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ECS AG400 Xabre 400 Graphics Card Review

With nVidia stealing the show of late in the video card market, can a fledgling chipset like the Xabre 400 really stand a chance at a coveted spot in your case? Come join Asher "Acid" Moses as he takes a hard look at the ECS AG400 Video Board and helps answer some questions about this new kid on the block. Can its budget price and performance numbers make it a winner? Come find out!
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Published Thu, Aug 8 2002 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Rating: 85%Manufacturer: ECS

ECS AG400 - Introduction

IntroductionNo more than two weeks back we took a look at the first SiS Xabre 400 based graphics card to hit retail channels, the Triplex Xabre Pro. Since then we have managed to obtain ECS' Xabre 400 card, the AG400, which is set to hit store shelves in the not too distant future. In usual TweakTown style, we have put together a comprehensive review of the card, comparing the feature-set, performance and price of both cards.Since we have already gone over the Xabre 400 chipset in great detail a number of times in the past, we will not be repeating ourselves here. However, just to give you a quick feature overview, the Xabre 400 chipset includes: DirectX 8.1 support, AGP 8x and hardware pixel shading, however, lacks a hardware vertex shader. This means that all vertex shading is emulated by the CPU, which may result in bottlenecks for some users as those with older processors might have trouble handling the increased load. However, most users should not have a problem.How does the ECS AG400 compare to the Triplex Xabre Pro, and most importantly, the GeForce4 MX440? Read on to find out!

ECS AG400 - Specifications

Specifications- AGP8X graphics card equipped with 256-bit 3D Graphics AcceleratorAGP8X supports a data rate of 2.1GB/s and runs at 533MHz, doubling the speed of the previous 266MHz AGP4X interface.- DirectX™ 8.1One of the big improvements of DirectX 8.1 is the Pixel Shader function, which does not exist in the DirectX 7 graphics card. With the hardware pixel shader, you can see how the light effect on the surface vividly. - GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) Xabre 400 AGP8X 256-bit graphic accelerator Built-in programmable 24-bit ture-color RAMDAC, up to 375MHz pixel clock - AGP BUS INTERFACE Supports AGP 3.0 compliant configuration setting. Supports AGP 8X with 16 stages pipeline full side band function - DISPLAY MEMORY Built-in eight 4Mx16 DDR onboard, total 64MB memory (optional 128MB) - 3D ENGINE FEATURES Supports Direct 3D version 8.1 pixel shader version 1.3 Supports AGP 8X for texture/vertex fetch Built-in 32-bit floating point VLIW Geometry Transform/Lighting (T/L) and triangle setup engine Built-in 4 pixel programmable rendering pipelines and 8 texture units (4P8T) Supports up to 2048x2048 texture size Built-in hardware stereo auto rendering engine Supports 2X/4X full scene anti-aliasing Up to 250MHz 3D engine/memory clock - 3D PERFORMANCE Supports up to 4 pixels with 2 textures within single cycle Peak polygon rate: 25M polygon/sec @ 1 pixel/polygon with gouraud shaded, point-sampled, linear and bilinear texture mapping Peak fill rate: 800M pixel/sec, 1600M texture/sec @ 10,000 pixel/polygon with Gouraud shaded, two bilinear textured - 2D ENGINE FEATURES Built-in Hardware Command Queue Built-in Direct Draw Accelerator Built-in an 1T 128-bit BITBLT graphics engine Supports memory-mapped, zero wait-state, burst engine write Built-in 64x64x2 bit-mapped hardware cursor Built-in 64x64x16 bit-mapped color hardware cursor 64MB (optional 128MB) frame buffer with linear addressing - VIDEO ACCELERATOR MPEG-2 MP@ML standards compliant Built-in motion compensation logic Supports up to 20Mbit/sec bit rate decoding Direct DVD to TV playback Supports single video windows with overlay function Supports YUV-to-RGB color space conversion Supports graphics and video overlay function Supports RGB555, RGB565, YUV422 and YUV420 video capture and playback format Supports down scaling function and scaling vector as 1/2, 1/4 Supports de-interlaced and 1/2 down scaling function Supports DVD sub-picture playback overlay Built-in independent Gamma correction RAM Supports Direct Draw Drivers - TV-OUT SiS 301 chip onboard Built-in complete NTSC/PAL video encoder Support NTSC/PAL interlaced display by dependent frame rate in 640x480x60Hz, 800x600x60Hz for NTSC, 640x480x50Hz and 800x600x50Hz for PAL Support NTSC/PAL interlaced display by independent frame rate in 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768 modes for NTSC and PAL under 8, 16, 32bpp color modes Supports Composite Video and S-Video TV-Out - RESOLUTION Supports VESA standards super high resolution graphics modes, up to 2048x1536x32 bpp @85Hz NI Supports virtual screen up to 4096x4096 - I/O INTERFACE 1 VGA connector 1 S-Video and 1 composite connector for TV-OUT 1 3D VR glasses connector - FORM FACTOR & LAYERS 174mm x 95mm, 6 Layers - DRIVER Support Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP DirectX & OpenGL compatible

