Win, Lose or Ti -
21 GeForce Titanium Boards
Редакция THG,  18 декабря 2001


Introduction

Cards

Graphics cards using NVIDIA's GeForce3 chips had only been available at retail for a few weeks when the company released its next chip update. The Titanium series was right on time, following the schedule to which NVIDIA has been adhering very successfully for the last few years. This strategy calls for the introduction of a new chip in the spring, which is then followed up with a refined and tweaked version toward the end of the year.

This year's fall update saw only moderate changes, and the chips belonging to the Titanium series - the Ti200 and Ti500 - only differ from the original GeForce3 in memory and core speed. NVIDIA also claims to have been able to refine and optimize the manufacturing process.

Overview of the Titanium Series

GeForce2 Ti: The successor to the GeForce2 GTS/Pro - a pure die-shrink of the GeForce2 from 0.18 to 0.15 micron. Runs at 250/400MHz.

GeForce3 Ti200: The new mainstream board, basically a GeForce3 light. Sells at half the price of its big brother and comes with a full set of GF3 features, including Pixel and Vertex shaders. Runs at 175/400MHz.

GeForce3 Ti500: The replacement for the old GeForce3. Old price, new speed: 240/500MHz.

Overview of the Titanium Series

The GeForce3 Ti cards differ from their predecessors in more than just clock speed. The new models also use a refined layout. The most visible change is the new power supply which uses fewer components. Also, the Ti500 boards use eight-layer PCBs, instead of the current six-layer design, although some companies have also started using these PCBs for their Ti200 models. While this may give the impression of a higher quality product, we were unable to make out any differences between the six- and eight-layer models in operation. Theoretically, it would even be possible to use a Ti500 on an "old" GF3 PCB without any problems.

3D Chips Compared
Chip Name

NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti

NVIDIA GeForce2 Ti

NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti200

NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti500

Core Designation NV 20 NV 15 NV 20 NV 20
Manufacturing Process 0.15 Micron 0.15 Micron 0.15 Micron 0.15 Micron
Core Clock 200 MHz 250 MHz 175 MHz 240 MHz
Memory Clock 460 MHz (DDR) 400 MHz (DDR) 400 MHz (DDR) 500 MHz (DDR)
Memory Type SDRAM SDRAM/SGRAM SDRAM SDRAM
Memory Bus 128Bit DDR 128Bit DDR 128Bit DDR 128Bit DDR
Memory Size 64 MB 32/64 MB 32/64 MB 64 MB
RAMDAC (S) 350 MHz 350 MHz 350 MHz 350 MHz
Bus Interface AGP 1x/2x/4x AGP 1x/2x/4x AGP 1x/2x/4x AGP 1x/2x/4x
T&L 3rd Generation 2nd Generation 3rd Generation 3rd Generation
DirectX Generation DX8 DX7 DX8 DX8
Pixel Shader Yes No Yes Yes
Vertex Shader Yes No (Emul.) Yes Yes
Rendering Pipelines 4 4 4 4
Textures per Pipe 2 2 2 2
Texel/s 1600 Mio 2000 Mio 1400 Mio 1920 mio
Memory Bandwidth 7,4 GByte/s 6,4 GByte/s 6,4 GByte/s 8,0 GByte/s
Textures per Pipe 2 2 2 2

The Lineup: 21 Titanium Boards

The number of companies offering cards based on the new Titanium chips has continued to grow steadily over the last few months. Several new Korean and Chinese brands have entered the market, but we can also welcome a new player from the United States, an outfit called PNY. If you're planning on treating your computer to a new video card this Christmas, you'll face a difficult decision - the choices have never been so good, or so hard. For this test, we've assembled a field of 21 graphics cards using the new Titanium chips to get a rough overview of the products currently available in stores.

The Lineup: 21 Titanium Boards

The suspects by name:

  • ASUS: V7700 Ti ; V8200 T2 Deluxe ; V8200 T5 Deluxe
  • Gainward: CARDEXpert GeForce2 Ti500 XP; CARDEXpert GeForce3 Ti550 TV
  • Gigabyte: Tundra GeForce3 Ti200
  • Hercules: 3D Prophet GeForce3 Ti200; 3D Prophet GeForce3 Ti500
  • Leadtek: WinFast Titanium TH; WinFast Titanium 200 TDH; WinFast Titanium 500 TD
  • MSI: GF2Ti Pro-VT; G3Ti200 Pro-TD; G3Ti500 Pro-VTG
  • Prolink PixelView: GeForce2 Ti
  • PNY: Verto GeForce3 Ti500
  • Suma: Platinum GeForce2 Ti; Platinum GeForce3 Ti200
  • Visiontek: Xtasy 5864 (GF2 Ti); Xtasy 6564 (Ti200); Xtasy 6964 (Ti500)

While this may seem like an impressive list, this selection of Ti boards represents only a fraction of what can be found in stores. Companies like ASUS, for example, offer no fewer than ten different variations on the Titanium theme. From this multitude, we have attempted to pick the most important and most interesting models - or at least the most important and interesting of the ones available to us.

Ignoring the Speed Limit

Nowadays, buying video cards is no longer as spectacular as it used to be - aside from the very steep price. The cards themselves differ mostly visually, in that they may have a colored PCB or heatsink, or maybe an extra large fan. Other than that, boards that use the same chip are largely identical. What really sets them apart from each other is usually their feature set. Where one card offers a digital output for flat-panel monitors, another comes with TV-In and/or TV-Out, 3D shutter glasses or hardware monitoring. Lastly, the bundled software may be more of a deciding factor than the brand name.

From a performance perspective, all cards using the same chip are on the same level. A no-name GeForce2 Ti will be just as fast as a Gainward GeForce2 Ti 500 with extra fast memory chips, for example. This phenomenon is easily explained. The deciding factor in a card's stock speed is the card BIOS, which sets the memory and core clockspeeds. Until now, NVIDIA has always kept a very close eye on the card makers, to ensure that no card was set to run outside the specifications set forth by NVIDIA. Gainward is attempting to circumvent this problem by overclocking through the driver - which is no different than overclocking through software tools. ASUS has introduced a similar "feature" with the "3D Turbo" options. ASUS' solution is nontransparent, though, in that you have no real control over the level of overclocking. But these cards will only run at higher speeds with the company's own driver - switching to a reference driver will naturally reset all frequency to the standard as set in the card's BIOS. Only with the introduction of ATi's RADEON 8500 has NVIDIA's stance on overclocking changed. Suddenly, NVIDIA's official company line is that no one is really opposed to higher frequencies and a little tweaking. Competition: It's what's having you for dinner!

