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Hercules 3D Prophet III
Titanium 500 and
Gigabyte Thundra
GF3500TF Video Cards Review

December 19, 2001



The earth, namely its Catholic and Christian part is making last preparations for the X-mas. And on the threshold of this greatest holiday the computer industry (as well as others) brightens up its business. Ribbons and bows of all possible colors tie all possible things and every computer component.

For many the New Year's and X-mas holidays are going along with white fluffy snow. A frosty sun, rising for just a couple of hours above the vast expanses grants to this richest collection of silver unthinkable tints that no trucolor can deliver. Long azure shadows follow the cold sunset making the blanket of snow mysterious and velvety. When I took two completely identical video cards from entirely different manufacturers their sky-blue color reminded me of winter shadows at the sunset. Lifeless but optimistically sparkling snow makes me think that it won't last forever... Spring will come and those masses of silver will turn into streams of liquid crystal that none of the advanced shaders is able to reflect. The today's idols will die, GeForce3 will become an ordinary thing and will be replaced with a new sovereign whose new PR weapon would crush weak users here and there... Like the Canadian knight whose armor is forged in the hidden farrieries in Toronto.

Here have we come to the palace where all this azure stuff will be tested while being covered with dust from fans which are eager to damp overheat hearts of overclocked video cards...

o, today we will take a look at two video cards which doesn't differ from each other. Both are based on the most powerful GPU from NVIDIA - GeForce3 Ti 500. As always I should remind you that the whole theoretical base connected with the GeForce3 and its follows - Ti 200/500 is concentrated in the following articles (here you can also learn the peculiarities of certain cards and find out how they operate in the latest benchmark tests).

Both companies are well known grands in the computer market. Hercules and Guillemot, which owns this trade mark now, have deserved authority. As well as Gigabyte who produces a great number of boards and cards. All its retail models are of superb quality.

Cards

Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500

The Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500 card is based on the NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 and has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MB DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right side of the PCB.

EliteMT produces memory chips with 3.8 ns access time, which corresponds to 263 (526) MHz. The marks on the modules are illegible that is why we couldn't get a high-quality shot. The memory is the same as used in the GeForce3 cards; it will also be installed on all GeForce3 Ti 500 cards because its frequency reserve is more than enough even for Ti 500. The frequencies are 240/250 (500) MHz.

The memory modules are covered with highly efficient pin heatsinks from ThermalTake, that is why we can expect rather good overclocking potential, though the performance is mainly dependent on results of the core.

Traditionally, all video cards after GeForce2 GTS are based on the NVIDIA's reference design:

Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500

NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 reference card

As you can see, there are no differences, except a textolite color :-).

The chip is cooled also with a heatsink from ThermalTake. It is a quite effective cooler but you should take into account that the Ti 500 is an already overclocked version of the GeForce3.

The Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500 card is equipped with TV-out and DVI.

The card ships in a Retail package.

Accessories:

  • User Manual;
  • CD with drivers and several demo versions of games;
  • CD with a PowerDVD player v3.0;
  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter;

Overclocking

The Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500 demonstrates a record overclocking level both for the core and for the memory " 260/295 (590) MHz.

Note:

  • in course of overclocking you must provide additional cooling, in particular, for the card (first of all, for its memory);
  • overclocking depends on the definite sample, and you shouldn't generalize the results of one card to all video cards of this mark or series. The overclocking results are not the obligatory characteristics of a video card.

Gigabyte Thundra GF3500TF

The Gigabyte Thundra GF3500TF card is based on the NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 and has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MB DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right side of the PCB.

EliteMT produces memory chips with 3.8 ns access time, which corresponds to 263 (526) MHz. The frequencies are standard for this type of cards - 240/250 (500) MHz.

Both cards we are examining today are as like as two peas in a pot:

Gigabyte Thundra GF3500TF

Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500

NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 reference card

If you click on the photo of the Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500 (front view) you will see that the BIOS chip is marked as GF3500TF (this is how the Gigabyte's card is called). Isn't it curious? :-)

The chip is bundled with a cooler from ThermalTake as well, though it is just a bit different in color and its fins are not bend relative to the fan's axis.