ECS AG400 - Taking A Closer Look

Taking A Closer Look- Package ContentsAs we have come to expect from OEM directed manufacturers, the AG400 does not feature much in terms of bundled goodies. Upon opening the box you are greeted with a driver CD, a User's Manual and the card itself. There were no TV-out cables, no bundled games and no free utilities. This will be disappointing for some, however, the lack of bundled gear will certainly help reduce the overall price, which in my opinion is more important than an elaborate bundle.
- The Card
Like the Triplex Xabre Pro, the ECS AG400 runs at a 250MHz/250MHz (500MHz DDR) core/memory clock speed. This obviously means that SiS is targeting the low-end or budget gaming market with the Xabre 400 chipset. The card also features 64MB of EtronTech memory rated at 3.3ns. We have not seen this brand of memory on many other modern graphics cards and thus cannot give any opinions on previous overclocking results. However, we are certainly not expecting much as our Triplex Xabre Pro card, albeit equipped with Hynix memory, barely clocked above default speeds.
As far as aesthetics are concerned, the ECS AG400 is rather plain - featuring a brown PCB with a small silver heatsink/fan unit attached to the Xabre 400 core. That said, you must remember that ECS tends to direct their products at the OEM market, rather than enthusiasts and thus don't care as much for bells and whistles.
It is important to note that there are no memory heatsinks attached to the card. This is most likely due to the fact that the heat produced by the memory chips was not great enough to warrant any extra cooling, thus reducing the overall price of the card.Powering the TV output is the SiS301 controller. This controller also supports DVI as well, however, a DVI output has not been included on the AG400 we received. During testing we found the SiS301 controller to be of extremely high quality and the TV out image quality proved to be significantly better than what we've seen from other manufacturers in the past. As well as the TV output, the card also features an S-Video output and a Composite output.

ECS AG400 - Benchmarks - Quake 3 Arena

Benchmarks- Test SystemProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 2GHzMotherboard: Abit IT7Memory: OCZ 256MB PC2700 DDR SDRAMVideo Card: Triplex Xabre PRO, Abit Siluro GF4MX440Hard Disk: Quantum Fireball Plus LM 15GB 7200RPMDrivers: 27.20 Detonator drivers, DirectX 8.1Operating System: Windows 2000 ProfessionalSoftware Used: Quake III Arena, 3DMark2001 SE and Max PayneResults - Quake III Arena High Quality 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1600x1200 32-bit colorQuake 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.

ECS AG400 - Benchmarks - 3DMark2001 SE

Results - 3DMark2001 SE 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1600x1200 32-bit color3DMark2001 SE is the latest installment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 8.1 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce4), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.

ECS AG400 - Benchmarks - Max Payne

Results - Max Payne High Quality 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1600x1200 32-bit colorMax Payne is a very popular, graphics intensive game that features full DirectX 8.0 support. Like Quake III Arena, Max Payne is able to run various time demos that test your system's performance under intense game play.

ECS AG400 - Overclocking & Conclusion

OverclockingCurrently, Entech's PowerStrip software does not support the Xabre 400 GPU and we unfortunately could not find a similar overclocking utility that does. Unlike Triplex, ECS did not bundle a Xabre 400 compatible overclocking utility with the card so we were unable to test its overclocking potential. That said, if our Triplex Xabre Pro results are anything to go by, the chipset's lack of overclocking headroom will most likely render overclocking the card virtually pointless anyway. If you are planning on overclocking, I suggest you stay away from the ECS AG400 until this issue has been sorted out.ConclusionOverall we were quite impressed with the ECS AG400, however, it was not without its problems. Coming in at only US$100, the AG400 is ideal for those looking at purchasing a high performance gaming graphics card but are on a tight budget. However, its disappointing overclocking results, lack of DVI-output and non-existent software bundle will mean that it is certainly not a card for everyone.The bottom line is, if you are looking for an inexpensive graphics card upgrade that provides performance in between that of the GeForce 4 MX440 and MX460, the ECS AG400 is quite a good buy. However, overclockers or users that require a DVI output should probably look elsewhere.- Pros High performance Great value AGP 8x DirectX 8.1 support TV output- Cons Poor overclocking results Lacks hardware vertex shader Lacks DVI output Non-existent software bundleRating - 8.5/10

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