Still, as things stand now, features like faster memory chips or extra cooling only come into play when the card is overclocked manually, be it through software or an "unofficial" BIOS. As our overclocking tests show, the results are well worth the effort, as most cards still have a lot of headroom. Unfortunately, most companies still officially oppose overclocking, fearing consumers could damage their cards and try to get replacements through warranty programs - a very costly prospect. Only Gainward openly favors and even supports overclocking, guaranteeing stable operation when a card is overclocked - within certain limits, of course.

Looking at the current generation of video cards, it is obvious that choosing the "right" card has become more a matter of taste than of technical finesse. All companies base their drivers on NVIDIA's reference release. Most don't even bother to replace NVIDIA's logo with their own anymore. The American companies seem particularly unimaginative in this respect. Most cards from Taiwan at least come bundled with a small collection of tools or utilities that make everyday use of the card more comfortable or allow certain tweaks.

With the cards being as similar as they are, the only other remaining point of interest (besides overclocking capabilities) is a card's signal quality. For all cards in this group, the image quality ranged somewhere between good and very good - depending, to some extent, on the monitor used.

Neighborhood Watch: How To Spot A GeForce3

GeForce3 cards look very similar. So similar, in fact, that only an expert would be able to tell a Ti200 from a Ti500 or an "old" GeForce3. The memory is often covered by heatsinks, making a visual identification impossible, and even the designations found on the GPU are far from clear.

This makes telling the different models apart by visual inspection very difficult, since even the PCB designs can vary. You might find a Ti200 chip on an old GF3 PCB, and there have even been some sightings of such on Ti500 boards.

In 90% of the cases, there will be some way of telling the cards apart. When unsure about a card, the best thing to do is take a closer look at the board, itself.

Let's take the Hercules 3D Prophet family as an example:

GeForce3

On the GeForce3, the clock generator sits at the edge of the card. The power supply, consisting of two (open or closed) coils, is located on the upper side of the card.

GeForce3 Ti200

This is the typical new Ti200 layout, with the large capacitors on the right-hand side. The clock generator is no longer on the edge of the board. Many Ti200 boards are also based on the old GeForce3 reference layout.

GeForce3 Ti500

The layout of the Ti500 uses only one component on the upper part of the board, and the clock generator has also been moved away from the edge.

Of course, these are only general pointers, and should by no means be considered canon, but they do help you identify most of the boards available in stores today. Identifying a board is much easier during operation. This can be very helpful if the salesperson at your local computer store agrees to install the card into a computer if you are unsure about it. During boot-up, press the pause key when the monitor displays the PCI devices.

Boot-up Screen

Each chip has its own PCI device ID:

  • GeForce2 Pro: 0150
  • GeForce2 Ti: 0151
  • GeForce3: 0200
  • GeForce3 Ti200: 0201
  • GeForce3 Ti500: 0202

These individual characteristics should help you to tell the models apart, hopefully preventing any potential problems when buying a card. On the other hand, for someone with enough criminal motivation, re-branding a Ti200 to appear as a Ti500 would likely be no problem at all, either...

TV-Out

NVIDIA-based boards use third-party chips for their TV-Out solutions, usually either a Conexant or a Chrontel chip. Cards with additional TV-In capability are the exception, and use a combination chip made by Philips.

TV-Out Chips

One of the biggest drawbacks to NVIDIA's GPUs is that they are only equipped with a single RAMDAC. Consequently, the video signal can only be output at a single refresh rate. When TV-Out is activated, the monitor signal is disabled, since the DAC is already in use. Theoretically, it would still be possible to use the monitor output regardless, because many monitors support the necessary 50Hz mode (for PAL output). After all, a flickering image is better than no image at all. Unfortunately, this feature is disabled in NVIDIA's drivers.

As a result, the usefulness of the TV-Out feature on Titanium cards is very limited. Not only is the usability of the computer reduced, the maximum output resolution is also limited to either 800x600 or 1024x768 (depending on the encoder chip's ability to scale the image).

The results of the various chips with TV-Out:

TV-Out Philips
SAA7108E
Conexant
CX25871-13
Conexant
Bt868/869
Chrontel
7007A-T
Chrontel
7008A-T*
PAL NTSC PAL NTSC PAL NTSC PAL NTSC PAL NTSC
Centered Image 640x480 Border OK Border Border Border Border Border Border - -
Image Size 640x480 Border OK Border Border Border Border Border Border - -
Centered Image 800x600 OK OK Border Border Border Border Border Border - -
Image Size 800x600 OK OK Border Border Border Border Border Border - -
Centered Image 1024x768 - - Border Border - - - - - -
Image Size 1024x768 - - Border Border - - - - - -
Max. Resolution 800x600 1024x768 800x600 800x600 -
Dual View - - - - -

OK = Output displayed correctly
Border = Black frame around output, no correction possible
*Found on both SUMA models. See text for details.

So, in addition to the hardware limitations, the TV-Out is also impeded by unsatisfactory software. Shareware tools such as TV-Tool are a good investment here, enabling features like Dual View (also called Overscan), Image Zoom and others on cards using Conexant chips, proving that, with a little work and some know-how, an implementation in the drivers should be no problem at all.

Other chipmakers, namely ATi and Matrox, for years have produced boards which are shining examples of what TV-Out should be. The card makers blame NVIDIA, as the company is responsible for 99% of the work on the drivers. NVIDIA, in turn, has shunned responsibility for the TV-Out driver for years. In the end, it is the buyer that suffers from this situation, since the advertised TV-Out features of his or her dream card will more than likely not work as advertised. The reasons behind this shouldn't be of concern to the consumer - they should, however, be of major concern to the company making the product in question. After all, this problem has been known and criticized for years!

