoint, with the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD.  At resolutions all the way up to 1600X1200, the card exhibited crisp bright images at very high refresh rates of 85Hz.  We would venture to say that 2D image quality was at least on par with previous GeForce3 based products and even ATi's Radeon line.  However, this is a subjective area, so ultimately you'll have to be the judge.
 

Test Setup, Quake 3 With and Without AA and Anisotropic Filtering

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The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD GeForce4 Ti 4600 - Page 3

The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD
The GeForce4 Ti Card With A Massive Heat Sink

By -Dave Altavilla
March 26 2002

 

Croteam's Serious Sam, The Second Encounter is an OpenGL or DirectX based game title with many leading edge graphics effects and high resolution textures.  We ran our tests in OpenGL mode.

Serious Sam and NVIDIA's Chameleon Mark
Raising the bar with more intense testing and better visuals
 

We utilized Anthony "Reverend" Tan's Serious Sam Benchmark Scripts and made sure our tests were set equal amongst all cards in this test at Max Quality settings, with no anisotropic filtering enabled.  It seems the Serious Sam game interface itself has a way of "auto detecting" the capabilities of an installed graphics card and then setting visuals accordingly.  This can of course skew the test numbers one way or the other, depending on what graphics card is installed.  We were questioning some of the scores we were obtaining without the good Reverend's scripts.  Our friend Kyle at HardOCP gave us the hook-up on this information and we were then ensured of consistent repeatable results.  Surprisingly here, the Radeon 8500 closes the gap significantly with only a 14% deficit at 1280X1024.  At 1024X768 the gap is much larger at 24% or so.  Here again, we see the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD with virtually identical performance at both resolutions versus the reference card.

NVIDIA's Chameleon Mark - Direct 3D Performance
What next generation game engines should look like

We trust you recall our screenshots from the Chameleon demo, earlier in this review?  Well you guessed it, Chameleon Mark is NVIDIA's benchmark / frame rate counter for this technology demo.  Here are the results.

We decided you staunch ATi fans would think we were trying to rig the test, so we have numbers from the GeForce3 Ti 500 here as well, just for reference.  As you can see, the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD has a commanding lead, along with the reference GeForce4 Ti 4600 card.  We'll take these scores with a grain of salt however, since this is technically an NVIDIA generated benchmark.  On the other hand, it is interesting to see just how much faster the GeForce4 Ti 4600 is compared to NVIDIA's historic flagship GF3 Ti 500 card.

Let's fire up MadOnion's finest, shall we?

3DMark 2001SE, More FSAA, Overclocking and The Rating

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The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD GeForce4 Ti 4600 - Page 4

The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD
The GeForce4 Ti Card With A Massive Heat Sink

By -Dave Altavilla
March 26 2002

 

MadOnion's 3DMark 2001SE is one of the most comprehensive and reliable Direct 3D Benchmarks available today.  It measures overall systems performance while focusing on the graphics subsystem and it's capabilities with leading edge 3D rendering functions, such as pixel and vertex shading.

MadOnion's 3DMark 2001SE
DirectX 8.1 performance with Remedy's Max Payne Engine
 

Once again, total domination is displayed by the GeForce4 Ti 4600 based Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD versus the Radeon 8500 card.  The differentials range from 25 to 40% at the higher 1280X1024 resolution.  Additionally, we see no significant performance difference between the the reference card and the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD.

3DMark 2001SE Anti-Aliasing Performance
Stress testing with AA

We've shown you what the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD can do with AA in an OpenGL based title like Quake 3 Arena.  So, let's show you what it can do in a DirectX 8.1 environment.  We decided it made sense to really push the limits as well, only testing 4X AA mode in this round of tests.

Here we see a 26 to 35% lead over the ATi product with either the reference card or the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD.  Additionally, we see the same sort of linear tracking of frame rates between the two GeForce4 Ti 4600 cards, with no real advantage for either GeForce4 board over the other.  Also, notice that in the 1280X1024 test 4X AA test, the Radeon 8500's driver automatically drops down to 2X AA mode in 3DMark at this resolution, using benchmark's 4X AA setting, versus the drivers themselves.  Regardless, even when comparing 4X AA on the GF4 Ti cards here versus the Radeon at 2X, the GeForce4 Ti 4600 driven Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD still pulls past the Radeon by almost 1000 3D Marks.

 

Overclocking The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD
So, how does all that shiny heat-sink hardware really perform?

Before we call this article a wrap, we thought it made sense to see just how far we could push this new GeForce4 Ti 4600 card, with its fancy looking cooling gear and dual fans helping to dissipate the added heat.  Here are our findings...

Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD @ 325 Core / 740MHz DDR SDRAM Clocks

What we've come to find out, over the last few weeks of testing various GeForce4 Ti 4600 cards, is that there isn't one card we have tested yet that can overclock as well as our reference GeForce4 Ti 4600 card, that was given to us directly from NVIDIA.  It seems as if the card we received from NV was indeed hand picked.  However, the closest any card we have seen to date, has ever come to the 335/750 clocks we achieved with the reference card, are the numbers you see here for the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD.  This also includes some cards we have yet to even publish evaluations of.

 

What's not to love about this card?  We ran into a small snag with the Leadtek version drivers but other than that, this GeForce4 Ti 4600 card is ready for just about anything you could throw at it.  We applaud Leadtek for providing a card that has an innovative active cooling design that not only looks impressive but performs equally as impressive, besting any retail card we have seen to date here in the lab.  Additionally, this card has most all of the features that are currently available for the GeForce4 Ti 4600, including TV Out and DVI.

The only thing that holds back the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD is its price point.  At an average retail price (various price search engines were checked) of $415, this card is one of the more expensive GeForce4 Ti 4600 cards on the market.  However, if you are looking at dropping around $400 for a new graphics card, the extra $35 or so that you'll pay versus some of the lowest cost cards we've found, will be well worth the investment.  Finally, if you are one of those "plexiglass window case" types, this card is definitely a show piece, with its bright extremely large heat sink sure to turn a few heads.

We're giving the Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD at HotHardware Heat Meter Rating of...

And based on it's overclocking prowess and overall quality, we're giving it the HotHardware Editor's Choice!

 

 

 Come get some in the HotHardware PC Hardware Forum, now!

 

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The Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD GeForce4 Ti 4600 - Page 5
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