X-Micro T4200 - IntroductionIntroduction
Though a lot of folks may not know who X-Micro is, this could change in the near future. X-Micro is a graphics card manufacturer that has been around since 1999, and they have a set of standards that is getting harder and harder to find in today's marketplace. They actually believe in hardcore quality control. What this means to you is that each video board is tested several times before it's boxed up and shipped off to your favorite retailer. In today's world of mass production, this is a pleasant change of pace.But being a company that cares about what it makes doesn't automatically make it a winner. Which brings us to our contestant of the day, the X-Micro Impact T4200 video card. It's based on the new GeForce4 Ti4200 GPU so it should have power right out of the box. But then, being an avid enthusiast, it is unlikely that we would want to just leave it at default
settings!Come join the fun as we take a little deeper look at this new release and see if it's worth the expense of upgrading that trusty video card you have right now.
X-Micro T4200 - SpecificationsSpecifications
Now to the nuts and bolts of this video card. While the specs aren't exactly exciting, they are necessary to see what we really have and how it compares to others in its class.Graphics Engine
: nVidia GeForce4 Ti4200 GPUGPU Clock
: 64MB DDR (8GB/sec Bandwidth)Memory Speed
: 500MHz (250MHz DDR)Fill Rate
: 900 Mpixels/secRAMDAC
: 350MHzMaximum Resolution
: 2048x1536Bus Standard
: AGP 2x/4xTV-Out
: 1024x768Special Features
:- nfiniteFX II- nView Display Technology- Lightspeed Memory Architecture II- Advanced AccuView Antialiasing- TV-OutThere are a few features listed above that may be a little confusing to the novice, so let me see if I can help you understand a little better. Here are the meanings of some of the nVidia lingo above:nfiniteFX II
- This is the name given to the dual vertex shaders used in the GeForce4 Ti series cards. The fact that it incorporates two vertex shaders allows for the near realistic output, and also helps define things such as hair and facial features within games.nView
- All GeForce4 based cards support dual monitor support. nView is nothing more than the name that nVidia has given this ability. One nice feature of this, though, is that it adds a tab into your video card's display properties. This makes it very easy to set up a dual monitor system.Lightspeed Memory Architecture II (LMAII)
- With memory being one of the biggest bottlenecks to modern video cards, something had to be done to enhance the bandwidth. LMAII does just that by using things like Z-occlusion culling, fast Z-clear, and auto pre-charge. These allow for better movement of data, and nVidia claims that it enhances the memory effectiveness by upwards of 300%!AccuView Antialiasing
- FSAA (Full Screen Anti Aliasing) has been a buzzword for some time now. The ability to get rid of the jagged edges in games has been a high point to many of the past generations of graphics adapters. On the low end of this technology, however, is the fact that it creates a tremendous frame rate loss when used. Smooth edges in games is a great thing, but is useless when it drops you down to 15 frames/sec. AccuView takes a new version of antialiasing and uses the extra horsepower of the Ti series card to make your gaming much more enjoyable.
X-Micro T4200 - In the BoxWhat you get
Most companies anymore try to keep their added software to a minimum. It's just my opinion, but I think that this is a good thing. It helps keep the costs of the package down, and most of us don't use the software anyway. I can say from experience that a vast majority of the people who would even be interested in this card already have the software they are wanting to run. Either that or they are making plans on some brand new game with all kinds of bells and whistles. So I'm all for keeping the extra stuff to a minimum and letting me save a few bucks for something I really need.That said, we have a very simple gathering of items here that gets right down to the business of cool graphics. Included in the box is the video card (of course), a manual, cables necessary to use the S-Video output, a driver disk, WinDVD and the non-retail version of Serious Sam. Not included are a lot of fancy utilities that we won't use anyway.And in case you're wondering about the inclusion of the WinDVD program, consider that the GeForce4 video cards are fully capable of handling DVD movies without the need for an MPEG card. Since the WinDVD program is low cost, it just makes sure that everyone has what is necessary to enjoy some full-screen movie madness.Also of note concerning the driver disk is that it adds a tab in the video card's advanced properties for adjusting the clock speeds of the card. I just love it when the manufacturer realizes what we want and makes it readily available.
