Prolink Ti4200-8x - IntroductionIntroduction
It seems that almost everyone is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the GeForce FX boards. But lets be honest; how many of us can really afford to cough up around US$500 for a graphics board? If you're like most of us, then this will be a bit lofty to justify as a realistic upgrade. But how can we get better performance without emptying the wallet entirely?Prolink has what they feel is an answer to this very quandary. Since the GeForce4 Ti4200 video cards are already a huge hit amongst the masses, why not take this award winning design and try to make it even better?Enter the subject of today's review; the Prolink Ti4200-8x Video Card. Can this possibly be any better than the ordinary Ti4200 boards on the market? To find out, just follow me as we delve into this question a bit deeper.
Prolink Ti4200-8x - SpecificationsSpecifications
What would a review be without some sort of facts and figures to throw around? While I will agree that this can be a bit drier than other pages within the review, it is always necessary to see for ourselves exactly what we are dealing with right up front. This information is straight from the Prolink website, so you can see just what we're working with.
Prolink Ti4200-8x - ContentsWhat You Get
Once you break open the box, you'll be greeted by the normal parts and pieces that you would expect to find. You get the video card (of course), a users manual, S-Video cables and some software.
Speaking of the software, here is what you get. A driver disk complete with 41.72 nVidia Detonator Drivers, WinDVD 4, Outbreak and Ballistics. The last two are a couple of games that tend to show off the capabilities of the video card. Most manufacturers have gotten away from a large software package and it makes good sense. After all, a vast majority of the folks who are plunking down money for a quality video card already have the games that they want to play on it anyway. It is wasteful to add a bunch of plastic in the box that will end up in the garbage, so why bother.Hmmm...now if only we could convince the AOL folks of this simple fact.
The S-Video cables are very basic, but there really doesn't have to be anything fancy here. You have the cable that ports into the video card and a removable extension that ports to the TV set. Simplicity does have some advantages.And now on to the important part; the video board itself.
Prolink Ti4200-8x - The CardThe Video Card
This particular version of the Ti4200-8x card is designed for those who want workable performance at a minimal cost. It doesn't have any of the bells and whistles that some of the other models have, but then it really doesn't need them. As long as you don't have to output to a LCD type monitor, then this one should work fine for most needs.If you look at the card, you'll see that there are few differences between it and the original Ti4200 model. This is because the main differences are hidden away. The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is a newer revision that takes advantage of the new 8x AGP standard and the memory is a bit faster. Beyond these changes, the main construction is the same as older models.
As I stated above, this is a budget model. Your ports are limited to a standard 15-pin CRT output and the S-Video port. Since I will be using a trusty CRT for my display, this works just fine. Nothing wasted here.
You'll notice that Prolink has taken a solid stand against heat buildup. The heatsink on this thing is huge! It covers the GPU and all memory modules on the front of the board. It also adds a new look that will do very well in a windowed case. Having good performance is important, but with case modding becoming so prominent it never hurts to look good too.
And just to make sure that the backside of the board doesn't get too hot, we also see some heatsinks placed on the memory modules here as well. There is no active cooling on this side of the card, but since this area will be in the vicinity of the processor HSF, there will generally be moving airflow in this area.
