During the years of Bjorn3d.com, we’ve tested cards from a variety of companies including Jazz, Creative, Visiontek and lately PNY, to name a few. Therefore it is a bit funny that we have never tested any cards from Leadtek. The reason definitely isn’t that they are a new company. On the contrary. Leadtek has been around from 1986 and have been producing high quality cards using different types of chips from that moment.
At the moment Leadtek is exclusively using NVIDIA chipsets in their WinFast series of cards. This includes everything from the now (very) budget TNT cards up to their Ti4600 based A250 Ultra TD.
I got my grubby little hands on their Ti4400 based card, the A250 TD, and have been busy the last few weeks putting it through its paces. In contrast to some of my other more lucky associates on this site, this is my first Geforce 4 based card which means I was extra curious about what improvements I would see over my Ti500.
The card arrived in a nice purple/white box containing all sorts of goodies. First we have 2 games- Dronez and Gunlok. A demo/benchmark of Dronez was used when the GF3 was released to demonstrate some new effects with the pixel/vertex shaders so it wasn’t a bad idea to ship this game with the A250. Unfortunately I really haven’t had time to play these 2 games yet so the quality of them remains unknown. In fact, just briefly looking over both Avault and Gamesdomain I failed to find any reviews of them.
Together with the games came a CD which contains the following software:
- WinfastDVD 3.1 – A basic but nice DVD player. Played Shrek on it and it looked good. The program seems only to support 2 speakers though since the 4 speaker option was greyed out.
- Drivers for all sorts of NVIDIa cards and OS. The included drivers are of version 27.50.
- Several different display utilities that help improve the image quality (3Deep, Cult3D and Colorific). I’ve used all of these before and though they work in the end I always ended up using the Digital Vibrance setting instead. However – I’m not sure if it has something to do with drivers but using RivaTuner to turn on Digital Vibrance doesn’t seem to do anything …
- WinFox v2 - This is a collection of utilities for the card. First of all just let me say it is UGLY. Leadtek should let someone redo the whole GUI of this utility. The utility contains a range of small useful (and not useful) utilities. There’s the speedrunner which helps overclock your card. We’ve got a hardware monitor program that doesn’t work on this card (you need the TDH version which then lets you keep an eye on your graphics card). There’s a Tea Break program (!) which lets you set up an interval when you should be reminded to take a break . In fact – there are a lot of small programs which help you get info on almost everything in your computer and while no program is indispensable, together the Winfox utility is a nice addition to the card. Even better is the fact that it works together with reference drivers from NVIDIA
Last but not least the box includes SVGA cables for the TV-out port. Too many card-makers forget this.
The manual that is supplied is good and includes info about almost every utility in the WinFox program and goes through the display properties as well. Even the nView feature is explained on an extra sheet of paper. Last but not least Leadtek has supplied a good leaflet that goes through the whole installation process from inserting the card to installing the drivers and utility.
All-in-all Leadtek has provided a very good package! It is nice to see that while some at most include reference drivers and maybe WinDVD Leadtek has gone the extra mile to create a package that stands out.
The actual card is, as with other Ti4400 and Ti4600′s, very long. In fact it is much longer than my Ti500 which it replaced. This, as you will see, can provide some problems when installing the card. What is apparent from the second you remove it from the plastic bag is that Leadtek has taken some extra steps to provide cooling for the memory and the chipset. Instead of the funky cooler that we’ve seen on reference cards and Visiontek’s cards Leadtek has placed a sturdy aluminium (at least I think it is aluminium) cooler system together with 2 dust-protected fans.
Check this out!
The aluminium cooler extends to the back of the card
The dust-protection is there to prevent the fans from being clogged up with dust. You might think that this is overkill but take a look at this image I took of my Ti500 which has been in my machine for a couple of months now:
Since the card is so long I had some problems getting it to fit in my machine. I don’t have a small case. In fact I have one of those huge Antec cases. Still, on my Soltek mobo the card extends so the end of it is situated right over my IDE connectors. Also the end of one of my HD’s is about 1-2 cm from the end of the card.
Other than this problem the installation went without a hitch. This is kind of expected with an NVIDIA card these days.
For the purpose of this review I used my machine:
CPU: XP1600+ and XP2000+ (I got a new CPU at the same time as the GF4 so it was a good time to see if a CPU upgrade is worth it)
GFX: Ti500 and Ti4400
Memory: 512 Mb PC2100 DDR
Audio: Creative Audigy
Monitor: Philips 109S 19″
The drivers used were: 28.32
For the first OpenGL benchmark we use the tried and tested Q3A. Say what you want about it – there are still games coming out using the engine. As you will see below I’ve also included some of those games as benchmarks. The version used is 1.17 and the demo is demo001. To automate the benchmark I am using the latest version of QBench. All settings are set to max and texture compression is turned off. Last but not least – when using AA the anisotropic filtering is set to level 2 (16 tap).
