We continue keeping you fully armed with what is going on on the video card market and particularly the latest video cards based on GPU NVIDIA GeForce2 Ultra which start selling in mass. GPU GeForce2 Ultra is the most efficient graphics accelerator at the end of 2000. Not so long ago we put our hands on a rear model in the market - Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra, so it will be the topic today.
This card belongs to High-End class, is intended for hardcore gamers and sells at quite expensive price. But let's start step by step.
WinFast GeForce2 Ultra is not a usual series card from Leadtek Research. The card is equipped with AGP2x/4x interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right side of PCB:
The memory chips are equipped with cooling heatsinks which mount to the PCB, you can take them off and see that they are memory modules ESMT 4 ns from EliteMT. It's quite a fast memory that can work at the regular frequency of 250 MHz (500 MHz effective). By default it operates at 230 MHz in order to provide high reliability.
Now let's pass to zests. First of all, look at the form of the heatsinks on the memory chips:
Yeh, the radiators look stylish! But interestingly, does it make sense to use such flat heatsinks, the cooling surface of which are relatively smaller than that of fin- or pin-radiators? Nevertheless, let's check effectiveness of these beautiful heatsinks under real conditions.
Beside the stylish design of the card, there you can find a huge silvery radiator installed on the graphics processor.
The design of the heat sink itself is ordinary, it differs in nothing from the latest cards from Leadtek. The effeciency of such cooler is not to be proud of because of quite a weak fan installed in the center of the heatsink. The difference between the old cooler and the current one lies only in color.
Note that the PCB is green, what is strange from Leadtek side (usually, its cards are lemon-yellow). The design is much similar to that we saw from Creative.
The card includes the following: a doughter board with TV-out (S-Video output), a connector for digital monitors (DVI), S-Video-to-RCA adapter.
The card sells in the box of legacy Leadtek design:
The complete set is quite traditional for this company:
Despite some doubt about heatsinks with this sample of the card Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra we managed to get the graphics processor work stable at 315 MHz and the memory worked perfect at 257 MHz (515 MHz). This is the absolute leader among all the considered cards of this class!
Installation and drivers
Testbed comes first:
The card is supplied with drivers from Leadtek, version 6.27, based on the NVIDIA reference drivers 6.27. I have already written on these drivers, so you might pop in our archive (Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Pro video card). Since there appeared some other versions of drivers from NVIDIA after 6.27, we carried tests on the version 6.47.
Note that while testing, Vsync was off. Beside this card, you will see the results for the following video cards on the base of GeForce2 GTS 64 MBytes - Inno3D Tornado GeForce2 GTS/64, on the base of GeForce2 GTS 32 MBytes - AOpen PA256 Deluxe, on the base of GeForce2 Pro - Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Pro, on the base of GeForce2 Ultra - Creative 3D Blaster Annihilator2 Ultra and ASUS AGP-V7700 Ultra.
2D-graphics. I should notice that it just slightly differs in speed from the cards on GeForce2 GTS that were already considered.
As far as 2D is concerned, we have something to say here. Some time ago we wrote about the perfect quality of NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS which is comparable to that of Matrox cards. In this case the quality is rather good if meaning image sharpness. But there are some noticable artefacts. Not so long ago in the Net we have come across some information concerning the problems in 2D with the cards from Creative and Hercules on the base of GeForce2 Ultra - at certain resolutions and frame rates there might appear horizontal waves. The manufacturers haven't said a word. So, it's probably irreparable. It seems like when at cutoff working of some components results in such pickups. Though, there can be some other reasons. Unfortunately, Leadtek is one of those who have produced such cards. With WinFast GeForce2 Ultra you can often see such blinking at definite resolutions and frame rates. But these artifacts can be seen on the monitors with quite a big diagonal; as for 17" I haven't noticed any. Interstingly, that ASUS AGP-V7700 for instance, doesn't reveal such artefacts.
The following programs will help us to consider performance in 3D-graphics:
The test on the standard demo002 was carried out in two modes: Fast (shows card's work in 16-bit color) and High Quality (shows card's work in 32-bit color).
