iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail

Platform

Video

Multimedia

Mobile

Other

MSI GF4Ti4600 Video Card Review

March 15, 2002



Stars have always been attractive. Because of their mystery (not minor than that of the NV30 :-) , because of a sweet obscure and vague image (curiosity and a desire to cognize are sometimes stronger than fears). Such aureole is also hanging around the GeForce4 Ti.

However, the 3D monsters called GeForce4 Ti start creeping out of forges where they were fondly grown up. And one such forge, or even a foundry is MicroStar International which is situated in Taiwan.

When a new GPU appears we, first, speak on the processor itself leaving video cards which incarnate its capabilities aside. Moreover, such reviews often examine preproduction samples. But now it's time to learn properties and characteristics of a production card which was among the first to come onto the scene in its class. As usual, we start a new cycle of reviews, and now we have just one article on the GeForce4 Ti.

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

It turned out that there are much more video cards on the GeForce4 MX440 than on the Ti 4400/4600, though they were announced simultaneously. To make up for it we will examine today the first production card from MSI (MicroStar International) based on the most powerful 3D accelerator - GeForce4 Ti 4600.

Card

The MSI GF4Ti4600 has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on both sides of the PCB.

The memory chips are produced by Samsung with the 2.8 ns access time which corresponds to 357 (714) MHz. The card works at 325 (650) MHz.

Although the new package and design allow the card work at its rated frequencies the engineers played safe and reduced the memory frequency by more than 30 MHz.

MSI GF4Ti4600

NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600

It's quite typical of MSI to follow the reference design, and the MSI GF4Ti4600 is not an exception.

The design of the heatsink is very similar to what we saw on the NVIDIA's card, but the metallic cover is replaced by the plastic one. Although it makes the appearance more attractive, a noise level becomes higher.

The card contains a Philips's processor of the 7100 series (DAC-ACD) which since GeForce3 is used for VideoIn-VideoOut (VIVO). The card is really equipped with VIVO (VideoOut is realized via the GPU) but there is no an adapter-splitter for VideoIn (only for VideoOut).

I failed to test the VIVO as none of adapters/splitters in our lab fitted the card. However, the WDM drivers from NVIDIA found the NVIDIA Video Capture device on the card.

You might often hear that some cards are not compatible with mainboards on a software level (BIOS, OS, drivers). However, physical incompatibility also can take place when a video card doesn't fit its slot or there are some other elements preventing it. Look at the photo below:

Here we used the EpoX 8KHA+ mainboard (KT266A). There is just half a mm that separates capacitors on the card and board. If the board had a little bit higher capacitors the video card couldn't be inserted. Besides, according the norm the distance between two electric elements on different devices mustn't be less than 15 mm. And here such a close position may worse stability of the card and integrity of the elements.

This problem was first touched by HardOCP site which was able to get a response from EPoX. The company stated that those capacitors installed on the mainboard next to the AGP slot were actually unnecessary; they used them to play safe, and the capacitors can be soldered out. It's funny to hear such stuff. Nevertheless, there are no other ways to solve the problem. That is why if you are an owner of the 8KHA+ mainboard be careful when choosing a video card on the GeForce4 Ti.

The MSI GF4Ti4600 card is equipped with three connectors: VGA, DVI and TV-out.

The card ships in a Retail package which contains:

  • user manual;
  • 9 (!) discs with software:
    • MSI DVD player;
    • drivers and utilities;
    • InterVideo WinCoder/WinProducer;
    • InterVideo WinCoder/WinProducer Service Pack (MPEG4);
    • Sacrifice game (full version);
    • AquaNox game (full version);
    • No One Lives Forever game (2 discs) (full version);
    • MSI Games Collection: 7 demos of the latest games;

  • S-Video extender;
  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter.

I should note that they forgot about a DVI-to-D-Sub adapter, but in all other respects the set of accessories is excellent! All discs come in semitransparent slim boxes of different colors.

Overclocking

The 3DTurbo utility got a new interface based on the flash technology (the utility can be activated via the HTML file). It reduced reliability much, for example, I often had the following

MSIVGA.OCX Error.

And the programs would close.

