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X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The XMicro Impact 4 Ultra - Page 1

The X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

By, Jeff Bouton
January 25, 2001

Today we?ll be taking a look at yet another product from Taiwan based X-Micro.  Not long ago I had the pleasure of taking the Hulk V GeForce2 MX card for a ride around the block and as you may have already heard, I liked it!  In fact, I liked it so much that it has remained the video card of choice in my second system.  This time around, X-Micro has brought to the table their latest offering, the X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra. 

Fresh out of the box, it?s obvious that X-Micro has taken the standard approach to video card marketing and brought it to a higher level.  They haven?t spent the big bucks coming up with different designs, like a recent Leadtek card we reviewed, nor have they changed the cards color scheme from green to metallic blue.  All of these imaginative designs may or may not improve performance but they definitely translate into higher costs to the buyer.  What X-Micro has done is strictly use a standard reference design and let the cards reputation speak for itself.  It?s no secret that the GeForce 2 family of video cards are made their mark in the industry.  With first-rate performance in all versions, is it truly necessary to fix something that isn?t broken?  Apparently X-Micro feels the answer to that question is no.  By sticking with a base reference design, X-Micro has been able to remain a solid contender in the already saturated video card marketplace by offering an Ultra powered video card for a little less cash.  At the time of this review, X-Micro has not made it clear what the MSRP of this card will be.  However, X-Micro does have a history of selling their cards at extremely competitive prices.  With that said, I believe it?s safe to say that if you?re in the market for an Ultra and were thinking of buying a card from a better known company, you?d be able to pick up this baby and have some cash left over to get some other goodies.  Let?s take a look and see if this would be money well spent, shall we?


Specifications Of The X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
It's a reference board...but do you care!

Powered by NVIDIA's latest high-end 3D graphics processor (latest 2nd generation GPU):
  • GeForce2 Ultra
  • Optimized for DDR memory
  • Optimized graphics card design and improved stability thanks to  RAM heat sinks

Chipset:

  • Nvidia GeForce2 Ultra
  • RAMDAC - 350MHz
  • Default Core Speed - 250MHz
  • Available for AGP Only
  • Supported API(s)OpenGL & Direct3D
  • DVC Support - No
  • TwinView Support - No
  • Memory Amount 64MB of 460MHZ DDR RAM
  • Bandwidth - 7.36GB/S
  • 4 dual-texturing pipelines
  • 8 texels per clock cycle
  • 31.25 million triangles mapped per second
  • 4X AGP with Fast Writes support
  • AGP 2X compatible
  • NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer
  • Most advanced 3D functions
  • Optimized support for OpenGL® (Silicon Graphics) and DirectX® 7 (Microsoft®) APIs
  • Cube environmental mapping
  • Bump mapping
  • Vertex blending
  • Projective textures
  • Texture compression
  • Lighting
  • Shading
  • Hardware Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA)
  • Hardware Transform & Lighting Engines (T&L)
  • Resolutions up to 2048x1536 in 16 million colors

TV/Video Output for playback of DVD titles or games on your television:

  • NTSC and PAL TV output in 640x480and 800x600
  • DVI-Output for high resolution display on digital monitors
  • Play DVD-Video on your PC with PowerDVD?

System Requirements:

  • Pentium® II / AMD K6® and higher or compatible
  • Available AGP slot
  • 64MB RAM
  • 10MB hard disk space (More to install games)
  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
  • Microsoft Windows® 95 OSR2, Windows 98 and higher

The X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra comes with an installation manual, a CD that contains the necessary drivers for the card as well as some additional software.  One thing I must point out that is a bit of a nuisance is the grammar in the installation manual.   Although I think the novice user will be able to work with it, the manual is full of misspellings and other errors that are borderline comical. 

The following software titles are included on the drivers disk:  Power DVD 2.55, Power VCD 95, and Powerstrip 2.27.  If you are looking for a good Software DVD player, I think that Power DVD is worth a look.  Although I have the newer version 3, I can say that version 2.55 has performed exceptionally well for me.  For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Powerstrip is a third party video card utility that is choc-full of features.  In a nutshell, this utility let?s you change just about every video related setting imaginable and yes it provides an over-clocking feature too.  I was a little disappointed to see that they included Power VCD 95 though.  This may have been a good video player in its day but that was six years ago.  Oh well, I guess two out of three ain?t bad. 

Based on excellent hardware specifications and a mediocre compliment of software and documentation, I give the X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra a Specification/Features rating of 8.

Quality and Design

 
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The XMicro Impact 4 Ultra - Page 2

The X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

By, Jeff Bouton
January 25, 2001

Quality and Design of the X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
Looks familiar...