Video Capture: Short clips, If You Please

The TV-In feature works a lot better than the TV-Output. All cards with TV-In functionality use Philips' combo chip SAA-7108E, for which NVIDIA offers a separate capture driver.

Video Capture:  Short clips, If You Please

Of course, we shouldn't expect miracles. Since no form of hardware compression is implemented and the sound encoding is left to the soundcard, the quality of the captured file is strongly dependent on the overall system configuration. The factors that have the greatest influence on the results are usually the following: hard disk performance; CPU speed; and IRQ problems. None of the cards tested here are equipped with a TV tuner, so a TV signal also needs to be provided, either from a VCR or a TV set.

While this TV-In implementation will be more than sufficient for watching a bit of TV or capturing a short movie, anyone expecting a real video editing solution will be sorely disappointed. While definitely possible, the effort involved with the tools and hardware supplied is simply too great.

3D Shutter Glasses

The Deluxe versions of ASUS' cards, as well as the Ti500 models by PNY and MSI, come bundled with so-called 3D shutter glasses. These glasses allow a real 3D-viewing experience, even with a conventional CRT monitor. What sounds spectacular at first is really based on a rather simple technique. The right and left side of the glasses are alternately darkened for a fraction of a second, during which time the video card driver alters the displayed image to modify the perspective of the 3D scene for the right or left eye, respectively. This way, each eye sees the same scene, but from a slightly shifted perspective. The human brain then uses the two staggered images to create a three-dimensional scene. This works quite well for the majority of users. The shutter glasses will not work for anyone with a sight defect, however. Since the brain then uses completely different methods which are based on prior experience to allow three-dimensional perception, shutter glasses would have no effect on the perceived scene.

3D Shutter Glasses

The first thing you need to make 3D stereo vision an enjoyable experience is a very good monitor. Since the eyes alternately see the scene as it is drawn to the screen, the monitor's perceived refresh-rate is effectively halved. As a result, to play at 1024x768 with a perceived refresh rate of 70Hz, your monitor actually has to run at 140Hz, or 70Hz for each eye. Anything lower is too strenuous for the eyes, since the drop to 120Hz already means perceived 60 Hz and therefore, a flickering image.

Shutter glasses shouldn't be used for more than 30 minutes at a time in any case, as the strain on the eyes is quite great and can cause headaches and even nausea. Also, most monitors show a residual glow when the scene changes and simply can't quite keep up, leading to "ghosting artifacts" - remaining pixels meant to be displayed only for the other eye.

You can find a more detailed explanation of 3D stereo technology and the techniques behind stereo vision on NVIDIA's homepage.

ASUS (Deluxe Models)

ASUS (Deluxe Models)

ASUS has integrated all stereo vision components directly into their video card. The rather bulky glasses are plugged directly into the card, using a jack. The upside to the glasses' massive frame is that it is very effective at keeping out any stray ambient light. Also, the individual glasses are quite generously proportioned, measuring 45x25mm. Even users with eyeglasses should be able to wear the headset. The cable is on the short side, measuring only 200cm.

Unlike the competition, which uses NVIDIA's reference 3D driver, ASUS uses its own software. As this driver is well-tested and has had a long time to mature, the results are very good. The excellent on-screen display deserves special mention here as well.

MSI (GF3 Ti500 Pro-VTG)

MSI (GF3 Ti500 Pro-VTG)

MSI accommodates the circuitry for the stereo effect on a separate slot card, which is connected to the video card with a loop-through cable. It also requires an additional external power supply. Unfortunately, the power connector on the slot card turned out to be a bit too simple - first-time users who don't know that the "1" on the backplane designates the power input will feel a bit insecure when first connecting it. On a positive note, the card does allow you to plug in two sets of glasses at the same time. Despite being made of soft plastic, the glasses make a solid impression. The eyeglasses are the largest available, measuring a full 45x27mm. Nonetheless, this headset can't be recommended to people with glasses. The cable length is even shorter than that of ASUS' glasses at 190cm.

Like PNY, MSI uses NVIDIA's reference stereo driver. Aside from the driver, MSI also ships a software 3D video player, which can play the established .3da 3D video format. A sample video is included, as well. The configuration of the video player is quite cumbersome, and the overall result disappointing.

PNY

PNY

PNY's 3D solution is technically identical to the cable version of the ELSA 3D Revelator and Wicked 3D shutter glasses, and requires no additional hardware. The glasses are simply connected using an adapter cable between monitor and video card. The headset itself seems rather flimsy, and the eyeglasses are the smallest in this group, measuring only 30x25mm. The delicate frame only does a mediocre job of blocking out ambient light. Lastly, PNY's headset also does not fit over a pair of glasses. At least here you're put on a long leash: a full 350cm.

Once again, the driver is standard reference fare, offering all the necessary options, except for an in-game menu. Advanced users will find many options for calibrating and adjusting the glasses. A full list of the available features would deserve an entire article to itself and is beyond the scope of this review, but if you'd like to read more about NVIDIA's 3D stereo driver, take a look at this support file in PDF format.

3D Effect

The first reaction to the 3D stereo effect is usually one of awe, but the enthusiasm quickly fades as it is perceived for what it really is - a nice gimmick to be used now and then. If you're serious about gaming with shutter glasses, you should have a high tolerance for eye-strain and keep a bottle of aspirin handy for the inevitable post-game headache. In addition, the rather short cables of the MSI and ASUS glasses can turn out to be problematic, depending on your setup.

3D Effect

Pragmatically speaking, ASUS' solution is the most comfortable, as it integrates all necessary circuitry on the video card. Just plug in the glasses and you're set. While the PNY headset also works flawlessly, you need to decide for yourself whether or not you're willing to risk sacrificing image quality by using an adapter cable between the card and your monitor. MSI's solution is a hassle to handle and also occupies a slot in your case.

The Cards

ASUS - Choices, Choices

ASUS offers a very wide range of boards based on Titanium GPUs. Traditionally, an ASUS video card family consists of the no-frills Pure versions and the feature-packed Deluxe models. In addition, now there are also hybrid versions: a Pure with only the extra TV-Out and/or DVI connector.

