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What Is DDR?

Leadtek WinFast GeForce 256 DDR Review
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So what's DDR memory anyhow? Let's start with a couple of definitions before we go any further.

Clock cycle - a master timing signal that sets the operating pace of all other components. For example a 100 MHz bus has a 10ns cycle time (1/10^6Hz) or commonly referred to as a period.

SDR - SDR stands for S ingle D ata R ate where only one action occurs during either the rising or falling edge of the clock during the cycle. So in a waveform that has a rising and a falling edge, SDR only acts on half the cycle.

Ok, with those terms in mind, we can now look into what DDR is. DDR stands for Double Data Rate. Double Data Rate differs from SDR in that it is able to complete actions on both falling and rising edges of the clock cycle. Essentially you are getting double the work in the same amount of clock cycles. The WinFast GeForce 256 DDR is actually running at 150 MHz but with DDR, they claim 300 MHz (2*150 MHz) because they're getting double the performance as they would out of SDR memory. Keep in mind that in this particular case of the Leadtek DDR GeForce board, SGRAM (Synchronous Graphic Random Access Memory) DDR memory is being used but DDR is also available in the SDRAM (Synchronous Random Access Memory) variety.

T&L

Everyone should be familiar with T&L by now and the fact that besides a few cool demos and benchmarks, we're still waiting on the games to roll out that truly take advantage of this wonderful feature. Hardware T&L is still only found in the GeForce chipset contrary to what anyone else has said. Until S3's S2000 has a driver that supports T&L and ATI releases its next generation Rage Fury MAXX, the sole hardware T&L consumer graphics card is the GeForce 256. There has been much speculation about the GeForce 256 not having that great of a T&L engine but there really hasn't been any solid proof either way in my eyes. Mind you that much of this criticism has been made by the few competing companies that don't offer T&L. For more information about T&L, check out the review of the first T&L demo title available.

Video

After playing around with my two test DVD's, I found the DVD playback on my Sony television to be decent but not nearly as clear as viewing on my monitor. The DVD playback itself was fast on my test PIII 550 system and didn't show any signs of dropped frames or obvious visual defects. Keep in mind these are purely subjective comments and are meant to be basic until we're completed our technical DVD test suite. Overall, I would give the thumbs up to using the WinFast board for DVD playback and a so-so solution for pumping the video out to your entertainment center.

Software Bundle

The software bundle of the WinFast GeForce 256 DDR remains the same as it's smaller SDR sibling. Here is what they have to offer:

Full versions of Asymetrix Web 3D , 3dfx and Digital Video Producer are some pretty handy applications if you're into creating web content. Web 3D and 3dfx are 3D authoring tools. Digital Video producer lets is exactly what it sounds to be, a audio, video editing tool.

Colorific is basically video calibration software. With this you can fine-tune the display of your workstation.

3Deep software will give developers a way to optimize your display settings so that they can offer the visuals intended in their game. Colorific and 3Deep work best when used in conjunction.

InterVideo WinDVD is the bundled software DVD player.

RealiMation demo is another 3D authoring tool that's quick and easy to use. Unfortunately it's a 45 day trial so it's shovel ware after that point.

Platinum VRCreator and WHIRL are VRML related softwares. VRCreator lets you create VRML content while WHIRL is a plug-in to let you see VRML.

As you can see, the WinFast board offers a bit more than it normally has in the past by offering a few graphic content creation programs that can be useful if you're into personal web development or for just plain ole fun. If you could care less about graphics programs then you'll probably consider most of the software package shovel-ware .

Competition

Recently there has been a bit stirring up in the graphics industry as a couple of new cards have been released and in the next few months, we can expect to see a few more surface. Let's take a look at who's up to what.

In a few months we can expect to see 3dfx launch their next generation of chipset that will contain some serious hardware that is aimed to put down some serious fill-rate performance. The cards will most likely be geared towards the high-end market as the more powerful configuration are expect to contain four graphics chips and up to 128 MBs of memory. The cost is sure to be high with this type of brute force approach but I'm sure power users and loyal 3dfx fans will be glad to shell out the big bucks for the possibly massive performance. Currently the VD3 3500 is their best offering but isn't much to talk about. The VD3 3500 features a TV-tuner and respectable 16-bit 3D performance that hasn't been cutting it for some time. Let's home that 3dfx comes through with their next launch plans and comes out blazing with a product as good as their hype has made it up to be.

ATI has recently released their Rage Fury MAXX that sports high-fill rates, quality video playback but currently lacks hardware T&L. From what we saw in the review, the MAXX is going to need more time so that the ATI software engineers can fine-tune their drivers a bit more to keep up with the rest of the high-end players. At high resolution and color, the video card does well due to it's awesome raw fill-rate and memory bandwidth resources but comes up a bit short on the rest of the tests. The big drawbacks to the MAXX are it's price and lack of hardware T&L at the moment. We can expect the next generation to sport T&L but until that time, it's at a disadvantage.

There isn't any news out of Matrox right now besides their currently shipping G400 series of cards that offer average 3D performance (above average in 32-bit color modes), quality video output, dual-head display support and well-known visual quality. Besides having mediocre performance, the prices of the G400 series of cards aren't that cheap either. Unless you really care for the feature set that these cards to offer, it's not a very practical choice.

Packing a bit of head, S3 has jumped into the scene with their Diamond Viper II card that's beginning to pick up in popularity as their drivers begin to shape up. Unlike most of the other competitors, S3 has been keeping a very aggressive price point. The card is pretty competitive in 3D performance and is beginning to offer better video playback quality. If S3 can get the drivers whipped into shape, they just might steal a few customers away from ATI and NVIDIA due to their lower cost. Keep in mind that they're still working T&L functionality into their drivers so you'll have to wait until they come through with their promises before you can take advantage of the built in T&L engine.

Driver Interface

Aside from a few minor text differences the driver interface of the WinFast GeForce 256 DDR remains identical to that of the SDR board. To take a peek at the drivers, click here .

Benchmark Expectations

Given a few months of time for driver development since the release of the SDR GeForce boards, I expect to see the WinFast board take home the trophy for basically all the tests. The hardware has the raw ability to take on any of the contenders and given the driver maturity, it should be able to flex it's muscles without many problems from anyone. The only cards that may pose a challenge will be the MAXX and Viper II.

Overclocking

The first Leadtek GeForce board I had (the SDR version) wasn't able to overclock too well in my general testing procedure. Keep in mind this procedure consists of running the full benchmark suite with no crashes or visual issues. This time around I had much better luck overclocking the graphics board from Leadtek. I was able to pull my rigorous test suite off at 155 MHz core and 360 MHz memory. As I'm always quick to point out, not all cards will overclock stable over their default clock settings. It is best to leave them at stock setting to ensure stable performance. You always need to remember that the boards were designed to run a stable long life at the suggested clock speeds and by overclocking; you're drastically lowering that life expectancy. Also remember that there is no guarantee when it comes to overclocking so don't buy just on the hopes you're going to clock it at some insane rate unless you have some type of aftermarket cooling solution planned.

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