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Creative
3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400
and 3D Blaster 4 MX 420 Video Cards Review

April 22, 2002



" Once upon a time in Singaporean Kingdom lived a king called Creator who considered himself equal to Gods. His country was widely known for its warriors which fought successfully in multiple wars waged by rulers of the Game World. Like the most faithful soldiers form the Guards, the warriors of Creator formed a bluster army. It could mean that the blusters would prove to be strong and brave on any front.

Once the king quarreled with Queen of the South Game World who used to send her geforces to him so that he brought them up and trained to be strong warriors. I must say that Creator loved geforces most of all and spare no time or forces to breed them. But South Queen deceived the king by promising that ultra-geforces of the second generation would be the strongest and their troops would conquer the whole Game World. Creator put much forces into them while the Queen hid traitorously stronger forces, that is why all efforts of the king were useless. Since that time Creator decided that he won't deal with South Queen and would establish a union with one of the Queen's favorites.

Meanwhile, the positions of South Queen shook because North Queen started moving on all fronts of the Game World. Some of the lieges of South Queen moved to her competitor. However, Creator, being betrayed, couldn't betray, that is why he kept on bringing up and educating geforces. But that time he did it together with a chieftain of a large group of warriors named Micro Star. The latter was in good standing with South Queen that is why he could get troops of geforces without problems for further upbringing and education. And he sent a part of them to Creator...

And soon the king got two brothers-blusters... I must say that blusters rarely got names. You know, barracks, a spartan life in system units... They got only codenames. Our attention was attracted by two brothers-geforces who were both of the 4th generation. But they differ as a pawn and a queen... "

Well, let's play journalists and ask the brothers about their life...

We will take a look at two video cards from Creative. They have the same names, but the suffixes mean that their capabilities differ.

But first of all, look at the articles related with the GeForce4 Ti line.

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards which concern functional properties of the NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti GPU

The cards we have today are Creative 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400 and Creative 3D Blaster 4 MX 420. The cards are based on one of the fastest GPUs - Ti 4400 and on the weakest one of the GeForce4 line - MX 420.

Cards

Creative 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400

The Creative 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400 has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on both sides of the PCB.

The card is based on the GeForce4 Ti 4400. The Samsung 3.6ns memory chips correspond to 275 (550) MHz at which the memory works.

The new BGA package and the new design allow the memory work stably at the rated frequencies even without cooling. The chip operates at 275 MHz.

Creative 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400

NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4400

MSI GF4TI4600

I showed a GeForce4 Ti 4600 card from MSI so that you can see that Creative actually sells cards produced by MSI. The card corresponds to the reference design.

Now let's take a look at the cooler which is a soap-box of all card makers.

The design of the heatsink is standard for the GeForce4 Ti cards: it is a box closed at two sides whereto a fan drives air which as a heavy flow passes over the GPU.

The only drawback is a plastic cover of the heatsink. Although it doesn't impede and even shows internal passages of the silvery cooler, it makes quite much noise. By the way, it is reported that there are a lot of returned cards exactly because of the noisy cooler.

The memory modules do not have heatsinks. On the back side of the card there is a processor from Conexant meant for TV-out (although the GPU carries all components necessary for TV-out).

Let's take off the heatsink:

The processor is codenamed (NV25) as it was produced long time ago - at the 51th week of 2001 (in December). It's interesting that almost all NV25/GeForce4 Ti chips we could see on the tested cards are produced so long ago. It proves that the GeForce4 was ready yet at the end of 2001 and its release was put off.

Note that GeForce4 Ti 4600 cards can be incompatible with some mainboards, in particular, with the EPoX 8KHA+ whose capacitors prevent installation of such cards.

A similar problem occurred with the Chaintech 6OJV2 board on the i815E. Although one will hardly install such a powerful card into the old board which supports processors only up to 1 GHz, but still note that IDE connectors are placed so that the long Ti 4400/4600 card sets against the upper part of the connector of the IDE cable that is why the card can't be completely inserted into the AGP slot. If you bend a little the card to let its tail pass below the IDE connector the problem can be solved, but it can be very dangerous for the card.

The GeForce4 Ti Creative 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400 has three connectors: VGA, DVI and TV-out (see the details here).