Click to enlarge
Asus V8200 T5 Deluxe

Click to enlarge

We decided to test the Deluxe versions of the two GF3 boards, since, at this level of pricing, the price difference can be considered relatively small. As for the GF2: since the Ti is aimed more at the budget-minded buyer, our choice fell on the V7700 Ti Pure.

Graphics Card Hardware Software
Asus V7700 Ti GeForce2 Ti: 250 MHz
64 MB, 5ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Driver-CD
ASUSDVD 2000
Messiah
Star Trek New Worlds
Asus V8200 T2 Deluxe GeForce3 Ti200: 175MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-In & -Out (SAA7108E)
3D Shutter Glasses
HW Monitoring
Driver-CD
ASUS DVD 2000
WinCoder & WinProducer
VideoLive Mail
Sacrifice
Messiah
Star Trek New Worlds
Asus V8200 T5 Deluxe GeForce3 Ti500: 240 MHz
64 MB, 3,8ns, 500 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-In & -Out (SAA7108E)
3D Shutter Glasses
HW Monitoring
Driver-CD
ASUS DVD 2000
WinCoder & WinProducer
VideoLive Mail
Sacrifice
Messiah
Star Trek New Worlds

The V7700 Ti is based on the old GeForce2 Pro board layout. The 64MB of RAM consists of 8MB memory modules rated at 5ns, and has no extra cooling. The GPU is cooled by a very effective HSF combo, which features an rpm-sensor and allows hardware monitoring. The V7700 Ti uses the same hardware monitoring chip as the Deluxe models, a Winbond W83781D.

The Deluxe versions of the V8200 T2 and T5 additionally feature TV-In, TV-Out and the stereo vision circuits for the shutter glasses. ASUS treats the T5 (Ti500) to 3,8ns memory, while the T2's (Ti200) memory is slightly slower, at 4ns. Feature-wise, the boards are identical, aside from their layouts and colors. Both cards' chips are cooled by an identical heatsink/ fan combination.

Click to enlarge
Asus V8200 T2 Deluxe

Click to enlarge

Like most other manufacturers, ASUS bases its drivers on NVIDIA's reference release, and ships its own utilities on the driver CD with the card. These include an overclocking tool, the ASUS SmartDoctor hardware monitoring suite, and, depending on the model, some additional utilities and tools. The extensive gaming bundle should be especially interesting, especially, because the games aren't just run-of-the-mill bargains. Unfortunately, none of them can make full use of the GeForce3's capabilities.

Click to enlarge
Asus V7700 Ti

Click to enlarge

Gainward - Fabulous Memory

The Taiwanese company Gainward has built its reputation with the exceptionally fast memory it ships on its boards. With the new Ti line, once again, the main focus seems to have been maximum overclocking potential. We tested Gainward's new GF2 Ti bearing the confusing Ti500 moniker, as well as the GeForce3 Ti500 board carrying the equally inaccurate name Ti550 TV. Obviously, Gainward is trying to create an impression of technological superiority for its products. Nonetheless, these cards carry the same NVIDIA chips as the competition and not some newer version, as the name might imply to less informed buyers.

Click to enlarge
Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce3 Ti550 TV

Click to enlarge

The models and their features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce2 Ti500 XP GeForce2 Ti: 250 MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-In & -Out (SAA7108E)
Driver-CD
WinDVD v3.0
Ulead VideoStudio 5
Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce3 Ti550 TV GeForce3 Ti500: 240 MHz
64 MB, 3,8 ns, 500 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CX25871-13)
DVI
Driver-CD
WinDVD v3.0

Gainward is taking great pains to give the cards as individual and aggressive an appearance as possible. Looking at the red PCB, the chip heatsink's fine cooling fins and the red memory heatsinks, it seems that goal has been achieved. The memory, on the other hand, is less spectacular this time around, rating at 4ns (GF2 Ti) and 3,8ns (GF3 Ti500). Nonetheless, these cards showed extraordinary overclocking potential!

Click to enlarge
Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce2 Ti500 XP

Click to enlarge

Gainward is the only company offering higher clockspeeds at standard settings. Upon closer inspection, this too turns out to be nothing more than a software overclock in the drivers, as the BIOS is set to the same values as the rest of the cards. Consequently, if NVIDIA's reference driver is installed without a previous installation of Gainward's driver (including the Gainward tools), the card will not run at the higher "standard" speed, without the usual manual tweaking (NVMax, Coolbits, etc.). All benchmarks were therefore run at default speeds as set in the BIOS.

Gainward's driver package also consists of a standard NVIDIA reference driver bundled with several tools that make using the card easier and more comfortable.

Gigabyte - So Blue

The Taiwanese company is represented in this field with its GeForce3 Ti200 board. Due to its blue PCB and the blue orb-type chip cooler, the card bears a strong resemblance to the Hercules Prophet 3D series. As a historical side note, Gigabyte used blue PCBs before Hercules.

Click to enlarge
Gigabyte Tundra Ti200

Click to enlarge

The card and its features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
Gigabyte Tundra Ti200 GeForce3 Ti200: 175MHz
64 MB, 3,8 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (Bt869KRF)
DVI
Driver-CD
PowerDVD v3.0
Motocross Mania
Serious Sam
Evo 4x4
Oni
Rune
Heavy Metal FAKK2

The driver package consists of the usual fare: reference driver and extra tools. The card's extensive gaming bundle is quite impressive, though, and should be of particular interest to first-time buyers, as almost all game genres are represented here.

Hercules - The Mythical Hero

Hercules is continuing its very successful 3D Prophet series. Like Gainward, Hercules tries to set itself and its products apart from the competition. The brand name alone inspires trust in many prospective buyers. Hercules' chosen champions in this review are the new Titanium Ti200, and the Ti500 versions of the 3D Prophet III series. Little is known about different card layouts or feature sets, but there have been reports of early Ti500 boards still based on the old six-layer PCB. Our Ti500 review sample was an eight-layer model, though.

