iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600, 
ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series)
Video Cards Review

November 16, 2002


  1. Peculiarities of the Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600 and ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 
  2. Testbeds, test tools, 2D quality
  3. Information on performance of GeForce4 Ti video cards 
  4. Conclusion

Although there are not many girls who can consider themselves experts in video cards, the video card from Sparkle is designed exactly for them! :-) 

This Taiwanese company whose production facilities are located in China is well known in the world. Unfortunately, its cards are often named in price-lists as simply "NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 VIVO" and sell at very low prices. We understand that it's Sparkle, because it produces all such cards with VIVO and noname companies hardly deal with such cards. But why don't they indicate the company's name? Its name is anyway written on the boxes. Besides, Sparkle produces cards for eVGA which is so popular in the USA. 

The second product is from so famous ASUSTeK. The video card department has changed a lot regarding variety of lines and the price policy. 

Once overpriced cards now have their prices much down, the company develop new families based on the same chipset within which cards differ in features, accessories etc. Just take a look at the GeForce4 Ti 4200 family which includes 4 or 5 cards including solutions based on the Ti 4600" PCB - V8420S. Contrary to a similar card from Albatron, the V8420S has frequencies of both memory and chip increased, and this card can easily compete against the Albatron's product. 

However, we wrote about all that stuff in the reviews listed below. 

  Theoretical and analytical videocard reviews, containing functional analysis of NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti GPU: NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti

As the name of the Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600 card indicates, it uses the Ti 4600 but with some improvements implied by the word Platinum. Today we will also study the ASUS's solution which is based on the GeForce4 Ti 4200 with AGP8x (NV28) - V9280S from the SuperFast series. But this is also more than just Ti 4200-8x: this is a card on the same Ti4600's PCB. 


Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600 

ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB 

Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600 

The card has AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 

It comes with Samsung memory marked as K4D26323RA-GC2B of the maximum frequency of 350 (700) MHz which corresponds to 2.8ns. The memory works not at 325 (650) MHz which is typical of Ti 4600, but at 340 (680) MHz. And the GPU runs at standard 300 MHz. This is thus a bit improved version of the Ti 4600. Since the Gainward Golden Sample this is the second card on such GPU with lifted up frequencies. 

ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB 

The card has AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 

It comes with Samsung memory marked as K4D26323RA-GC2B of the maximum frequency of 350 (700) MHz which corresponds to 2.8ns. It's the first time when a Ti 4200 card comes complete with the memory of Ti 4600. But the card works at 300 (600) MHz. Although it's much higher than a speed of usual Ti 4200 cards, it's still far from the level of Ti 4600 - 325 (650) MHz. Nevertheless, it is a good present for overclockers! The GPU runs at 275 MHz, which is also an increased frequency for the Ti 4200. In fact, this is an advanced Ti 4400! Plus AGP 8x. I think at expected $200-210 this card will sell like hot cakes. 

Comparison with the reference design, front view 
Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600  Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 

ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB  Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200 with AGP8x 

Comparison with the reference design, back view
Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600  Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 

ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB  Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200 with AGP8x 


Now the most tasty thing - an unusual design of the Sparkle's card, and first of all, the design of its cooling system. 

The cooler consists of two heatsinks (like on a similar card from Leadtek) meant for the chip and memory. Such approach is not ideal as heavy heatsinks can move in course of operation breaking the contact between the heatsinks and the chips, and the chip can be like in a hothouse. It causes overheating and failures. 

Although these heatsinks have heat-conducting pads which make the contact with the chips tighter, I still think that separate heatsinks for a core and memory would be a more reliable and effective solution. One of the advantages is the shape of the turn of the big heatsink over the card in the form of a cylinder with a large hole. If they mounted an additional fan blowing air along the card the air would pass through this hole cooling down the heatsink. 

The whole cooler will be shown below. 

The card supports hardware monitoring of the card's state which is based on the daughter card on the left on top. Don't worry: this is not shifting of the d-Sub onto a daughter card but mounting of respective elements on a small plate: 

Like the Ti 4600/4400 cards from Sparkle, this one is equipped with the VIVO realized with the Philips processor (Philips 7114 codec is integrated into the ASUS V9280S card as well): 

The ASUSTeK's card has a peculiar cooling system: 

The large heatsink has a copper base which is well polished. The other heatsink made in the form of a plate which is mounted on the back of the card for cooling memory, but it's not that good as it should be: 

The plate is fastened only in two places and one of the corners is not pressed tightly, i.e. the contact is not proper. Besides, ASUS saved on the thermal grease, and the plate is just lying on the chips making heat removal even worse. 