X-Micro T4200 - The CardThe Card
Now for what we've all been waiting for, the main attraction. The X-Micro folks went with a pretty straightforward design with this card. No fancy coloring, but everything we need to rock into some hardcore gaming goodness. While we have the whole card on display, take note that all of the capacitors are placed high up on the board. For those who have been hearing the stories of the Visiontek boards and the EPoX 8KHA+ motherboards, you'll realize that there won't be any issues with installing this video card into your favorite rig. There is nothing set low that can get in the way of the capacitors on your motherboard.Also notice that the memory modules all have RAM sinks installed. Since we are going to be overclocking this card in a bit, its nice to know that we have everything set up for it right from the factory. There is, however, a single capacitor at the top of the card that gets in the way of the upper RAM sink. Oh well, you can't have everything. But what about those memory modules on the back of the card?
As you can see, that has also been taken care of. And since the video card normally sits in the same general vicinity as the processor, some of the overflow air from the heatsink will help keep the memory on the backplane cool as well. I just love it when a plan comes together.
Though we don't have the hydrofoil looking heatsink mounted atop the Ti4200 GPU like some other manufacturers, we do have a very large heatsink in place that will keep not only the chipset cool, but the memory modules as well. As the air from the fan blows down, the excess airflow is directed outwards to blow over the RAM sinks. They say that simplicity is always best and we're going to find out soon if this ideal works.One thing to keep in mind. If you decide to go for a more high powered heatsink, make sure to get one that is designed for the GeForce4 Ti series video cards. The placement of the mounting holes is not the same as those used on a normal chipset cooler.
Included on the X-Micro card are outputs for a standard CRT type monitor, a flat panel monitor, and an S-Video output for throwing your favorite fragfest onto the big screen TV. And when using the nVidia AccuView capabilities, this is a very easy procedure. The included manual goes through the process with sceenshots to make sure that the job gets done right the first time.
X-Micro T4200 - TestingTesting
Testing will consist of a few simple programs that will show just how well this card can handle the chores of graphics processing. The test system has not been overclocked since we want to see how well the video card can do, not an overclocked system. Here's what we're testing on:EPoX 8KHA+Athlon XP 1800+512MB Crucial PC2100 DDRSeagate Barracuda IV 40GB Hard DriveSound Blaster:LiveHitachi CM814 21" MonitorWindows XP ProfessionalVIA 4-in-1 drivers v4.38nVidia Detonator v28.32DirectX 8.1Benchmarking Utilities/Programs
3dMark2000 - Default settings- All tests run3dMark2001 - Default settings- All tests runQuake III Arena - v1.11 with Demo001Quake III Arena testing was done with these settings:- GL Extensions: On- Full Screen: On- Lighting: Lightmap- Geometric Detail: Slider bar set to MAX- Texture Quality: 32 bit- Texture Filter: Tri-Linear- All "Eye Candy" enabledFor comparison purposes, I'll be running the same tests on a Prolink GeForce3 video card as well. Since this is the same general level card that a lot of people still use, it will give us an idea as to how it compares. Also of note is that the GeForce3 board has been overclocked to 230 core and 500 memory. Who said that life was fair?3DMark2000
While the older 3DMark2000 has limited usefulness, it is still fun to see just how well a modern system can score when running it. It was the cream of the crop for some time, but has been outdated since the GeForce3 Titanium series cards hit the market. Since then, the newer versions have been more informative. But hey, I like the big numbers.
