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PC Buyers Guide - 11th May 2002

By: TweakTown Staff | Guides | Posted: May 11, 2002 4:00 am

Video Cards


- Leadtek A250 Ultra TDH (GeForce4 Ti4600)


Times on list: 2


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 GeForce is available in two flavors at the moment, the top of the range GeForce4 Ti4600, and the middle of the range GeForce4 Ti4400. In the coming month, the GeForce4 Ti4200 will be released, 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, 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 your looking for performance and overclockability, you cant 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 your 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: 2


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 wont 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!


- Hercules 3DProphet 8500LE (Radeon 8500LE


Times on list: New


Hercule's website for this product



Even with the GeForce4 coming down in price, especially the Ti4400, they are still more than AUD$600, about US$300, which is a lot of money for a video card. The low price performance market was previously held by nVidia's GeForce3 Ti200, but now the mantle has been handed to ATi. The 8500LE is basically an 8500 with slower memory and core speeds. There is extra resistor on the 8500LE, which limits the memory overclocking to below 275MHz, which keeps it below the 8500. However, there have been reports of simple tricks that overcome this. Other than that, the 8500LE is the same card as the 8500.


The Radeon 8500LE features the Charisma II engine, which has similar programmable vertex and pixel shaders like the GeForce3 Ti200, which are run through the smartshader technology, smoothvision, ATi's anti-Aliasing engine, Hyperz II, Truform and Hardware DVD playback, TV Out and DVI out. The core/memory are clocked at 250MHz, 25 below the standard Radeon 8500. One important thing to note is both the Radeon 8500 and LE support DirectX 8.1 functions, which make them future proof for at least a year. Like I said earlier, the 8500LE has a small resistor that stops the memory being moved above 275MHz. However, a small trick can be employed which can allow it to be clocked higher. The core can be clocked higher than 275MHz without any tricks or mods. Unfortunately, the RAM is Hynix 4ns, which is rated to 500MHz, which is the cards default speed. This limits its overclocking potential quite dramatically.


The biggest uproar when the Radeon 8500 came out where about its drivers. They were, to tell the truth, crap. There were serious problems from image distortion, to very slow performance in games. At one stage, ATi even added a special registry entry that allowed the Radeon to reduce image quality to improve frame rates in Quake3, a very popular reviewing application. Thankfully, this has been removed.


The driver support for the Radeon's is now far better, with very good performance and image quality even with the out-of-the box Hercules drivers. Using the latest ATi drivers will raise the performance and stability even more. Performance wise, the 8500LE is no slouch, beating the GeForce3 Ti200 in basically every test thrown at it, and in most cases it can come close to, or pass, a Ti500. Obviously it cannot keep up with the GeForce4, but at AUD$350, you won't find anything as good.


- Find the best price on GeForce3 Ti200 graphics cards!


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