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MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG Video Card Review

December 18, 2001



Stars... they live not only in sky but also on the earth. Astronomers say that small stars are cold and red. But if you take a small earth's star of the international importance it will definitely be red, though it's hardly cold. What? I'm talking nonsense? Well, such a small and international earth's star is MicroStar International, or just MSI, and the most of its products are red. And as I said they are not cold as their heart is made of radiating NVIDIA processors, and in particular, the most powerful Ti 500.

If you look at the sky at night you will see a great deal of stars different, first of all, in brightness. In astronomy apparent brightness of a star is measured in magnitudes. When we enter some computer shop stuffed with various hardware stars our eye is also caught by the "brightest" samples, i.e. unusual in a PCB color, original in design, neat in soldering etc. But in computer industry their brightness is measured not in magnitudes but in "evergreen USA presidents", though for many such sums are comparable to distances to stars...

Nevertheless, even the most expensive game video cards doesn't exceed $350, and some GeForce3 Ti 500 are available at $310. It is much lower than the spring prices for the GeForce3 and especially than prices for GeForce2 Ultra a year ago. Of course, stuffing with additional functions of still dear cards do not near them to an average user, but in case of MSI such add-ins don't affect the price much.

Before we turn to our today's hero I should remind you that the whole theoretical base connected with the GeForce3 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).

I think MSI needs no introduction. Along with such majors as ASUSTeK and Gigabyte, MSI produces a wide range of video cards on NVIDIA processors, including a line of expensive GeForce3/Ti based cards which contains samples based not only on a reference design but also on the MSI's own one. Some its cards are bundled with additional multimedia functions. Although there are similar cards, for example, from ASUSTeK or Gainward, the card in question looks more original.

Card

The MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG card 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. It is a usual memory installed on all GeForce3 cards. As you know, all GeForce3 Ti 500 based cards have a memory operating at 250 (500) MHz, that is why the engineers don't couple it with a faster (i.e. dearer) memory as a margin of safety of the current 3.8 ns is enough. Besides, the new PCB allows for overclocking the memory up to 295 (590) MHz, which is impossible for GeForce3 cards.

Now let's look at the card itself because it should have its own PCB as it provides support for VIVO and stereo glasses.

MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG

NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 reference card

However, the card is based on the reference design from NVIDIA, though the left side of the card is modernized for the Philips 7102 chip controlling the VIVO:

There is a connector for VideoIn on the left against a chip-coder (an S-Video connector; the card comes with an S-Video-to-RCA adapter). The TV-out is equipped with two connectors that is why there will be no problems with video equipment lacking for S-Video connectors.

The MSI engineers decided to use a daughter card for stereo glasses. That is why a set of devices for reproduction of a stereo effect consists of two components: stereo glasses and a daughter card which is to be installed into a free bay of the case (it, thus, doesn't take a slot).

The daughter card is connected with a VGA-VGA cable:

As I have mentioned, the card comes with an VGA-VGA adapter (the photo shows this adapter and the S-Video-to-RCA one for VideoIn):

The daughter card has two connectors for the glasses, i.e. for two users (in design these glasses do not differ from those of ASUSTeK or ELSA, though they are much lighter than the ASUS's ones). These glasses aim to get a stereo effect in movies and video clips. Hence the special software MSI 3D Theater. It is a DVD player which can reproduce not only MPEG2 but also other formats; the player supports a stereo mode:

As you can see, there are settings for any types of stereo glasses available on the market today which have a minijack connector.

Remember that the card can be supplied with an adapter-splitter for supplying power to the daughter card through a connector like that of a Floppy drive, and the card itself may have the respective connector unsoldered. It is a peculiarity of the new revision of a daughter card which doesn't require additional power.

You may say that such a method of connection of stereo glasses worsens image quality because there is one more element sensitive to pickups between a display and a RAMDAC, which is an VGA-VGA adapter. I think it depends on service conditions and quality of your display. I didn't notice any drawbacks on the ViewSonic P810 with a D-Sub cable; however, the image became a bit worse on the ViewSonic P817 with a BNC cable.

The fan has three cables which mean that there is a tachometer; besides, a large Leadtek-like heatsink hides a thermo sensor:

Unfortunately, it doesn't touch the heatsink, and to remove the latter without breaking the clips is impossible. The Hardware Monitoring is realized with the 3D Tools utility from MSI.

Now a little on the VideoIn. The card ships with InterVideo software for video capture (WinCoder) and for clip editing (WinProducer). But before you should install NVIDIA WDM Drivers for video capture which are recorded on a CD provided (the latest version can be downloaded from the NVIDIA's site - http://www.nvidia.com). The latest drivers support all types of a signal, including SECAM. The InterVideo software allows recording clips in various formats: MPEG1/2 and AVI with all possible compressions. I wrote about it in-depth in the ASUSTeK Titanium review.