The Gigabyte Thundra GF3500TF card is also equipped with TV-out and DVI.

The card ships in a Retail package, but its set of accessories is much richer:

  • User Manual;
  • CD with drivers;
  • 6 discs with games released during last 1.5 years;
  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter;

Overclocking

The results of the Gigabyte Thundra GF3500TF are poorer " 255/295 (590) MHz. But anyway, it is one of the highest scores we have ever seen among GeForce3 cards.

Note:

  • in course of overclocking you must provide additional cooling, in particular, for the card (first of all, for its memory);
  • overclocking depends on the definite sample, and you shouldn't generalize the results of one card to all video cards of this mark or series. The overclocking results are not the obligatory characteristics of a video card.

Test system and drivers

Test system:

  • Pentium4 get-up:
    • Intel Pentium4 2100;
    • ASUS P4T-E (i850) mainboard;
    • 512 M RDRAM PC800;
    • Quantum FB AS HDD, 20 GB;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors;
    • Windows ME.

In the tests we used NVIDIA drivers of v.21.85. VSync was off, S3TC was on.

The cards come with the Gigabyte drivers v21.83 (which are identical to the reference ones except an added overclocking utility), and with the Hercules drivers v21.81 (which are also based on the reference ones except overclocking features).

For the comparative analyses we used the following cards:

  • Reference card NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 (240/250 (500) M, 64 M);
  • ATI RADEON 8500LE (250/250 (500) M, 64 M);
  • ATI RADEON 8500 (275/275 (550) M, 64 M).

Test results

The 2D quality is very good. You can work comfortably in 1600x1200 at 85 Hz, and your eyes won't get tired. Remember that before you lay the blame on a video card make sure you have a high-quality monitor. Moreover, all 19" and above monitors have a BNC connector and you should get a high-quality d-sub-to-BNC cable to make the quality as high as possible.

For estimation of 3D quality we used:

  • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) " a game test which demonstrates operation of a card in OpenGL with a standard demo benchmark demo002 and Quaver.

Quake3 Arena

demo002, standard modes

The tests with the demo002 were carried out in the Fast (16-bit color) and High Quality (32-bit color) modes.

These tests aim to prove that these cards correspond to their level, and they give an idea about a cards' performance to those of our readers who haven't yet read our previous reviews and our 3Digest.

As you can see, both cards meet the requirements of the GeForce3 Ti 500 level. The overclocking have lifted their potential considerably. I recommend you to read the abovementioned articles where we thoroughly examined anisotropic and anti-aliasing functions.

Quaver, High Quality Modes

The test was carried out in 32-bit color mode at the highest detailing level and with complicated geometry (r_subdivisions "1" r_lodCurveError "30000"). This benchmark loads an accelerator with geometry, large textures and huge effects.

The situation is completely identical to the previous one.

In closing, I'd like to advise you to read also other reviews of GeForce2/3 based video cards. Besides, in our 3Digest you can get thorough information on performance of these cards on different platforms.

Conclusion

Well, these cards are excellent! Fine quality! The fact that these cards do not differ from the reference design doesn't allow them to have such a popular function as VIVO and stereo glasses support, but on the other hand 2D quality won't suffer from them, as it sometimes happens on other cards. If the price were lower, it would be super! I hope that a competition against the ATI RADEON 8500 will result in price cuts not only for junior cards from the Ti 200/500 line but also for the cards similar to the today's ones.

  1. Both cards are of high quality and based on the reference design.
  2. The memory modules have the most efficient heatsinks we have ever seen on such cards.
  3. A high overclocking potential.
  4. The Gigabyte Thundra GF3500TF has an excellent set of accessories (several games).

The complete characteristics of video cards of this and other classes can be found in our 3Digest.

Highs:

  • High quality of the cards;
  • Both cards follow the reference design and the requirements of the GeForce3 Ti 500 class;
  • Good overclocking potential, first of all, of the memory thanks to highly efficient heatsinks;
  • An excellent retail set of the Gigabyte and a very good one of the Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500.

Lows:

  • None.

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