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Leadteck DDR Winfast Geforce2 Ultra

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1 Review

Second GenerATIon Nvidia GeForce2 Ultra Chipset.
On Board 128-Bit 64MB -4ns DDR Memory.
Per-Pixel Shading.

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      10.09.2001 20:29



      Much has been written about the Geforce family of graphics card; rightly so as NVidia revolutionised the idea of a GPU (graphics processing unit) with the original Geforce graphics cards. Before this, 3D cards were added to existing 2D cards, which didn't make the best use of bandwidth or system resources. Following the success of the original Geforce card, Nvidia have continually introduced, updated and refined their graphics chipset. This is now available in many flavours, and the chipset is sold to many card manufacturers across the World. The most common card is the cheap and cheerful Geforce 2MX, which uses a cut down and bandwidth restricted version of the Geforce 2 GTS (Gigatexel shader) chipset found in the more expensive cards. The 2MX is fine for occasional gamers, or people using smaller (15" and 17") monitors. But if you want to run your games at high resolutions (i.e. 1280 and 1600) in 32 bit colour with effects turned on (and who wouldn't want all those cool effects that game creators now fill the new games with?), or you are running a larger monitor like a 19" or 21", then you'll need a faster graphics card. If you're really looking for a decent budget card get one based around the Kyro chipset - this is much more capable than the Geforce 2MX which seems ok but is deliberately castrated by using a half-width memory bus as opposed to the 128 bit bus used in the 2 GTS cards. However, for power users check out the rest of the Geforce 2 family - this includes the GTS 32mb, the GTS 64mb, the "Pro" and the "Ultra". And finally the Geforce 3, a new chipset offering a brand new feature package and even faster memory. But as many games do not, and will not, support the Geforce 3's new features, is it worth getting one yet? Price must be the decision maker, you can get Geforce 3 cards for around £300, but most cost £350-£375. The rele
      ase of the Geforce 3 is great news for value-conscious buyers, as it seems to have driven down the price of the Geforce 2 cards. As an example, The Geforce 2 Ultra originally cost over £350 when released, I picked up my Geforce 2 Ultra for £220. I've already owned a Geforce 2MX and a Geforce 2GTS 32mb, so I'm well placed to discuss the differences between these three cards. And why would I change cards three times since March 2001? I found the Geforce 2MX very limited, especially when I bought a Diamondtron 19" monitor. The larger monitors eat video ram, and the 2MX couldn't cope. Frame rated became a real issue, and I didn't think the card was doing the rest of my system any justice (Athlon 1ghz, Raid motherboard, 256mb,etc.) So I traded the 2MX for a Geforce 2GTS with 32mb of DDR memory, this was fine until I started using 1600x1200 or 1280 resolutions and the dreaded frame rate started to shudder.It wasn't a case of just bandwidth, but a lack of video ram. 64mb of video ram seems essential to make the most out of modern games. I checked out the Geforce 2 Pro 64mb, and the Geforce 2 GTS 64mb, but these didn't have the extra bandwidth or faster memory of the Ultra card. the Ultra has a clock speed of 230mhz, using the DDR memory gives a whopping 460mhz speed. This can be overclocked to 490mhz without problems. So I went for the Ultra, and got a great card from Leadtek, Taiwanese manufacturer with a good reputation for quality and price. Included in the bundle was a software dvd player, some colour balancing software and other bits and pieces. The card is based around the same GTS chipset that the Geforce 2 GTS and Pro cards use, but with higher core and memory clock speeds, giving a more useful 7.2gb/sec video memory bandwidth. This compares to 3-5 gb/sec for the GTS and Pro cards. The Ultra uses the fastest memory that was available at the time of release, which is dual data rate 4ns. T
      his has now been superceded by 3.8ns and 3.5ns memory which is fitted to the Geforce 3 card, but 4ns is plenty fast for my purposes. The Geforce chip has always been more capable than the memory fitted to these graphics cards, with bandwidth restricting the Geforce chip from flexing it's muscles. The faster memory and higher core and clock speeds of the Ultra card lets the Geforce chip work more efficiently, without being bottlenecked by slow video ram or limited bus bandwidth(as with the Geforce 2MX). What this translates to for the end user is the ability to use maximum resolution settings and turn all of the game's features on (i.e. fog, particles, shadows, tri-linear filtering) without the game degenerating into a 10 frame per seconds mess. To give an example, my Ultra will hit 120 frames a second in Quake III at 1024x768x32 bit colour. The Leadtek card is well built, and features a dedicated cooling solution in the form of a huge heatsink / alloy slab and cooling fan. this is vastly superior to the "orb" style cooling fan fitted to most Ultra cards, and should give your system more stability, especially for overclockers. The card is physically quite hefty, so be careful when fitting it (i.e. don't let it drop!) Other cool features include TV-out in the form of a S-Video socket, and an unusual but very useful DVI socket (digital video). The card will drive the Tv-out to 800x600 and the DVI to 800x600, plenty for working on video capture and editing. The Tv-out image quality is good, stable and colours are accurately presented. It was weird playing Unreal Tournament on my 28" widescreen television! Overall, a very impressive graphics card at an affordable price. It's definitely faster than ADI's Radeon 64mb and noticeably faster than the Geforce 2 GTS and Pro cards. You're realitically looking at 10-20% faster frame rates up to 1280, and at 1600 resolution the Ultra is around 35
      % faster. You'll only really notice the improvements at higher resolutions, so if you plan to play games at 1024x768 then check out the cheaper Geforce 2MX and GTS cards, these will do for your needs. Video intensive games, like Max Payne or Giants:Citizen Kabuto work very fluidly with the Ultra. Giants makes best use of the Geforce's chip Hardware T&L mode (transform and lighting), something that many games are supporting (check the box). But if like me, you like things to work properly, and want to push your system with higher resolutions and 32 bit colour, without frame rate problems, then check out the Ultra. Leadtek's card is now around £200-£250, I've seen Creative's Ultra priced at £225 so prices have definitely fallen. I spoke to an Nvidia spokesman at the recent ECTS show in London, and asked him what kind of performance difference there would be between an Ultra and a Geforce 3. He said with older and current games you wouldn't notice any real difference, although the 3 would be more efficient. With new games like Aquanox, which has features from the new Direct 8.1 set, there would be operations that the Ultra doesn't do (as the feature set doesn't support the new features). Within 6 months, he recommended getting the Geforce 3. Nvidia is planning to release it's latest drivers, Detonator 4, before the end of this month (September 01). These will give a 10-15% speed boost, and can be applied across the entire Nvidia range, using their unified driver architecture (smart guys!). And the drivers are free, that's customer support!! If you're not planning to upgrade for 6 months then wait for the Geforce 3 prices to fall. I'll probably end up with a Geforce 3 within the year, but for now the Ultra is plenty fast and made better sense in terms of performance / price. *A final point about higher resolutions* if you're running games at 1280x900 and 1600x12
      00 you should turn anti-aliasing OFF. You don't need it at these resolutions, it just eats bandwidth and reduces your card's performance. If you running under 1024 then it's a good idea, but really it's only essential at low resolutions like the games consoles use (i.e. television 540x480). To turn anti-aliasing off, use the software supplied with your card. or for best performance, get hold of Detonator 3 / 4 drivers and use something like "Geforce Tweak Utility" available as shareware, great utlity that lets you control all the features of your Geforce card.


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