Prolink Ti4200-8x - TestingBenchmarks
When all is said and done, we always come down to this page right here. Cold, hard numbers that tell us the real story of whether a product is worthy or not. But with these new 8x AGP boards hitting the streets, we have to ask ourselves if it really matters. I figure that the best way to see the answer to this is to run the tests on this new 8x board and also on a reference Ti4200 board from nVidia. Both boards will be run at factory speeds so we should see firsthand if it matters. Theoretically, the doubled bandwidth should help out in heavy graphics situations, but the numbers should tell the tale.But before we jump into the tests, lets take a look at what we'll be running these boards on:Motherboard
: EPoX 8K9A2 (KT400 chipset)Processor
: Athlon XP 1800+ @ 1870MHz (Thoroughbred)Memory
: 512MB Crucial PC2700 DDRDisplay
: Hitachi SuperScan 814 21" CRTHard Drive
: Seagate Barracuda IV 40GBThe tests I ran were very simple so that anyone can perform them for themselves. They consisted of the 3DMark2001SE from Futuremark
(formerly MadOnion) and a pair of benchmarks available in the Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo. The tests were run on the reference Ti4200 board, the Prolink Ti4200-8x board and also on a Prolink MX440-8x board just for comparison sake. Drivers used were the Detonator 40.52 on all boards tested.3DMark2001SE
With the release of newer video cards with greater amounts of bandwidth, the 3DMark benchmark is beginning to show its age. A new version is due out soon, but since it is not readily available we will make due with what we have in hand.While not a huge difference in performance numbers, we can still see nearly a 600 point increase when comparing the 8x version with the original 4x variety. While it does show a beneficial gain, there isn't enough here to make me jump up and down for joy.One item of note, however, is the Nature benchmark. This particular benchmark has thrown video cards for loops since it first came out. The amount of data that it throws at the card is generally staggering to older boards and can cause all sorts of slow, jerky graphics. Here is what we ended up with in this test:
Now the difference between the 4x and 8x AGP busses are beginning to show a bit. While the amount of frames per second differ by less then 8FPS, this equates to roughly a 12.3% increase with the 8x board in place. Now things are getting a bit interesting.Oh, and for those noting the lack of a result for the MX440 board, remember that the Nature test requires hardware support for DirectX 8 or higher and the MX series of video boards do not have this capability.Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
When you download the UT2003 Demo, it comes complete with a pair of built-in benchmarks. The first is called a Flyby Benchmark
and consists of two demos that record a virtual tour of the levels. It is similar to being in Spectator Mode in the Quake series of games. During the virtual tour, it records the frames per second of each map and then gives you an average.The second test is called the Botmatch Benchmark
and consists of another pair of demos; this time with bots having a fragfest. Since there is movement involved with the characters on screen, this test will have a more drastic effect on the frame rates. After the two demos have run, the program again calculates the average frames per second and displays the result.So how did the contestants fare in this endeavor? I'm glad you asked.UT2003 Demo Flyby Benchmark
We see a pattern here similar to the overall benchmarks from the 3DMark utility; an improvement but not a large one. Of course, it does well for bragging rights to be able to run the UT2003 benchmarks at nearly 150FPS.UT2003 Demo Botmatch Benchmark
Well, the difference here isn't worth much at all. We'll call this test nearly a tie in terms of performance. It looks as though the Unreal Tournament game just doesn't have the strength to fully stress out today's modern video cards.
Prolink Ti4200-8x - Overclocking/ConclusionOverclocking
Certainly we can't finish a review of a performance video card without information in regards to the enthusiast crowd. This is where the Prolink card begins to shine.After looking around at different reviews of the Ti4200 video cards, I have seen that if you can get anywhere close to 290/600, then you're doing very well for yourself. This seems to be mostly limited by the memory speeds, but if you'll recall I stated earlier that the friendly folks at Prolink had used a little faster memory aboard this model. So what difference does it make?After playing around a bit with the built-in utility for adjusting the core and memory speeds (looked like Coolbits on Steroids), I was able to run this card at a very solid 305/630. And remember, I only accept the speeds of the card when they can run all tests with no visual artifacts at all. This card will run at considerably higher speeds, but not without suffering from graphical glitches. To give you an idea as to what this equates to in numbers, I ran the 3DMark test at this speed and managed to get a result of 11,921 3DMarks with a Nature test performance of 80.0FPS. Not too shabby for what most are considering a budget-minded video card
After all the tests had been completed, I can now say that there is a difference between the 4x and 8x AGP cards. Though we were not able to stress them out enough for this difference to be fully shown, the 12% gain in the Nature test in 3DMark says a lot towards how well it can handle the workload at hand. But then, when games such as Doom III hit the market, this situation will be different. The ability to run at 8x AGP will be a huge benefit when these new powerhouse games become available for retail sale.As far as cost, the Prolink line has always shown itself to be competitive. Shopping online, the price of the 8x version of this card is still well under US$200, and is priced between $20-30 more than the 4x AGP model. And it is always a good thing to keep up with modern technologies as they come out. With more motherboard chipsets natively supporting the AGP 3.0 standard, it becomes even more reasonable to look at the higher bandwidth video boards.Now don't get me wrong, this card is not the be-all, end-all of video cards. Far from it with the likes of two higher versions of GeForce4, ATi Radeon 9700 series and the soon to be released GeForce FX. But for those who are shopping on a budget, this card deserves a look.Bottom line...If you happen to want some solid performance, very good overclockability, 8x AGP capabilities, and all at a price that won't leave you short a month's rent, then take a look at the Prolink Ti4200-8x video card. It supports all current standards and will still take you a good ways into the future.- Pros
8x AGP capabilityExcellent overclockingReasonable price- Cons
No large improvements over the original versionRating - 9/10