Two weeks have passed since NVIDIA dropped the bomb by launching yet another first-class chipset, the GeForce2 GTS, and we're starting to see cards appear on local store shelves across the country. The first company to release product based on this chipset, ELSA, surprised not only consumers but also competition as well being available as of last week beating Leadtek and AOpen to the punch. Leadtek and AOpen will be releasing within the next couple of weeks and have graciously supplied me with final product. All of our contestants are in review form and are not previews of what is to come. Our goal in this comparison is to compare the competing products with each other and help you decide which product is best suited for you if any.
The AOpen PA256 Pro, ELSA Gladiac, and Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 GTS (WFGF2) are all based on the GeForce2 chipset by NVIDIA. Let's have a quick recap of what this new chipset offers over the original GeForce .
- .18 micron core resulting in greater clock speed, less heat and cheaper production costs
- Higher performance T&L engine (faster core and slightly optimized T&L engine over GeForce)
- Higher Fill-Rate of 800Mpixels/s and 1.6 Gtexels/s
- Slight increase in Memory Bandwidth at 333 MHz DDR vs. its predecessor's 300 MHz DDR memory
- Full Scene Anti Aliasing (FSAA) (available in the GeForce driver but performance not reasonable to use)
It also includes all of the features offered in the original GeForce chipset. For more detailed information about the GeForce2 GTS chipset or how it compares to competing chipsets, please read the extensive report, Tom's Take on NVIDIA's New GeForce2 GTS .
Contestants: AOpen PA256 Pro
The AOpen PA256 Pro in this review is the OEM package that will be available in the next couple of weeks for $349 followed by a retail package (that differs by offering two games over the OEM package) that will cost $400. The OEM board is shipping with your bare essentials: graphics card and drivers. However there are two hardware features that might tickle your fancy. The first is an upcoming BIOS patch that will offer a very unique feature to any other GeForce2 based card out there. This special feature is called OpenBIOS and allows users to configure the following:
- Core voltage and speed
- Memory voltage and speed
- AGP settings (1/2/4X, AGP Sideband)
- Misc. Graphics delays
This feature is probably going to be a huge deal with tweaker/overclocking fans but you'll probably need to upgrade the stock cooling solution as it is supplied with the mediocre reference cooling. This is a big deal as increasing the core speed and/or voltage will dramatically increase the thermal cooling requirements. You can have all these fancy adjustments but without proper cooling you won't get very far.
The second is the video-out feature that isn't necessarily available on all GeForce2 solutions. Although the board doesn't come with a soft-DVD player, I did test the video-out with a quick game of Quake 3. Entering the Video Output Menu demanded a mandatory 30-second lag time but also allowed me to enter my TV mode without changing my desktop resolution. The board also offered settings pre configured for various international formats. Pick a country and you're ready to rock n' roll. Text normally isn't very clear on television sets and this of course was the case during my testing, but once I entered Quake 3, things were just fine and the picture quality was excellent. I wouldn't say this feature is useful for typing up a word document but perfectly fine to play games with.
AOpen PA256 Software Driver
Here we have the general information panel for the PA256 Pro. You can check on various driver versions and hardware settings.
This is your basic color adjustment property window with the ability to set color schemes.
Here we have the first of three different D3D property windows. This is all based on the NVIDIA reference driver.
Here are some additional D3D adjustments that include the ability to disable vsync.