The results were expectable. The card provides for good gameability even at 1600X1200X32, all results do not practically differ from that of competitors. It's interesting to show you the performance gain when working in overclocking mode:
As you can see it doesn't go over 15%. Why are we doing such comparison? There is only one reason - to show you what a future NVIDIA product NV20 can give. In the Net are the rumors that performance gain of NV20 can constitute 16 - 35% as comparing with the GeForce2 Ultra according to the most pessimistic forecasts (optimists say it may surpass even 100%). That's why considering the performance of the overclocked Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra we can say that the speed of the NV20 will be undoubtedly higher. It means that 1600X1200X32 resolution will be acceptable from the viewpoint of gameability (of course if a user possesses a monitor supporting this mode).
The test on Quaver was implemented in two modes as well: 16-bit and 32-bit color. In both cases we used maximum quality settings (trilinear filtering, maximum level of geometry detailing, texture quality was set to 4).
This benchmark uses a level with large textures (q3dm9), so it was very interesting just to show how the most powerful video accelerators manage to do it. Sure, the gameability in 1600X1200X32 is under an acceptable level, however the lower resolution in 32bit color ensures comfort while playing.
We will use this game to show the card's speed in Direct3D.
The results show that in 16-bit color the card performance gets stuck against the CPU frequency, and even 1 GHz processor power is not enough for realization of GeForce2 Ultra. The game possibilities are very high.
This test based on the newest engine from Crytek shows us all latest enhancements from NVIDIA in the field of 3D-graphics. In the test there are a lot of objects in the scene, each consisting of great number of polygons. That's why the complicity of the game is very high. And with it we can see high realistic graphics.
I have already told you that even the most powerful accelerators can't cope with it. You can see that the Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra turned to be the best. Let's check its performance increase while overclocking:
First of all, I should notice that overclock frequencies in this test are reduced. Unfortunately, these flat heatsinks and quite a weak fan couldn't avert it. This test still loads both the graphics processor and the memory too much. Looking at the ocerclocking results, you may see that it goes no further than 15%, that's why we can only say the same here about the future of the GPU NV20: it will be much more efficient than an overclocked GeForce2 Ultra. But note that we are not completely sure in the information concerning NV20 performance. So, the statement might be wrong.
Well, returning to the X-Isle I am to make a conclusion that the market of modern videocards is not ready for such games (not so many users possess accelerators of GeForce2 GTS level and higher). We should wait more than a year for the current expensive cards to fall down to $100, and only then we will be able to see the games with almost photoreal graphics. Of cause such games will be appearing all the time, but their mass sales won't be so soon.
Finishing with the performance of Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra, I want to stress on the following:
The quality in 3D is just splendid!
Of cause, many of you are interested in the work of new cards from the point of view of DVD-video support.
I have already noticed that NVIDIA GeForce256/GeForce2 chips offer a full support for Motion Compensation when decoding MPEG2-stream. All modern soft DVD players are supported by GeForce256/GeForce2 chipsets, that's why you can easily get a good quality level of video playback together with a low CPU load. The Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra card is equipped with DVDMagic v.2.55 player which is based on a popular PowerDVD v.2.5. After optimization of all functions under NVIDIA GeForce2 the image on NVIDIA GeForce2 Ultra was fairy-tale. And the processor's load constituted only 25-26% !
NVIDIA has released the most powerful graphics accelerator. Leadtek Research, according to the tradition to release video cards on all chips from NVIDIA, has created a video card based on GeForce2 Ultra which entirely corresponds to High-End class in the segment of game videocards.
Undoubtedly, the working speed of this card in 3D is fabulous. If you are not a budget-conscious man, you can get it at $450. Besides, the Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra has some peculiar features that make the card unique. Nevertheless, today GeForce2 Ultra based cards aren't affordable for the majority. If you still feel it to be too high, you can get the GeForce2 Pro based cards or at least wait 1-2 months when the prices should fall down to $300.
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