The card works stably at 315/375 (750) 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 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.

Test system and drivers

Testbed:

  • Pentium 4 based computer:
    • Intel Pentium 4 2200 processor (L2=512K);
    • ASUS P4T-E mainboard (i850);
    • 512 MBytes RDRAM PC800;
    • Quantum FB AS HDD, 20 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 v27.51. VSync was off, S3TC was off.

The card ships with drivers of v27.20.

For the comparative analyses we used the following cards:

  • Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 (300/325 (650) MHz, 128 MBytes);
  • ABIT Siluro GF3 Ti500 (NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500, 240/250 (500) MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • ATI RADEON 8500 (275/275 (550) MHz, 64 MBytes, drivers v6.043).

Test results

The 2D quality is very high and corresponds to the reference card's level. You can work comfortably up to 1600x1200@85 Hz. The dual monitor support of such cards was examined in this review.

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 (id Software) - a gaming test which demonstrates operation of the card in OpenGL with the Checkpoint benchmark; test settings: highest quality, S3TC OFF, Trilinear.
  • 3DMark2001 SE (MadOnion) - a synthetic test which demonstrates operation of the card in DirectX 8.1;

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

Grand Cathedral, quality mode

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

Before the ATI's RADEON 8500eXP (300/300 (600) MHz) appears on the scene I tested the RADEON 8500 having increased its frequencies up to the same values in order to compare the top accelerators.

As you can see, even such a powerful card as ATI fights successfully only against the GeForce3 Ti 500.

It is interesting that the tested card works at the same speed on the Pentium4 2200 MHz and AthlonXP 2000+.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)

Checkpoint, High Quality Modes

The tests were carried out in 32-bit color mode at the highest detailing and quality level of textures.

The ATI RADEON 8500/8500eXP yields more to the GeForce3 Ti 500. The GeForce4 Ti 4600 is too far ahead.

And this game seems to be optimized more for the SSE than for 3DNow! as the Intel's platform performs better.

3DMark2001 SE

The situation is similar. The GeForce4 Ti is unachievable.

Game1, Low details

By the way, in this test the RADEON 8500 takes the second place.

Game2, Low details

Here the GeForce3 Ti 500 and RADEON 8500 are going on a par.

Game3, Low details

Here only the overclocked RADEON 8500 is able to stand against the GeForce3 Ti 500.

Game4

Surprisingly, the RADEON 8500 easily outscores the Ti 500 and comes very close to the GeForce4 Ti 4600.

Advanced Pixel Shader

This test is included into the new version of the 3DMark2001 SE and demonstrates operation of the cards using pixel shaders of v.1.4 (or shaders of v.1.0-1.1, in this case a water surface is formed in two passes).

It's interesting that:

  1. Strangely the RADEON 8500 has higher results when the DXTC texture compression technology is used (you could see it yet in the Gigabyte RADEON 8500 review).
  2. Although the RADEON 8500 forms a water surface (which is a key object in this test) in one pass, and the GeForce3 Ti 500 in two, the former loses without the DXTC.

ANISOTROPIC FILTERING

In the NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti review we saw that the later models had a worse performance drop than their predecessors (GeForce3 Ti 500). It's not pleasant as many gamers today use this filtering type to improve the quality. However, later we saw that the NVIDIA cards realized this filtering completely. As for the RADEON 8500, it doesn't support anisotropy on some surfaces at some angles different from 90 degrees. Look at the screenshots below from the Serious Sam game:

ATI RADEON 8500



NVIDIA GeForce4



Here are animated GIF files:

ATI RADEON 8500 NVIDIA GeForce4

As you can see, the picture is very blurry at some angles in case of the RADEON 8500. That is why, the performance doesn't drop so much. It possibly also depends on a scene and surfaces at different angles. We will take a look at it later. Also, we will check where there are any changes in the performance drop of the GeForce4 Ti 4600 with newer driver versions.

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Grand Cathedral, quality mode

The tests were carried out in 32-bit mode.

Well, the drop is also very strong, and playability fell down to the maximum anisotropy level of the RADEON 8500. Well, it's not fair to pay an arm and a leg for the new card and get the speed like that of the much cheaper RADEON 8500.