Click to enlarge
Hercules 3D Prophet III Ti500

Click to enlarge

The models and their features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
Hercules 3D Prophet III Ti200 GeForce3 Ti200: 175MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CX25871-13)
Driver-CD
PowerDVD v3.0
Hercules 3D Prophet III Ti500 GeForce3 Ti500: 240 MHz
64 MB, 3,8 ns, 500 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CX25871-13)
Driver-CD
PowerDVD v3.0

At first glance, the new models bear a strong likeness to the "old" 3D Prophet III: blue PCB, the same large memory heatsinks, and the blue orb chip cooler. Upon closer inspection, the changes become more apparent. Aside from the different memory speeds (3,8ns and 4ns, respectively) and the new GPUs, variations in the board layout are also evident. The Ti200 is slightly longer and uses other components for its simplified power supply. The Ti500 also sports a DVI monitor connector. Both cards use Conexant's CX25871-13 TV-Out chip, which allows a maximum TV-Out resolution of 1024x768.

Click to enlarge
Hercules 3D Prophet III Ti200

Click to enlarge

Hercules proves rather stingy when it comes to software. Aside from NVIDIA's reference driver (with the Hercules logo), the software bundle only includes an overclocking tool and the software DVD player PowerDVD 3.0. Other companies are much more generous in this respect.

Leadtek - Elegant and Cool

Leadtek's boards are considered the beauties of the video card scene. Where other companies use aggressive styling with loud colors and large fans, Leadtek tries for an elegant and refined look. The huge, heavy heatsinks on the memory and GPU are very impressive, to say the least. Thanks to these new heatsinks, Leadtek has finally solved the problem of the overheating memory heatsinks, which dogged the company's first GF3 and GF2 Ultra cards. The GF2 Ti also surprised us with a very clever cooling solution.

Click to enlarge
Leadtek Titanium 500 TD

Click to enlarge

The models and their features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
Leadtek WinFast Titanium TH GeForce2 Ti: 250 MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
TV-Out (CH 7007A-T)
DVI
Driver-CD
WinFox
WinDVD
Cult3D
DroneZ
Gunlock
WinFast
Leadtek Titanium 200 TDH GeForce3 Ti200: 175MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CX25871-13)
HW Monitoring
Status LEDs
DVI
Driver-CD
WinFox
WinDVD
Cult3D
DroneZ
Gunlock
WinFast
Leadtek Titanium 500 TD GeForce3 Ti500: 240 MHz
64 MB, 3,8 ns, 500 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CX25871-13)
HW Monitoring
Status LEDs
DVI
Driver-CD
WinFox
WinDVD
Cult3D
DroneZ
Gunlock

The GeForce2 TI model Titanium TH is strongly reminiscent of the older GF2 Pro board. The GPU fan is located to the side of the heatsink, and blows over it through an air channel. This is supposed to prevent so-called hot spots in the middle of the heatsink, which usually occur where the fan drive is located.

Click to enlarge
Leadtek Titanium 200 TDH

Click to enlarge

The Ti200 and Ti 500 differ only in memory (4ns and 3,8 ns, respectively) and GPU. Both GeForce3 cards use the Conexant CX25871-13 TV-Out encoder chip. The GF2 Ti features the Chrontel 7007A-T instead. Another idiosyncrasy of the GF3 boards, besides their excellent cooling, is the extensive hardware monitoring feature set. Three LEDs on the board are meant to help diagnose hardware problems. The GPU temperature is measured with an external thermal diode. Lastly, the fan speed can also be monitored.

Click to enlarge
Leadtek WinFast Titanium TH

Click to enlarge

All three boards share the same software bundle. The game bundle consists of the GF3-enabled games Gunlock and DroneZ. Leadtek also includes the software DVD Player WinDVD, as well as the 3D viewer software Cult3D. Beyond that, the software is what is considered standard: NVIDIA reference driver and a few practical tools.

MSI - Color Coded Cards

Who ever said all boards have to look the same? MSI's Titanium cards come in different colors and use a different cooling solution, depending on model, so that mistaking one board for another very unlikely.

Click to enlarge
MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG

Click to enlarge

The models and their features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
MSI GF2Ti Pro-VT GeForce2 Ti: 250 MHz
64 MB, 5 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
TV-In & -Out (SAA7108E)
Driver-CD
MSI DVD
WinCoder & WinProducer
Sacrifice
MSI G3Ti200 Pro-TD GeForce3 Ti200: 175MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (Bt869KRF)
DVI
Driver-CD
MSI DVD
Sacrifice
MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG GeForce3 Ti500: 240 MHz
64 MB, 3,8 ns, 500 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-In & -Out (SAA7108E)
3D Shutter Glasses
HW Monitoring
Driver-CD
MSI DVD
WinCoder & WinProducer
3D Stereo Sample CD
Sacrifice

There are also big feature set differences between the various models. The GF2 Ti's 5ns memory chips come without heatsinks, as is the case on most other GF2 cards, as they would serve only a mostly cosmetic purpose on these boards, anyway. The GF2 Ti does feature TV-In and TV-Out support, integrating all necessary connectors into the backplane, sparing the user the inconvenience of adapters.

Click to enlarge
MSI G3Ti200 Pro-TD

Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, the Ti200 comes with large memory heatsinks, identical to those found on the Ti500. The green board also features TV-Out and a DVI output.

The Ti500 is chock-full of features. It offers TV-In and TV-Out (courtesy of the Philips SAA7108E), hardware monitoring including fan speed (Winbond W39L010P-90 chip), and 3D shutter glasses. This list of features rivals that of the ASUS Deluxe models, which retain the advantage of the more extensive gaming bundle.

Click to enlarge
MSI GF2Ti Pro-VT

Click to enlarge

There isn't much to say about the drivers: NVIDIA reference drivers spiced up with MSI's own tools. The Ti500 comes with additional hardware monitoring software.

Prolink PixelView - Solid Card, No Software

All of the Taiwanese company's cards bear the "PixelView" label. In many a computer store, the actual company name, Prolink, is dropped and the cards are mistakenly advertised under the "PixelView" name. Since there is no company that goes by that name, users seeking support often run into trouble. The company homepage can be found at: www.prolink.com.tw.

