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PC Buyers Guide - July 2002 - Video Cards

With so many items for sale in the markets, it can sometimes be difficult to decide what's hot and what's not. Come join Nick Swan as he brings us another installment of the TweakTown Buyer's Guide. There are some new toys out there, but we'll try to see which ones deserve a place within our own special systems. Come check it out!

| Guides | Posted: Jul 3, 2002 4:00 am

Video Cards

 

- Leadtek A250 Ultra TDH (GeForce4 Ti4600)

 

Times on list: 3

 

Leadtek's website for this product

 

 

Since the GeForce4 was released onto the market a bit more than a month ago, it has redefined the meaning of performance desktop graphics. In some tests, the GeForce4 scored more than 50% higher than the previous speed champions, the Radeon 8500 and GeForce 3 Ti500.

 

The GeForce4 is available in three flavors, the top of the range GeForce4 Ti4600, the middle of the range GeForce4 Ti4400 and the GeForce4 Ti4200 which is a sub US$200 performance card. The only difference between the GeForce4 models lies in the speeds they are clocked at. The specs are:

 

- GeForce4 Ti4600

 

Core: 300MHz

 

RAM: 325MHz

 

- GeForce4 Ti4400

 

Core: 275MHz

 

RAM: 275MHz

 

- GeForce4 Ti4200

 

64MB version

 

Core: 250MHz

 

RAM: 250MHz

 

128MB version

 

Core: 250MHz

 

RAM: 222MHz

 

Note: Remember, these cards use DDR RAM which means the RAM speed is doubled. All GeForce4 Ti4400/4600 cards have 128MB of RAM.

 

The GeForce4 has been updated quite heavily since the GeForce3, but it doesn't include any major steps forward. The main additions to the GeForce4 are the nFiniteFX II engine, the addition of a second vertex shader, improvements to the pixel shaders, Accuview, nView, which is basically the ability to use a dual monitor set up, and LMA II (Light Speed Memory Architecture) which is one of the biggest reasons why the GeForce4 has such a performance increase over the GeForce3.

 

Enough about the GeForce4 and onto the Leadtek card. The Leadtek card certainly isn't the most feature rich on the market, but it can still hold its own. The card comes clocked at the standard 300/650, has 128MB of 2.8ns DDR RAM, an analogue monitor port, TV out, DVI, hardware monitoring (only on the TDH model), Winfox suite of tools (ranging from overclocking utilities to games) and the mother of all heatsinks! If you look at most other GeForce4 Ti4600's, they feature no RAM sinks and a solitary core fan. Leadtek obviously wanted to prove a point and increase the overclocking potential of the card so they put on a massive heat sink that covers both the RAM and the core and put two 30mm fans onto it. To cap it off, they put a passive heat sink on the back of the card (the same size as the front heat sink).

 

The performance of this card is unbelievable, like the other Ti4600 cards, but doesn't have any real advantage over the other cards. Nearly all the cards these days are scoring within a few frames of each other. The real selling point of the card is its excellent overclockability. The massive heat sink and dual fans give it an edge over the other cards, which often don't even have RAM sinks.

 

The GeForce4 Ti4600 is without a doubt the leading video card on the market. If you're looking for performance and overclockability, you can't go past this Leadtek card. However, if you want the performance without the overclocking ability and a much lower price, try the Sparkle GeForce4. If you're looking for features, the MSI GeForce4 is an excellent bet.

 

- Find the best price on Leadtek A250 Ultra!

 

- Leadtek A250 TDH (GeForce4 Ti4400)

 

Times on list: 3

 

Leadtek's website for this product

 

This card is exactly the same as the one above except it is classed as a Ti4400, which means it has a lower core/memory speed (see above for speeds). The performance on the card is excellent, but obviously not up to Ti4600 speeds. The overclocking of the card is also very good, but you won't be able to get the RAM to the same levels as a Ti4600 overclock as this card runs slower 3.6ns memory. Again, if you're after features, go the MSI route, and price is the Sparkle route. But if you want performance and excellent overclocking, the Leadtek is the card for you.

 

- Find the best price on Leadtek A250!

 

- Any (decent) brand GeForce 4 Ti4200

 

Times on list: New

 

nVidia's website for this product

 

 

While the GeForce 4 has been on the market for quite a while now, the cards on the market were based on the high/middle end versions of the chipset and were thus quite expensive. Fortunately, the prices of these two cards (the Ti4400/4600, which are above) have come done markedly and now you can buy a quality (like the Leadtek above) Ti4600 for less than the original price of the Ti4400. However, the Ti4400 is still more than AU$500 in most shops, which is a lot of money. But, nVidia has recently released the newest GeForce 4, the Ti4200. The probable reason for the delay is that nVidia was looking to sell off the remaining GeForce 3 cards, as the new GeForce 4 was very likely to take their market spot (and it has). The card is essentially the same as the two cards above, but has some slight, but nevertheless important, changes which should be looked at.

 

Firstly, the card is not based on the same PCB (printed circuit board) design as the Ti4400 and 4600. The PCB is only 6 layers instead of the 8 on the Ti4400/4600 and is a lot smaller. I believe this is because the card has a far lower power requirement than the Ti4400/4600's and thus needs less space to fit the capacitors. Most importantly, this reduction in size means the Ti4200 will fit in boards the Ti4400/4600's won't; the EPoX 8KHA+ being an example.

 

The other important difference between the Ti4200 and the Ti4400/4600 is the choice of two different types; either 64MB or 128MB. The different memory confiurations also come with different memory speeds, but they have the same core speed of 250MHz. The 64MB version has 250MHz DDR RAM (500MHz) and the 128MB version has 222MHz DDR RAM (444MHz). The Ti4200 doesn't use BGA RAM like the Ti4400/4600's either.

 

Performance wise, they are obviously not as fast as the other GeForce 4's, but they will beat all of the GeForce 3 models comfortably, which is impressive considering many GF3Ti500's still sell for more than these boards. The overclocking of the Ti4200 is also very good and is certainly one of the biggest selling points. For 65% of the price of a Ti4400 you are almost certain to be able to overclock your card to a similar level of performance and there is also a good chance that you will be able to obtain higher. I certainly wouldn't be complaining with a cheap Ti4400 (mind you, you're not guaranteed to get to Ti4400 speeds, but I would consider you very unlucky not to). The question that remains is what memory size to buy and what brand. Basically, if you are after a short term upgrade before the NV30 (next nVidia card) and R300 (next ATI card) or even the Matrox Parhelia, then I would go for the 64MB version. It has faster memory, will (or should) overclock better due to lower ns RAM and currently only one popular game really makes use of the 128MB of RAM; Jedi Knight 2. Having said that, future games will make use of 128MB of RAM, so if you're looking to keep the card for a while, I would definitely get a 128MB version. Brand-wise, I would go for a Triplex Ti4200 with 3.3ns RAM if you are getting the 64MB version (because it will overclock better) and any decent brand if you're after 128MB.

 

- Find the best price on GeForce4 Ti4200 graphics card!

 

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