However, you must remember that the NVIDIA GeForce3/4 guarantees that an image will always be sharp. Well, it's for you to decide what to choose.

3DMark2001 SE, Game1, Low details

This test has a lot of sloping surfaces which are "missed" by the RADEON 8500, that is why the GeForce4 Ti 4600 has a lower performance level even at the highest anisotropy degree.

3DMark2001 SE, Game2, Low details

Here the GeForce4 Ti has a much greater number of surfaces to process while it's not a problem for the RADEON 8500 (in case of flying around surfaces are not often oriented horizontally or vertically); and the ATI's model has quite a decent performance level.

3DMark2001 SE, Game3, Low details

This test was the most difficult for the GeForce4 Ti 4600...

On the whole, the performance decrease of the GeForce4 Ti 4600 remains on the same level. It's not a problem of the drivers, but of the chip, or rather it is a way of realization of this function of the hardware level. However, you may set an intermediate level. Besides, in our 3Digest we showed how it's possible to improve sharpness at the Level4.

In addition

In this part I will show you what additional software (apart from gaming one) is supplied with this card.

  1. MSI 3D Turbo Experience - utility for overclocking and monitoring of the card's state (for those which are equipped with Hardware Monitoring, right now there are no such cards from MSI).
  2. MSI Live Update - utility for auto update of BIOS and drivers from the MSI's site.
  3. MSI GoodMem - utility controlling free RAM and optimizing data layout there.
  4. MSI LockBox - utility which turns a computer into a "digital safe" with different protections from unauthorized access.

In closing I recommend that you read our GeForce4 Ti review. And in our 3Digest you can find detailed information on performance of such cards on different platforms.

Conclusion

The MSI GF4Ti4600 is a very good card based on the most powerful accelerator. The completely reference design, an excellent set of accessories and lack of overpricing give a good chance for the card to succeed. Nevertheless, the price is not low, that is why not all will be able to purchase such cards. However, it is just a matter of time...

The MSI GF4Ti4600 has some minor drawbacks that spoil the impression (a noisy cooler and lack of a possibility to use the VideoIn). I hope they will be eliminated soon.

Highs:

  • Excellent quality of the card;
  • The highest performance level in 3D for the GeForce4 Ti 4600;
  • Full support of all functions from DirectX 8.0 and partial support of those from DirectX 8.1;
  • Attractive expected prices;
  • Rich retail package.

Lows:

  • Lack of an adapter-splitter for VideoIn.

Write a comment below. No registration needed!


Article navigation:



blog comments powered by Disqus

  Most Popular Reviews More    RSS  

AMD Phenom II X4 955, Phenom II X4 960T, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Intel Pentium G2120, Core i3-3220, Core i5-3330 Processors

Comparing old, cheap solutions from AMD with new, budget offerings from Intel.
February 1, 2013 · Processor Roundups

Inno3D GeForce GTX 670 iChill, Inno3D GeForce GTX 660 Ti Graphics Cards

A couple of mid-range adapters with original cooling systems.
January 30, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1

An external X-Fi solution in tests.
September 9, 2008 · Sound Cards

AMD FX-8350 Processor

The first worthwhile Piledriver CPU.
September 11, 2012 · Processors: AMD

Consumed Power, Energy Consumption: Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge

Trying out the new method.
September 18, 2012 · Processors: Intel
  Latest Reviews More    RSS  

i3DSpeed, September 2013

Retested all graphics cards with the new drivers.
Oct 18, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, August 2013

Added new benchmarks: BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light.
Sep 06, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, July 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 and AMD Radeon HD 7730.
Aug 05, 2013 · 3Digests

Gainward GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Golden Sample Graphics Card

An excellent hybrid of GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GeForce GTX 660.
Jun 24, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

i3DSpeed, May 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770/780.
Jun 03, 2013 · 3Digests
  Latest News More    RSS  

Platform  ·  Video  ·  Multimedia  ·  Mobile  ·  Other  ||  About us & Privacy policy  ·  Twitter  ·  Facebook


Copyright © Byrds Research & Publishing, Ltd., 1997–2011. All rights reserved.