The cards ships in a retail package:

Accessories:

  • User's manual;
  • CD with software and utilities;
  • CD with a program DVD player from MSI;
  • CD with MSI 3D Theater;
  • CD with InterVideo WinCoder/WinProducer;
  • CD with Sacrifice game;
  • Adapter for VideoIn;
  • VGA-VGA adapter;
  • Power supply adapter-splitter;
  • Daughter card for stereo glasses;
  • Stereo glasses.

Overclocking

Well, the MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG card has quite a low overclocking potential; it has reached only 248/270(540) MHz. Taking into account that the GeForce3 performance mainly depends on a chip, and to the least extent on the memory, such a speed gain will hardly affect a performance considerably. That is why it makes no sense to test this card in an overclocking mode.

Test system and drivers

Test system for the MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG card:

  • Pentium4 based get-up (Socket 478):
    • Intel Pentium4 2100;
    • ASUS P4T-E (i850) mainboard;
    • 512 MB RDRAM PC800;
    • Quantum FB AS HDD, 20 GHz;
    • 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.

For the comparative analyses we used the following cards:

  • ASUS AGP-V8200 Deluxe (GeForce3, 200/230(460) MHz, 64 MHz);
  • Reference card NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 (240/250 (500) M, 64 M);
  • Reference card NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 200 (175/200 (400) M, 64 M);
  • ATI RADEON 8500LE (250/250 (500) M, 64 M, driver 7.206);
  • ATI RADEON 8500 (275/275 (550) M, 64 M, driver 7.206).

The card comes with the v14.61 drivers which know nothing about the Ti 500, that is why we used the latest drivers v21.85.

Let's take a closer look at the 3D Tools utility from MSI:

As you can see, this program has a lot of possibilities for fine adjustment of the card, including overclocking. There is a system of virtual desktops, you can change a frame rate and a resolution simultaneously etc. But the most interesting thing is this one:

Here you can control hardware monitoring of the card. Thus, you can enable a creeping line informing about temperature and speed of the cooler:

Test results

The 2D quality is very good (I mean when the daughter card is disabled). You can work comfortably in 1600x1200 at 85 Hz. I should remind you that it is my personal opinion which depends on a certain sample and on compatibility of a video card and a monitor. Remember that it is necessary to have a high-quality monitor to estimate 2D quality, and if it is equipped with BNC connectors you should use exactly them.

For estimation of 3D quality we used:

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (id Software) " a game test which demonstrates operation of a card in OpenGL with our demo benchmark ixbtdemo.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)

ixbtdemo, high quality modes

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

It is interesting that in this much tougher for a video card game (as compared with Quake3) the RADEON 8500 shows brilliant results while easily outscoring even the GeForce3 Ti 500 (but with the new driver version the speed of the RADEON 8500 has fallen down much, though the performance in the 3DMark2001 has increased). The MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG meets all the requirements of quality and performance of its class. The performance drop with the anisotropy enabled is identical to what we have seen in the Quake3 and Serious Sam; but this is merely one Achilles' heel of the GeForce3 (except the situation with the latest drivers' versions).

In closing, I'd like to advise you to read also other reviews of GeForce3/Ti based video cards. Besides, in our 3Digest you can get thorough information on performance of these cards on different platforms.

Conclusion

We have examined the most feature-rich card on the GeForce3 Ti 500 (except ASUS V8200T5 Deluxe, but the MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG, unlike the ASUS, supports stereo glasses not only in games but also in movies). The card shows excellent speed and quality characteristics peculiar to all GeForce3 Ti 500 cards. The card is almost impossible to overclock, but all other cards on the Ti 500 do not perform much better as the Ti 500 itself works with its last bit of strength as it is just an overclocked GeForce3.

  1. MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG meets all requirements of its class.
  2. The card provides the highest speed in 3D games, as well as some additional functions: VIVO and stereo modes (the latter works both in games and in movies); at the same time, the card is not much dearer than its brother without stereo glasses support.
  3. The card delivers excellent quality, has a rich set of accessories and an attractive Retail package.

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

Highs:

  • The highest performance in 3D graphics;
  • Excellent quality of the card and an original color of the PCB;
  • Normal support of VIVO and stereo glasses (the stereo mode is possible in games and in movies);
  • Attractive retail package;
  • Lower price as compared with ASUS V8200T5 Deluxe.

Lows:

  • The fact that stereo glasses are connected through a daughter card may affect 2D quality in high resolutions (1280x1024 and beyond) on certain monitors.

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