The top screenshot is of the GeForce3 card. Considering that both cards are running at 500MHz memory speeds during this test, we're seeing just how much difference the new GeForce4 GPU creates. But now that we have that out of our system, lets take a peek at something more up to date.3DMark2001
3DMark2001 is a synthetic Direct3D benchmark that is compatible with DirectX 8. It takes full advantage of the Geforce3/4 and DirectX 8 enhancements. 3DMark2001 has become the world's most used benchmark and is by far the most popular gamer's benchmark.
Again, the top screenshot is of the older GeForce3 board while the bottom shows the X-Micro T4200. Remember on the front page and the picture of the retail box? Remember the remark on it that states "Pure Adrenaline
"? I think we're beginning to see what they were talking about. When we consider in the fact that both boards have DirectX 8 support built in the chipset, we are beginning to see just how much power comes with the modern video board. Over 1200 points difference between the two!
X-Micro T4200 - Testing Continued/OverclockingQuake III Arena
Quake III Arena is a real-world OpenGL benchmark that we have been using here at TweakTown for quite a while now because it has proven itself to be one of the best gaming benchmarks around to compare a range of different products.
Since both video cards are running the same memory speeds, the differences are not that great. But remember when I told you earlier that we'd see just how well this little gem could push the limits? Well, it is time.Overclocking
Stock speeds for the Ti4200 series video card are 250MHz core and 500MHz memory. Of course, enthusiasts have long ago discovered that you can gain better performance by forcing these speeds to higher levels. This is where many video cards get their reputation from; their ability to overclock.When it came time to push this card to the limit, I used the built-in utility that is installed when you add the drivers. It's a tab that shows up under the GeForce4 tab within it's advanced properties. Let me show you exactly what I'm talking about:
For those who are familiar with the CoolBits registry hack, this should be easy to use. Shown above are the default settings for the card. It seems that the little arrows are awfully far to the left. I think we really need to do something about that.Before I jump right in and show the results this card was able to achieve, let's take a quick look at some other default settings that are out there. This will give us a true picture of how well this board is able to climb. The Ti4400 based cards are set to 275/550. The Ti4600 based cards are set to 300/650. Now let's see how this lowly little Ti4200 can handle some aggressiveness!
WOOHOO! The built-in utility was able to get me to the T4200's best setting, but just barely. It allows you to set maximum values at 315/625, and to be honest, this card will run at these speeds. There were, however, some visual artifacts that appeared during benchmarking, so I backed it off just a bit. The 310/610 shown above allows you to scream faster than a Ti4400 and show no signs of visual irregularities at all.Remember the 3DMark2001 test that we ran earlier? Let's take another look at it now that we have a little extra power under the hood.
Not too shabby for a video card that can be had for under US$200.
X-Micro T4200 - ConclusionConclusion
After all is said and done, what do we have here? On one hand we have is a modern video card that gives reasonable performance when set to its default speeds. On the other hand we have a raging animal that tries to break loose at every opportunity when we overclock. To be able to achieve speeds that are close to those of a Ti4600 card are amazing, especially when you consider that this little toy is retailing at half the price of its big brother.Something else to consider is the ability to actually use antialiasing at a playable frame rate. This is something that hasn't really been possible before the GeForce4 Ti series cards came to town. As an example of this, I ran the default settings in Quake III Arena at 1024 x 768 x 32 with the popular Quincunx AA. As you'll remember, the standard FPS result was 177.5, and the result with the QAA was 158.8. This results in a smooth game that is still very playable. Even with the new AccuView Antialiasing the results are 154.1, and this is a 4x FSAA mode.Bottom line... Unless you just have a whole boatload of money to give away, this card should be one of your main possibilities if you're looking to upgrade your video. With a price tag that is well within reason and the capability to clock at speeds that are nearly at the Ti4600 level, you just can't go wrong.- Pros
Very good performance levelsOutstanding overclocking potentialInexpensiveRAM sinksNot a lot of useless extra softwareSpeed adjustment utility installed with drivers- Cons
HSF could be better qualityStray capacitor blocks one RAM sinkRating - 9/10