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Gainward CARDEXPert GeForce2 Pro/400
Golden Sample

August 6, 2001



Today we are going to take a look at the Gainward CARDEXPert GeForce2 Pro/400 Golden Sample.

Card

The Gainward CARDEXPert GeForce2 Pro/400 Golden Sample has AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM memory located in 8 chips on the right side of the PCB.

EtronTech produces memory chips with 4.5 ns access time, which corresponds to 222 (444) MHz.

This card differs from others on this GPU in the faster memory. At present the market offers a lot of versions of GeForce2 Pro based cards which the manufacturers try to make cheaper. And only Gainward has released an improved version of the GeForce2 Pro card, thus including it in its Golden Sample series. This series includes cards which has faster than the rated memory and carefully selected graphics processors since all cards have a turbo mode where the rated frequencies are higher than the recommended by NVIDIA.

As you know, the rated frequency of the GeForce2 Pro cards is 200/200 (400) MHz. In the turbo mode this card works at 220/225 (450) MHz. It means that the frequency has grown by 12%.

The card is equipped with a usual roundish cooler attached with clips. The heat-transmitting element between the GPU and the cooler is a thermal layer.

Positions of the memory chips seem to be the same as on the reference card from NVIDIA. However, while all power controlling elements are located on the upper left part on the reference card, in this case they are evenly distributed on the PCB surface: a logic set controlling chip's power supply is located on the left, while the memory power supply is controlled with the logic set located on the right. The PCB is bright green.

This sample is equipped with a daughter card with TV-out (S-Video connector, but the S-Video-to-RCA adapter is supplied together with the card).

The card ships in a Retail package.

The box contains:

  • User Manual;
  • 2 CD with drivers and utilities;
  • CD with WinDVD v.2.2;
  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter;

Overclocking

With the additional cooling provided the card shows excellent overclocking potential - 240/260 (520) MHz!

But you should remember that:

  • additional cooling must be obligatory provided when you are overclocking the card (first of all, for the memory);
  • overclocking depends on a definite sample, that's why you shouldn't generalize these results. The data obtained today in the overclocking mode are not compulsory characteristics of the video card.

Installation and drivers

Test system configuration:

  • Pentium4 get-up:
    • CPU Intel Pentium4 1500;
    • MB ASUS P4T (i850);
    • RAM 256 MBytes RDRAM PC800;
    • HDD Quantum FB AS 20 GBytes;
    • OS Windows 98 SE.
    • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21").

For testing we used drivers from NVIDIA of 12.90 version, VSync was off, S3TC technology was activated.

For comparative analyses the results of the following cards are given:

  • ABIT Siluro GF256 (GeForce2 GTS, 200/166 (333) MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • ATI RADEON 64 MBytes DDR (183/183 MHz);
  • PALIT Daytona GeForce2 Pro (200/200 (400) MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • Hercules 3D Prophet 4500 (KYRO II, 175/175 MHz, 64 MBytes).

The card is supplied together with the NVIDIA v.12.40 drivers. But as usual, the card from Gainward has a proprietary utility ExperTools which allows setting a turbo mode. This program was described in the review of Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce2 MX400 Golden Sample VIVO.

Test results

As the experience show, cards of this class usually have excellent 2D quality. At 75 Hz in 1600X1200 you can work comfortably but only with a high-quality big monitor. Sometimes a soapy image is caused not by a video card but by a defective monitor. 85 Hz won't make much problem either.

For estimation of 3D quality we used id Software Quake3 v.1.17 - a game-test which demonstrates the card's operation in OpenGL with usage of a standard benchmark demo002. But a complete examination of this card will be done in the July 3Digest.

Quake3 Arena

demo002, standard modes

The tests were carried out in two modes: Fast (16-bit color) and High Quality (32-bit color).

This card performs better than the other participants. You can see that the ATI RADEON 64 MBytes DDR which costs too much today has a much lower performance level than the GeForce2 Pro card. Of course, the RADEON has its own advantages of support of EMBM and high-resolution anisotropy in OpenGL, but today EMBM and a possibility to force anisotropy in the Direct3D are not popular very much.

For more detailed information on the performance of GeForce2 Pro cards on different platforms refer to our 3Digest.

TV-out

The Gainward CARDEXPert GeForce2 Pro/400 Golden Sample has a TV-out based on the processor Conexant BT869. The card is equipped with a S-Video connector, but with the S-Video-to-RCA adapter you can connect the TV-out to equipment lacking S-Video connectors.

The BT869 allows displaying an image on a TV screen in 800X600 (at 50-60 Hz, except for dear 100 Hz TV sets). It should be noted that the image quality suffices to watch movies and play games with a TV screen, but you shouldn't use it instead of a monitor because you can ruin your eyesight!

Conclusion

I can state that today this card is the best among cards on this GPU. It meets all requirements of the 3D accelerator class and has the performance close to the GeForce2 Ultra, especially when overclocked.

At present the card is not cheap (about $178), but it's still lower than competitors from ASUSTeK or Leadtek which work at less speeds. But prices change fast, and maybe this card will be quickly descending price stairs. By the way, there is a twin of this card - Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce2 Pro/450. It's not a Golden Sample, but it has the same 4.5 ns memory (the difference is that the manufacturer doesn't guarantee flawless overclocking of the processor).

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

Highs:

  • Excellent performance in 3D graphics;
  • Perfect quality of implementation of the product;
  • TV-out;
  • Fast 4.5 ns memory and selected GPU designed for operation at 220 MHz.

Lows:

  • Not widely available.

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