Prolink's entry in this comparison is a GF2 Ti board. The review sample arrived set to a default speed of 250/440 MHz. This was a mistake, according to Prolink. We therefore reduced the clockspeed to the 250/400MHz settings of the retail version for all benchmarks.

Click to enlarge
Prolink PixelView GeForce2 Ti

Click to enlarge

The card and its features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
Prolink PixelView GeForce2 Ti GeForce2 Ti: 250 MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
TV-Out (Bt869KRF)
Driver-CD

The board follows the standard GeForce2 Ti layout. Its 64MB memory consists of four 4ns Samsung chips. The lack of memory cooling showed no negative side effects in operation. Speaking of cooling, we were impressed with the GPU heatsink, which offers a very large heat dissipation area. Prolink's choice of TV-Out encoder chip was the Conexant Bt869KRF.

Prolink's idea of a software bundle seems to follow the minimalist interpretation. Indeed, there is no software whatsoever in the bundle, besides the obligatory NVIDIA driver CD. For a card with TV-Out, we would have expected to find at least a software DVD player.

PNY - Black is Back

The American company's headquarters are located in New Jersey. Besides video cards, the company's product line also includes SDRAM memory products, as well as SmartMedia and Compact Flash cards. The card itself is manufactured by MSI, as can easily be seen by the product code that is silk-screened on the board (MS-8853).

Click to enlarge
PNY Verto GeForce3 Ti500

Click to enlarge

The card and its features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
PNY Verto GeForce3 Ti500 GeForce3 Ti500: 240 MHz
64 MB, 3,8 ns, 500 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CX25871-13)
3D Shutter Glasses
DVI
Driver-CD
NVIDIA 3D Stereo

In addition to the 3,8ns memory and the GPU, the Verto's brownish-black PCB also features a TV-Out encoder chip (Conexant CX25871-13) and a DVI connector for digital flat-panel displays. The heatsink fan combo is identical to those found on MSI's Ti200/500 boards, and offers adequate cooling. However, it does not correspond to the "Titanium-look" HSF with memory cooling, as pictured on the back of the box!

PNY also ships the Verto with the 3D shutter glasses, discussed earlier in this article. Unfortunately, the very generous hardware is paired with a meager software bundle. One driver CD each is included for the card and the 3D glasses. Once again, a software DVD player would have been high up on our list of expectations, right along with additional display tools. The driver CD does include the well-known Powerstrip utility, but, unfortunately, it is only the shareware version, with limited functionality.

Suma - No TV for you!

Suma's cards are real lookers, and the Korean company ships them in transparent containers. This guarantees them a special status on any retail shelf. Unfortunately, that special status also extends to another aspect of the cards: that is, they stink - literally. The packing material gives off a very unpleasant and biting odor. Suma sent us a GeForce2 Ti and a GeForce3 Ti200 board for this review.

Click to enlarge
Suma Platinum GeForce3 Ti200

Click to enlarge

An overview of the card and its features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
Suma Platinum GeForce2 Ti GeForce2 Ti: 250 MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CH7008A-T)
DVI
Driver-CD
Suma Platinum GeForce3 Ti200 GeForce3 Ti200: 175MHz
64 MB, 4 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (CH7008A-T)
DVI
Driver-CD

Both boards are colored a brownish-black hue. Memory and GPU are cooled by large, silvery heatsinks. Big silver letters on the board and stickers on the heatsink give detailed information about the board and its origin. Speaking of details, the receding edge of the Ti200 card is another nice touch, if you have a taste for such things. Both cards employ a Chrontel CH7008A-T as a TV-Out encoder chip, and a DVI output is also present. Sadly, the TV-Output refused to work correctly, no matter whether NVIDIA's current reference driver (v23.11) or Suma's own was used. The result on the GF2Ti was a strongly distorted image with rolling lines, while on the Ti200, the driver refused to recognize the Chrontel chip altogether! This renders the TV-Out function on both cards completely useless for now. Perhaps a newer driver will address this problem.

Click to enlarge
Suma Platinum GeForce2 Ti

Click to enlarge

The software bundle is rather disappointing. At least SUMA thought to include some of NVIDIA's 3D tech-demos on the driver CD, but, other than the driver, there is no software to be found, not even a DVD player program. Yet even the drivers proved problematic. The driver version v21.81, as shipped on the CD, recognized neither the GF2 Ti nor the Ti200, breaking off the installation with an error message.

The explanation is rather simple: the Titanium series is only supported starting with NVIDIA's driver release v21.83 - or v21.81, with some modifications to the INF file. It looks like SUMA forgot to make these modifications, though. Apparently, SUMA still needs to learn the importance of quality assurance and product testing.

VisionTek -Xtasy by Numbers

The American company VisionTek was among the first to have a line of Titanium cards on the market. VisionTek was kind enough to send us one of each of the Titanium Xtasy models for this test.

Click to enlarge
VisionTek Xtasy 6964

Click to enlarge

The models and their features:

Graphics Card Hardware Software
VisionTek Xtasy 5864 GeForce2 Ti: 250 MHz
64 MB, 5 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (Bt868KRF)
Driver-CD
PowerDVD
VisionTek Xtasy 6564 GeForce3 Ti200: 175MHz
64 MB, 5 ns, 400 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (Bt868KRF)
Driver-CD
PowerDVD
VisionTek Xtasy 6964 GeForce3 Ti500: 240 MHz
64 MB, 3,8 ns, 500 MHz
GPU Fan
Memory Heatsinks
TV-Out (Bt868KRF)
DVI
Driver-CD
PowerDVD

The Xtasy family comes along in a rather unobtrusive green color and uses identical blue heatsinks. Unlike most other cards, the heatsinks are only attached to their memory chips at a few contact points using thermally conducive glue, instead of a thermal pad that covers the entire surface of the chip. Consequently, the contact between memory chip and heatsink is limited to these points, reducing the effectiveness of the cooling solution. Realistically speaking, the memory heatsinks are primarily decorative anyway, so this has no effect. This is borne out by the overclocking tests, in which all three Xtasy models make an impressive showing. All three cards use the Conexant Bt868KRF TV-Out encoder chip. The Ti500 also offers a DVI output.

