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With such strong demand for information on all the available NVIDIA GeForce 256 based boards, we've been working hard to bring you what you've been asking for. As soon as the boards arrive, they're reviewed for your viewing pleasure. Arriving just a tad late for the last GeForce review (ELSA Erazor X and Outrageous 3D GeForce Review ), the ELSA Erazor X² (Elsa's GeForce-card equipped with DDR-memory) had to be tested separately but we'll still give you the low down on rival GeForce boards as well as the competing graphics boards based on other chipsets in the market today. With so many choices being released based on the GeForce 256, things are becoming more and more difficult to choose which board to go with. Drivers, driver interface, software package, hardware performance and cost are all huge factors that everyone should look into before making a final decision. Hopefully we can add to your arsenal of knowledge as we bring you the scoop on ELSA's Erazor X².
ELSA is a German company that we are very familiar with since they have tried to separate themselves from your average NVIDIA based graphics board with high self-set standards that rival that of even NVIDIA. ELSA made it publicly clear that they didn't feel the NVIDIA's SDR reference design was up to their standards and decided to spend some additional time to "improve" the reference design. Most of these improvements were to help the manufacturing of the boards versus actually giving the customer some added benefits. This was a rather bold move being that it would cost them a bit of lag time compared to their competitors. The trade hasn't seemed to pay off yet since there haven't been any major problems with graphics boards based on the standard GeForce design. However, it is important to note that ELSA did go out of its way to try to improve upon what was considered to be "good enough." This just further supports the ELSA's track record of quality, performance and innovation. I'm all for the added efforts, as long as the trade-offs don't hit the cost of the product too hard.
This time around ELSA didn't try to improve upon the reference design of the GeForce but instead they opted to follow the reference design that seems to be working just fine for everyone else making a GeForce DDR card. The board uses 6ns DDR SGRAM (click here for more information on what DDR memory is) and has the same miscellaneous chips that the Leadtek board uses (minus the DVI components). The graphics card offers the same basic features that all the GeForce 256 DDR based cards have: excellent fill-rate, hardware T&L, top notch OpenGL support, respectable DVD playback and excellent memory bandwidth. The combination of these features adds up to what we consider the industries overall best performing hardware. Not only do the theoretical numbers in regards to fill-rate and memory performance shine but the real world performance of this chipset also proves it. For those of you unfamiliar with the theoretical fill-rate and memory bandwidth potentials of the GeForce and competing chipsets, you can take a peek at the table below.
|Graphics Card||Fill-Rate||Memory Bandwidth|
|NVIDIA GeForce 256 DDR||480 Mpixels/sec||4.8 GB/sec|
|NVIDIA GeForce 256 SDR||480 Mpixels/sec||2.656 GB/sec|
|ATI Rage Fury MAXX||540 Mpixels/sec||4.96 GB/sec|
|S3 Savage 2000||250 Mpixels/sec||2.48 GB/sec|
Keep in mind that these numbers are in theory and that there are many factors such as driver performance and architecture efficiency that alter real world performance.
Aside from the incredible fill and memory performance we must not forget that it currently is the only graphics card with functioning hardware T&L support. Currently we're only seeing minor advantages from the T&L on games like Quake Arena but as next generations of games come out, we'll see games that may depend heavily on a T&L unit like the one in the GeForce. However, I've still not seen many T&L titles planning to be released in the very near future and we'll have to wait another few months before something truly takes advantage of this mathematical powerhouse.
So what's in the actual package you get from ELSA? It comes with the card, drivers (which includes a few of the ELSA utilities) and CD sampler disk. The Sampler disk includes a bunch of demo games and the all-important SoftDVD player (called ELSA movie).
The only non-GeForce specific feature that the Erazor X² adds is Video-Output. Other than that, you have a pretty basic DDR GeForce board aside from the ELSA video drivers that we will get to later on in the review.
Here I've gathered a table of all the various GeForce cards to give you an idea of what the ELSA Erazor X² has to offer compared to the other GeForce based boards.
|Graphics Card||Price||Memory Type||Video||Custom Drivers|
|ELSA Erazor X²||$299||6ns DDR SGRAM||Video out||Yes|
|Asus V6600 Deluxe||$279||5ns SDR SGRAM||Video in/out||Yes|
|Creative Labs Annihilator||$229||5.5ns SDR SDRAM||None||Yes|
|ELSA Erazor X||$229||5.5ns SDR SDRAM||None||Yes|
|Absolute Multimedia Outrageous 3D||$265/$285||6ns DDR SGRAM||Video out||No, uses NVIDIA reference drivers|
|LeadTek Winfast GeForce 256 DDR||$279||6ns DDR SGRAM||Video out||Yes|
|LeadTek Winfast GeForce 256 SDR||$229||5ns SDR SDRAM||Video out||Yes|
The one big that you'll notice is that the ELSA Erazor X² is a little more expensive than the rest of the DDR we've tested. As far as features and design go, the Erazor X² doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary yet costs about $20 more. If anything, the Erazor X² offers slightly less than the competition being that it doesn't have a software bundle as good as the other boards.
In the last GeForce round up I had mentioned seeing possible issues when pairing an Athlon with a GeForce based board. After solving my own problem and helping a few others isolate the issue, I've come to the conclusion that all can be saved as long as you have the latest AMD AGP driver and a NVIDIA driver that is at least 3.62 or higher. Anything short of that may cause your system to be rather unstable in 3D applications.