The card ships in the Retail package which includes:

  • user manual;
  • 2 CD with software:
    • drivers and utilities;
    • Incoming Forces game;

  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter;

Overclocking

The card ships with NVIDIA's drivers (ver.27.50/Win9x/WinXP) and DEMO programs. That is why you can overclock the card through the drivers and with a utility of fine adjustment - RivaTuner.

The card operates stably at 305/340 (680) MHz which is higher than the rated speed of the Ti 4600. The Gainward PowerPack Ultra/700 had the same results, and you can get the understanding of how the card runs at these frequencies from the review on the Gainward 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 a 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.

Creative 3D Blaster 4 MX 420

The Creative 3D Blaster 4 MX 420 has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on both sides of the PCB.

The card is based on the GeForce4 MX 420. The Hynix 5 ns memory chips correspond to 200 MHz. The memory works at 166 MHz.

All cards of the latest generations are not produced by Creative Labs itself, the company buys them from MSI and sells under its own trademark. On the photos above and below you can find the label of MS.

Creative 3D Blaster 4 MX 420

NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 420

The less expensive cards, such as MX 420, have only a passive heatsink.

As you can see, the chip is cooled with a pin heatsink which is locked on the card with clips.

Let's take off the heatsink:

The card has a TV-out (S-Video), and this function is controlled by the graphics processor, that is why no more decoders are installed. In the box we found an instruction sheet for the TV-out.

This card is also incompatible with some mainboards, for example, with the Leadtek P4I845D on the i845D.

The Tv-out connector and capacitors of the mainboard do not impede each other and the video card can't be inserted into the AGP slot. The problem concerns all GeForce4 MX cards on this mainboard.

Besides, all tested MX 420 cards do not work on the ABIT KT7A (VIA KT133A).

The Creative 3D Blaster 4 MX 420 has two connectors: VGA and TV-out (we already wrote about the TV-out here).

The card ships in the dark retail package which includes:

  • user manual;
  • 2 CD with software:
    • drivers and utilities;
    • Incoming Forces game;

  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter;

Overclocking

The card ships with NVIDIA's drivers (ver.27.50/Win9x/WinXP) and DEMO programs. That is why you can overclock the card through the drivers and with a utility of fine adjustment - RivaTuner.

This sample works stably at 315/230 MHz which is the highest result for such cards.

Test system and drivers

This time we estimated how performance of the Ti 4400/4600 cards depended on a CPU frequency (on the Intel's platform), that is why we used several testbeds:

  • Pentium 4 2200 MHz based computer:
    • Intel Pentium 4 2200 (L2=512K);
    • ASUS P4T-E (i850) mainboard;
    • 512 MBytes RDRAM PC800;
    • Quantum FB AS HDD, 20 GBytes;
    • Windows XP.

  • Pentium 4 2000 MHz based computer:
    • Intel Pentium 4 2000 (L2=512K);
    • ASUS P4T-E (i850) mainboard;
    • 512 MBytes RDRAM PC800;
    • Quantum FB AS HDD, 20 GBytes;
    • Windows XP.

  • Pentium III 1000 MHz based computer:
    • Intel Pentium III 1000 MHz (133 MHz x 7.5)
    • Chaintech 6OJV2 (i815E) mainboard;
    • 256 MBytes SDRAM PC133;
    • Seagate Barracuda IV HDD, 40 GBytes;
    • Windows XP.

The test system was coupled with ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors.

In the tests we used NVIDIA's drivers of v28.32. VSync was off, S3TC was off.

For the comparative analyses we used the following cards:

  • ABIT Siluro GF3 Ti500 (NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500, 240/250 (500) MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • ATI RADEON 8500 (RADEON 8500, 275/275 (550) MHz, 64 MBytes, driver 6.052);
  • Joytech Apollo Devil Monster II RADEON 8500 (RADEON 8500LE, 250/250 (500) MHz, 128 MBytes, driver 6.052, o/c to 275/275 (550) MHz).
  • Gainward GeForce2 Ti/500 (250/200 (400) MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 MX400 (200/183 MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • ATI RADEON 7500 (RADEON 7500, 290/230 (460) MHz, 64 MBytes, driver 6.052);

Test results

The 2D quality of the Ti 4400 card is the same as of the reference one, no problems up to 1600x1200@85 Hz. The dual-monitor support was already estimated here.