Click to enlarge
VisionTek Xtasy 6564

Click to enlarge

Software seems to be the favorite way of cutting corners and costs these days. This idea holds true with the Xtasy cards, which come bundled only with their drivers and a software DVD player. A clever feature is an MPG video on the driver CD that gives detailed instructions on the correct way to install the card or replace the old one. The technician demonstrating the process might want to practice shutting a computer case, though...

Click to enlarge
VisionTek Xtasy 5864

Click to enlarge

Test Setup

Hardware
System 1 Intel Pentium 4 1800 MHz MHz
ASUS P4T
Intel i850
400 MHz QDR FSB
256MB 400 MHz RDRAM (2x128MB)
System 2 AMD Athlon 1200 MHz MHz
ABIT KT7A-RAID
VIA KT133A
133 MHz FSB
2x 128MB CL2 PC133
System 3 Intel Pentium III 800 MHz MHz
ASUS CUSL-2
Intel i815
133 MHz FSB
2x 128MB CL2 PC133
Graphics Cards
Cards Tested ASUS V7700 Ti
ASUS V8200 T2 Deluxe
ASUS V8200 T5 Deluxe
Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce2 Ti500 XP
Gainward CARDEXpert GeForce3 Ti550 TV
Gigabyte Tundra GeForce3 Ti200
Hercules 3D Prophet GeForce3 Ti200
Hercules 3D Prophet GeForce3 Ti500
Leadtek WinFast Titanium TH
Leadtek WinFast Titanium 200 TDH
Leadtek WinFast Titanium 500 TD
MSI GF2Ti Pro-VT
MSI G3Ti200 Pro-TD
MSI G3Ti500 Pro-VTG
Prolink PixelView GeForce2 Ti
PNY Verto GeForce3 Ti500
Suma Platinum GeForce2 Ti
SUMA Platiunum GeForce3 Ti200
Visiontek Xtasy 5864
Visiontek Xtasy 6564
Visiontek Xtasy 6964
Cards for Comparision ATI RADEON 7500 Retail
ATI RADEON 8500 Retail
NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 400
NVIDIA GeForce2 PRO 64 MB
NVIDIA GeForce3
PowerVR Kyro II 64 MB
Drivers & Software
DirectX Version 8.0a
8.1 for Radeon 8500
OS Windows 98 SE, Version 4.10.2222 A
Benchmarks
Giants DirectX 7 game with T&L Support
Max Payne Direct X 8 same with T&L Support
Shooting Alex Demo Quake3 v1.17
OpenGL witht HW Transformation Support (Demo001)
3DMark 2001 Synthetic DirectX 8 Benchmark

All cards were benchmarked using the latest drivers available from their manufacturers. These were taken either from the CD or from the company's website.

The Detailed Benchmarks

Giants

Giants utilizes second generation, DirectX 7 based T&L features in hardware.

Giants

Giants

At 1024x768-32, the field is very close together. Jumping to 1600x1200, we see the group split into categories determined by card type and, consequently, clock speed. The RADEON 8500 is easy prey for the Titanium boards in this benchmark, and can only pull ahead of the GF2 Ti class that starts at 1600x1200. The GF2 Ti class, in turn, holds a lead over the RADEON 7500.

Giants

The different scores even within the card classes (despite identical clock speeds) are a result of the different driver versions favored by the companies. Besides that, a certain margin of error is always present in benchmarking.

Max Payne

Despite its DirectX 8 support, the Max Payne engine only utilizes second generation hardware T&L. Nonetheless, even DirectX 8-compatible cards, i.e., the GF3 and RADEON 8500, supposedly benefit from the modern game engine.

Since the final "average" framerate has to be recorded manually (e.g. read from the screen and written on paper) at the end of each benchmark run, these results shouldn't be taken too literally. Inaccuracies of up to 2 fps are a possibility when using this method.

Max Payne

Max Payne

In this benchmark, we get to see the differences between the classes of cards. At first, the Ti500 is able to maintain a slim lead over the RADEON 8500. At 1600x1200, they are neck and neck, followed by the GeForce3, Ti200 and the RADEON 7500. This time around, it is the R7500 that dominates the GF2 Ti, which performs on a level with the old GF2 Pro.

Max Payne

Once again, there are minimal differences throughout the field. Making out a trend here is difficult.

Quake 3

Quake 3 was benchmarked in the comparatively old version v1.17, as the time demo test routines in the current version v1.30 prevent exact measurements. Even after the fourth run, the results showed a spread of up to 10 fps!

Quake 3

Quake 3

In 1024x768, Ti500 and R8500 lead the group, with the GeForce3 close at their heels. Following at a respectful distance, we find the Ti200. The GF2 Ti and the R7500 are left to duke it out at the rear of the field. The same overall picture is repeated in 1600x1200. The only variation here is that the smaller RADEON is able to edge out the GF2 Ti.

Quake 3

The direct comparison yields no surprises.

3DMark2001

In creating the 3DMark2001 benchmark, MadOnion gave the marketing divisions of video card makers all over the world a very powerful tool. Since the final score is strongly dependent on driver optimizations and other tweaks, there is an ongoing fight among the various chipmakers for the most tweaked driver. In reality, these results are only partly echoed in real world gaming performance. Nonetheless, a review just wouldn't be complete without this benchmark.

3D Mark

3D Mark

Since the latest driver release, the RADEON 8500 has dominated this test. It's only a matter of time before NVIDIA wins back the 3DMark crown, with a newer, even more "optimized" driver for the GF3, though. The GF2 Ti, meanwhile, lags behind its competitor, the R7500. In this case, the reason is not a more optimized driver - the RADEON's main advantage lies in its faster memory.

3D Mark

The various driver versions coupled with the usual margin of error produces differences in scores of up to 100 points on otherwise identical cards.

CPU Scaling

Which video card is right for my CPU? The answer to this question is usually anything but clear. Still, pairing a GeForce3 with a Pentium III 500 makes little sense, as current T&L units are still heavily reliant on raw CPU power. Additionally, every game has a different minimum system requirement.