On the front side there are separate heatsinks for the memory chips (one for a pair). 

The cooler hides the GPU itself: 

Here are the coolers: 
Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600 
In this table we will look at the coolers in general. Outwardly such solution looks pretty nice. Note that the "armor" weighs much less than that of the Leadtek's cooler we saw earlier. 

ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB 
What a beautiful cooler: a copper core, golden framing... I think that such cooler (separate for a chip and memory) is more effective than a solid heatsink, though the problem with the plate on the back worsens the impression. 


Both cards come with VIVO, they have d-Sub and DVI connectors. 

And now we are going to look into the boxes:   

Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600 
User Guide, CD with drivers and utilities (including those for hardware monitoring), CyberLink PowerDirector (Video IN), several games (though quite old), VIVO adapter/splitter, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, jar for CDs. 

ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB 
User Guide, CD with drivers and utilities, ASUS DVD, 3 full versions of games and 6 demo versions, VR Aquarium, CyberLink PowerDirector, VIVO adapter/splitter (in the form of a big unit), DVI-to-d-Sub adapter. 


In the Sparkle's jar we have found a tape with pockets for CDs. 

Both cards ship in the retail packages. 

Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600 
This certainly is going to attract girls :-). S/U/M/A/ was first to put its products into canisters, it was over a year ago, though then it replaced them with transparent plastic. The designs from Sparkle decided to use such an original packaging to attract more customers. It's interesting that such a rich set of accessories must be packed back into the box in the strictly defined order because the card itself can be placed only into the middle :-). 

ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB 
Starting from the SuperFast series ASUSTeK changes the exterior of the box making it bigger (like for the Deluxe series), and inside all the stuff is packed into a plastic box. 


That's all about the peculiarities of the cards. 


Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600  300/680 -> 325/720 MHz, quite good results for the memory and average ones for the core. 
ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB  275/600 -> 326/710 MHz, excellent for the Ti 4200, - it reaches the top scores of many Ti 4600 based cards! 


Test system and drivers


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

In the tests we used NVIDIA's drivers of v40.72. VSync was off, S3TC was off in the applications. 

Test results

Before we start examining 2D quality I should say that there is no a complete technique of objective estimation of this parameter because: 

  1. Almost all modern 3D accelerators can have 2D quality much dependent on a certain sample, and it's impossible to trace all cards; 
  2. 2D quality depends not only on a video card, but also on a monitor and a cable; 
  3. Besides, certain monitors do not get along with certain video cards. 

As for the tested samples, together with the ViewSonic P817 monitor and BNC Bargo cable the cards showed excellent quality at the following resolutions and frequencies: 

Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz 
ASUS V9280S (Super Fast Series) 128MB  1600x1200x100Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz 

Test results: information from the 3Digest

We won't publish the test results of the cards in question as similar solutions were tested before a lot. The test scores are included into our 3Digest the diagrams from which are given below. We have test results of the Ti 4600 based cards working at 300/650 and 310/680 MHz that is why it won't be a problem to predict the scores of the Sparkle's card at 300/680 MHz, as well as of the ASUSTeK's model. 

For the performance estimation we used: 

Summary diagrams of performance of the video cards on the latest drivers for October 2002

The overclocked cards are marked with red color, the sign o/c (overclocked) is followed by the frequencies reached.

Both cards showed a stable and reliable operation in 3D, no hang-ups were noticed. 


  1. Well, we can applaud to Sparkle for such a successful marketing solution as the Sparkle Platinum GeForce4 Ti 4600. Apart from increased frequencies of the memory the card can boast of the hardware monitoring (which controls temeprature of the card and rotating speeds of both coolers), and VIVO. I hope it won't affect the prices because till today the Ti 4600 based cards were quite low ($240-250). 
  2. ASUSTeK took another approach: instead of improving Ti 4600 based cards which are anyway dear, they decided to turn the Ti 4200 into a sweet pie. The occasion was thankfully provided: an updated version of the Ti 4200 with AGP8x. So, now we have something between Ti 4200, 4400 and 4600: the chip is of the first, the speed is of the second (even higher), and the PCB is from the third. It's an interesting choice for those who considers a Ti 4400 based card. The frequency of the V9280S is a little higher for memory compared to the Ti 4400. Besides, it is a bounty for overclockers. I hope the new price policy of ASUS won't unleash the prices making new products almost senseless. Such cards are promised at $200-210 by retail which is cheaper than usual Ti 4400. Besides, there is a VIVO... 

In our 3Digest you can find complete comparison characteristics of video cards of this and other classes. 




Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com

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