Although not owning one myself, I have had time to test the performance of the Asus nVidia Geforce II GTS. First thoughts of mine were to the sheer speed of this card. My friend who was running one with an Athlon 650 was achieving phenomenal frame rates in the newest games on top detail levels. I use a TNT2 currently, and although you may think as long as the image frame rate is enough to look smooth, an extra 40 fps is really astonishing. The picture quality is marginally better than that of my TNT2, but the increased frame rate really brings things to life. Frame rate and general 3D performance is made so exceptional because the new generation of Geforce chips actually takes on more of the processing tasks normally left to the CPU (Infact older cards aren?t really fully hardware), so if you are running a slower Pentium II or K6-2, performance should still be very reasonable. On top of that, this should also be the case if you have a slower 1 or 2x AGP main board, as less information needs to flow from CPU to GPU (although I?ve never tested this). This is a card I really want to get my hands on, its also good value at the moment, as its substantially less than any Geforce II Ultra, or Geforce 3, yet is still about 85-90% as quick!
When I was building my current system a few months ago, the GeForce 3 has just been launched, meaning that the price of GeForce 2s plummeted. Due to this, I was able to pick up an Asus V7700 Deluxe for 130 pounds - I chose the deluxe version because of the extras. The card itself is based on nVidia's reference design, with 32MB of DDR RAM and a circular heatsink and fan on the GPU. The backplate has all the connectors - a normal D-SUB VGA port, TV-in and out, plus a jack for the 3D glasses. Installation was as expected - pull out the old card, plus in the V7700, switch on and install drivers once Windows has loaded. Once the system had rebooted, I was able to benchmark the card. Using 3DMark 2001, I managed a score of around 3500 with a 1.3GHz Athlon and 320MB RAM. As you'd expect from a reference design, this is pretty much average - and means games such as Quake 3 run smoothly, even at 1280x1024, 32 bit. The interesting bits are the extras that you get with the Deluxe version. You get TV-out, meaning you can watch DVDs on your TV, for example, although having fans whirring away is distracting to say the least. TV-in allows you to connect an analogue camcorder to digitise your film, but the most interesting parts are the 3D glasses. These are quite chunky plastic glasses, with two small LCD lenses. In use, the lenses flicker opaque and clear alternately, meaning each eye gets to see a different image. You'll need a monitor capable of at least 120Hz at your chosen resolution to make the best of the glasses - this typically limits you to 800x600 or below. Once activated (using the Asus control panel), 3D games really look impressive - in Black and White, for example, the mountains of the island rally seem to jut out into the distance, while birds seem to pop out towards you - it really is amazing, and much better than the old red/green specs you may have used in the past. A selection of 3D pictures and a viewer is provided with the card
to get you started - my only complaint is that the specs get uncomfortable after a quarter of an hour or so, due to the 3D effect doing strange things with your eyes. The only other downside is that sharpness in 2D is poor when compared to my previous card, the Matrox G200. However, Matrox cards are legendary for 2D quality, so I suppose the V7700s 2D sharpness isn't that bad. Driver support is good, although you'll have to wait for Asus to release driver updates if you want to use the Deluxe features. Installing the standard nVidia Detonator drivers removed the 3D glasses and TV-in support. Asus caused controversy be enabling an X-ray vision mode for use with games like Quake, but that's since been withdrawn. Software supplied with the card includes a DVD player, a gamma adjustment tool and Soldier of Fortune. For users wanting to experiment with 3D glasses, this card is highly recommended - power user would be better off buying the Deluxe version of Asus's GeForce 3 card if they want the glasses and extras.