Quake 3

While a GF2 Ti only gains 10fps when moved from a P3 800 MHz to a P4 1800MHz system, a Ti 500 turns the additional CPU power into an extra 60fps. Or, let's put it this way: on the P3 system, the Ti500 is merely 16fps faster than the GF2 Ti. With a P4, it can extend its lead to almost 70fps!

Max Payne

The Max Payne results tell a different story altogether. Here, the CPU almost seems to be of secondary importance. Interestingly, a GF2 Ti or a GF3 Ti200 shows almost no gain from a faster CPU. Only the P3 system seems to hold the Ti200 and Ti500 back, but beyond a certain level, increasing CPU performance yields only diminishing returns, and the gap between the cards becomes much less pronounced.

FSAA

Full scene anti-aliasing (edge smoothing) has taken on a central role in gaming, offering various benefits, depending on the game genre. In first person shooters, it helps reduce pixel and texture popping (often seen around stairs or similar in-game scenes), while in racing games and 3D adventures, it helps create a more enjoyable experience due to a smoother overall image.

All testing was conducted in Quake 3.

AntiAliasing - Quake 3

The GeForce3 boards dominate this test. Nonetheless, finding a meaningful verdict is difficult, as the chips use different filtering levels and techniques. More on that here in the article High-Tech And Vertex Juggling - NVIDIA's New GeForce3 GPU: Anti-Aliasing - Removing The 'Jaggies'.

Overclocking

Better - and, consequently, more expensive - hardware is only able to realize its full potential when overclocked. At default speeds, many memory chips run far below their maximum specification.

In this o/c test, all cards were pushed to their respective limits. These results should be taken with a grain of salt or two, since companies have been known to send out especially potent overclockers to reviewers to skew the results in their favor. Besides, even within a product family, a certain spread is always possible.

These results should therefore be seen as a rough indication of a card's potential, and are in no way a guarantee that your model will reach the same speeds! The tests were run in Quake 3, at 1024x768-32:

GeForce3 Ti500 - Quake 3

GeForce3 Ti200 - Quake 3

GeForce2 Ti - Quake 3

The number in parentheses behind the product name denotes the maximum attainable clock speed. Measurements were taken with an open case and without additional cooling, at a constant ambient temperature of 22°C.

Conclusion: GeForce3 for Gamers - TI for Enthusiasts

All of these boards offer a lot of bang for your buck. The new GeForce3 Ti500 may not be much faster than the original GeForce3, but as the price remains the same, who's complaining? For most users, the Ti200 will be the card of choice, as it offers GeForce3 technology at an attractive price. On top of that, most Ti200 cards will easily overclock to the level of the original GeForce3 generation.

The Ti500 is aimed more at the enthusiast group - gamers that always need the latest, greatest and fastest components in their computer. Still, an "old" GeForce3 can still be found at relatively low prices in some stores, and will also overclock to Ti500 levels. Even when overclocked, the Ti500s can eke out only a marginal lead over the GF3. With a sharp eye and a bit of luck, now is a good time to look for a bargain.

The GF2 Ti cards are another matter. The main difference between the Ti cards and the "old" GF2 Pro is the Ti's higher GPU frequency. The GF2 architecture doesn't benefit from a clockspeed increase nearly as much as the GF3 does, so the real-world performance increase is only marginal. This also explains why the GF2 Ti was unable to set itself apart from the GF2 Pro in the benchmarks. However, most GF2 Ti cards come with much faster memory than the older GF2 Pros. Therefore, the Ti is the better choice for overclockers.

We would also like to draw your attention to one last point of criticism that almost all Titanium cards share: the inadequate TV-Out. An off-center output framed in black along with the lack of true DualView support does not bode well for NVIDIA's reputation in this respect.

Tools like the shareware program TV-Tool prove that a fully-functional TV-Out implementation is possible - even on NVIDIA cards. It just takes a little extra effort. Why can't NVIDIA's paid driver development team do what a couple of free-lance programmers did in their free time?

The competition, in the form of Matrox and ATi, has had a working TV-Out implementation in their drivers for years. NVIDIA still has some homework to do in this respect.

Card Summaries

ASUS
With the T2 and T5 Deluxe models of the V8200 series, ASUS is able to set itself apart from the rest of the field. Even the TV-Out is usable, at least with NTSC. Still, this is more than can be said for most of the competition.

Gainward
The CARDEXpert Titanium series' greatest strength definitely lies in the high overclocking potential these boards offer. Gainward's board designs are also a breath of fresh air, quite literally, and worth a look.

Gigabyte
The Tundra Ti200 impressed us with its very good cooling solution and its large gaming bundle.

Hercules
Hercules boards have always had a very characteristic look, and the new models of the 3D Prophet series are no exception. The cards achieve the expected performance levels, but are otherwise unremarkable. The software bundle is rather small.

Leadtek
If there were a prize for "most elegant card," Leadtek's WinFast cards would win it, hands down. Yet the GF3 Ti boards do not have to rely on their good looks alone - their feature set makes them a good choice, as well.

MSI
Packed with a whole bunch of features, the G3 Ti500 doesn't need to fear the competition. The G3Ti200 Pro-TD is an unremarkable card that can not set itself apart from the rest of the Ti200 crowd. The GF2Ti Pro-VT could use faster memory.

Prolink PixelView
Prolink is targeting the budget audience with its GeForce2 Ti board. Unfortunately, this shows in the very meager software bundle.

PNY
The Verto is a well-balanced piece of hardware. The nice 3D shutter glasses make up for the slim software bundle.

Suma
Suma disqualified its cards with the non-functional TV-Out and the outdated driver CD without Titanium support. Otherwise, the cards were solid performers when coupled with NVIDIA's reference drivers.

Visiontek
The US-based company was among the first to ship Titanium-based cards. The Xtasy boards performed as expected, but were otherwise unremarkable during testing.

КОНЕЦ СТАТЬИ


Координаты для связи с редакцией:

Общий адрес редакции: thg@thg.ru;
Размещение рекламы: Roman@thg.ru;
Другие координаты, в т.ч. адреса для отправки информации и пресс-релизов, приглашений на мероприятия и т.д. указаны на этой странице.


Все статьи: THG.ru

 

Rambler's Top100 Рейтинг@Mail.ru