If you are an avid reader of the reviews at H.H. then I?m sure you?ll swear that you?ve seen this card before. If you take the Elsa Gladiac that we recently reviewed, you?d be hard pressed to tell the two apart except for the purple X-Micro sticker on the Impact 4.  Now this doesn?t make X-Micro a bad company, I?m sure that the sticker was a whole lot cheaper than the other types of bells and whistles we?ve seen in the past.  Remember, all the cost saving measures will be seen ultimately in the MSRP. 

This card comes with the basic reference cooling hardware.  From the heat sinks on the RAM to the heat sink and fan on the GPU, it is all based on the original reference design.  This may not make you go ?wow? when you see it but it is a design that has proven to be more than adequate for the card. 

        

If there is one thing that will get us on our soap box, it is the use of thermal tape or the dreaded thermal epoxy.  Although these products do help improve heat transfer, usually when we take them apart we find poor contact between the chip and heat sink.  This time around however, we have to say that although we?re not crazy about it, this application was making excellent contact.  Nonetheless, since we had it apart, we cleaned it up and applied the preferred Artic Silver Thermal compound. 

This version has the standard analog monitor and TV-OUT connections as well as a port to connect a digital flat-panel display.  Although we didn?t have the goods to test the flat-panel display, the TV-OUT worked exactly as it should.  We loaded up the Matrix on DVD and found the output quality excellent.  It only took a second to switch between the monitor and TV and we were ready to roll.

Although this is a standard reference design, its reputation speaks for itself.  With that said, the quality and design of the card is excellent and gets a well deserved 9.

Installation and Drivers

 
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The XMicro Impact 4 Ultra - Page 3

The X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

By, Jeff Bouton
January 25, 2001

H.H. Test System
Not too shabby!

Full Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, Pentium III 933EB, Tyan S1854 (Via 133A) Motherboard and X-Micro Impact 4 GeForce 2 Ultra AGP Card w/64MB of DDR SDRAM, 256MB of PC133 True CAS2 SDRAM, Maxtor 15Gig 7200 RPM ATA100 Hard Drive, Pioneer 16max DVD-ROM, Windows ME, DirectX 8.0, nVidia reference drivers (Detonator 3 6.31)

Benchmarks With The X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
OpenGL Scores...

 
First up is one of our favorites around here?MDK2.  Lets see how this card handles OpenGL?

MDK2 (OPENGL TEST)

As you can see, we hit the CPU limit right through 1024x768, not to mention the fact that we?ve exceeded 60FPS at 1600x1200x32!   Now let?s see how we do with the venerable Quake 3.  First up, the Fastest and Normal settings?

QUAKE 3 (OPENGL TEST)

With numbers like this, the card is just begging for us to give it the juice with the High Quality test, all options set to maximum, phasers set to kill.  To give you a comparison, we?ve thrown the results from a recent review of one of the Impact 4?s brothers, the Hercules 3D Prophet II?

I think it?s a close race folks.  Although this card is ?no frills?, it is also ?no nonsense?.  From what we?ve seen so far, this puppy is ready for a fight.  With excellent performance in all areas of the standard benchmarks, I think this card deserves a 10 for ripping through whatever we threw at it.

Overclocking With The X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra
More Power!

After the excellent performance that we saw in the standard benchmarks, I just couldn?t wait to see just how much we could squeeze out of this card.  When it came to the core speed, we got it to top out at a solid 315MHz!   With the performance that we?ve seen with similar cards, I thought we would have no problem pushing the RAM speed to 500MHz.  Well, we almost got there but had to settle for 495MHz.  So let?s see what a little more juice does to the 3Dmark tests?

If you compare the results, you?ll find a gain of over 300 points at 1600x1200x32!  This looks pretty sweet.  Now let?s see how MDK2 performed?

Very nice!  We shattered the 60FPS barrier with a whopping 71FPS at 1600x1200x32.  Now we?ll run Quake 3 and see how the results compare to the Hercules Prophet II running at a core 305MHz and Memory Clock speed of 500MHz.?

Although we didn?t quite break the 60FPS barrier at 1600x1200x32, it was pretty close.  As far as the comparison goes, taking into account the difference in the test systems, it?s safe to say it was neck-in-neck.

We found the card to be very over clock friendly.  The card's performance virtually match's that of the Hercules Prophet II.  With excellent performance and stability while running the Over clocked Benchmarks, I give the X-Micro Impact 4 a 9.

If you're shopping for an Ultra and don?t need all the little bells and whistles that other manufacturers offer,  then the X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra is a sensible choice.  By sticking with a standard reference design that has earned itself the status of a market leader, X-Micro has been able to offer a quality video card with exceptional value and performance.  We are confident that the steps taken to cut unnecessary costs will translate into significant savings for the buyer.   Although their software bundle is a little light, the X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra still offers several useful software packages.  

After taking an average of the scores in each section, we give the X-Micro Impact 4 Ultra a HotHardware heat meter rating of a...

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