2D quality of the MX 420 card is a little worse. This card is meant for a resolution of 1280x1024, where up to 100 Hz you won't spoil your eyes.

For estimation of 3D quality we used:

  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Grand Cathedral demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF, Trilinear;
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Checkpoint-demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded from here.

Tests 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

The tests were carried out in a 32-bit color mode.

1024x768

You can see that it makes no sense to buy such an expensive accelerator for the Pentium III. However, almost all cards are limited by the CPU in this resolution.

1280x1024

The situation is almost the same. The TI 4400 has a solid advantage.

1600x1200

The gap between the Ti 4400 and its competitors is larger, and the Ti 500 yields to the RADEON 8500.

Summary

The test shows that theTi 4400 based cards should be coupled with CPUs at least of 1.5 GHz. Do not use Ti 4400/4600 cards on old platforms: a system unit must be balanced! If you want a very powerful video card you should upgrade your processor and/or platform!

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

The tests were carried out in 32-bit color mode.

1024x768

All accelerators go on a par because they are limited by the CPU's frequency (and by the platform in case of the i815).

1280x1024

On the i815 platform the situation is still painful (except the fact that the 128 MBytes R8500 beats its 64 MBytes brother), on the more powerful platforms the R8500 128 MBytes has caught up with the Ti 4400 card.

1600x1200

Here the situation is different; and although the Ti 4400 is leading, the RADEON 8500 128 MBytes card is very close.

Summary

On the whole, modern games become strongly dependent on a CPU today: what they need most of all is a super processor and a very powerful platform.

In our next reviews we will estimate how performance of video cards depends on a CPU with some functions such as anisotropy and AA enabled.

GeForce4 MX 420 tests

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

The tests were carried out in 32-bit color mode.

The tests of this budget card will define its place among modern cards of the similar price level. This card is just a bit faster than the MX400 and loses to the rest. I don't understand what for I must pay $100 if the more powerful GeForce2 Ti is cheaper.

Note that the RADEON 7500 wins from the GeForce2 Ti thanks to 6 texture units in this game (in other tests only 4 are enabled). Note that these tests are carried at 290 MHz, i.e. directly from ATI Technologies. And now this card costs more than the GeForce2 Ti.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

The tests were carried out in 32-bit color mode.

The gap between the MX400 and MX 420 is larger, but it is still a long way towards the GeForce2 Ti and RADEON 7500 cards.

I wonder why such a budget card costs a fortune? The much faster GeForce4 MX 440 is sometimes cheaper than the MX 420 model. Do the sellers want to deceive users with the "GeForce4" label?

In closing, I'd like to recommend you to read our 3Digest where you can find detailed information on performance of these cards on different platforms.

Conclusion

We have examined two cards of the same company and the same family but of different price and functional categories. The Creative 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400 is almost the most powerful accelerator based on the reference design; the Creative 3D Blaster 4 MX 420 is a budget card which has characteristics corresponding to the improved GeForce2 MX400, however its price is too high.

I just hope that in the near future the prices for the MX 420 will go down to the rational level.

Both cards are of high quality, their speeds and functions do correspond to the specified ones (except the lacking dual-head support of the MX 420, but it seems that it was decided so. Today two monitors are supported only by MX 460 cards, though when the MX line was announced this feature was said to be included in all cards).

It's a pity that Creative Labs just resells stranger's cards. And if you now ask me which card to buy - MSI GeForce4 or Creative GeForce4, I will answer that you'd take what's cheaper.

Highs:

  • High quality of the tested sample;
  • Excellent performance in 3D of the Creative 3D Blaster 4 Titanium 4400;
  • Higher speed of the Creative 3D Blaster 4 MX 420 than of the GeForce2 MX400;
  • Full support of all DirectX 8.0 functions and a partial one of the DirectX 8.1 (it concerns the GeForce4 Ti 4400 card);
  • TV-out realization is more effective among all latest NVIDIA based cards (an image can be displayed on a TV screen and on a monitor simultaneously);
  • Good Retail package.

Lows:

  • Overpriced GeForce4 MX 420.

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