With no AA there is no surprise that the gains with the Ti4400 are modest over a GF3. As soon as we turn on AA though the situation changes. A 51% fps increase with Quincunx AA is really amazing. At 4xAA we still pull over 60 fps with the Ti4400 even if it ‘only’ moves ahead with 15% over the GF3. As expected a faster CPU only is usable with noAA turned on.
The picture is the same as at 1152.
@ 1600 the picture changes a bit. I’m not sure why the fps drops so much with the Ti4400 compared to the drop of the GF3. In fact – looking at the other review of a Ti4400 on this site you see that that Ti4400 manages almost 60 fps …. I’m going to ask Gene to take a look at his scores again as well as test again myself.
Regardless of the reason for the ‘low’ scores at 1600 it is clear that with a vanilla Q3A engine the Ti4400 crushes the GF3, especially with Quincunx AA.
RTCW is one of the newer games using a modified version of the Q3A-engine. To benchmark this game I used the technique described at 3dcenter.de. All settings were set to max and no texture compression was used. When using AA a anisotropic filtering of lv2 was used.
It is quite clear that the engine has been improved with more features over Q3A. The Ti4400 moves ahead right away.
The picture is similar at this resolution.
And at this resolution … .
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
This is the latest game using a modified version of the Q3A engine. Just as RTCW more effects have been added which tax the graphics-card even more. To benchmark the game I followed instructions found on the web. The demo actually is a recorded multiplayer-match. As usual every setting was set to max and no compression was used. All AA tests were done with a anisotropic filtering set to ,v2.
WHOA! How about this? Turn on AA and you can forget playing with the GF3.
At this res even noAA yield sub-60 fps performance for the GF3 while the Ti4400 not drops many frames.
And no surprise here. If you want to play JKII Multiplayer at higher resolutions (over 1024×768, at this res Quarot says AA is playabel using a GF3) you really need a Ti4400 or similar performing card.
Moving from OpenGL to D3D the first benchmark candidate is a self-running demo/benchmark that Novalogic released a month or so ago of their recently released game Comanche 4. The game supports all sorts of Dx8 features and should be a nice benchmark to test the new generation of cards. Unfortunately the benchmark seems to be quite ‘slow’ – and even though you can’t get over 35 fps running the benchmark I must say that the actual game did run much smoother even on my GF3. So – take these results with a grain of salt.
The settings were set to max and texture compression was turned off. As with all other benchmarks lv2 anisotropic filtering was used with AA.
The Ti4400 manages to move ahead of the GF3 right away. One thing that surprised me was that a faster CPU didn’t do much to the scores. I expected the benchmark to be very CPU limited …
No surprise here. BTW – just so you know – there is no 1152 resolution to test in the benchmark, that’s why I moved directly from 1280 from 1024.
Notice that moving from 1024×768 to 1600×1200 you only loose a few fps when not using any AA with the Ti4400. Turning on AA does slow down even the Ti4400 but compare it to the GF3 – what a difference.
Ballistics is a very fast futuristic racing game from the Swedish developer GRIN. I reviewed the game on this site already a while ago. The game uses DX8 features and was developed with the GF3 in mind. The developers were kind enough to supply me with a benchmark patch that helped me use it as a´DX8 benchmark. The score I am reporting is the median score.
I benchmarked both cards with the Extreme setting and as usual lv2 anisotropic filtering was used for all AA tests.
The GF4 Ti4400 moves ahead of the GF3 right away. It is also clear that the the game likes a fast CPU.
No changes here. The poor GF3 is getting spanked.
And no surprise here either.
Chameleonmark is a new benchmark directly from NVIDIA. This means that it really only is good for testing different cards from NVIDIA. The benchmark is heavy on the vertex/pixel shader stuff and looks beautiful. The settings were set to max and texture compression was turned off. As with all other benchmarks lv2 anisotropic filtering was used with AA.
The only thing you really can deduct from these scores is that the GF4 is much better than the GF3 (which isn’t a surprise since the GF4 has an extra dual vertex shader engine).
When comparing the GeForce 4 to the GeForce 3 the improved image quality should be mentioned. NVIDIA now calls the AA Accuview. The Quincunx mode has been improved and NVIDIA has introduced a new mode called 4xs which sports a much improved image quality. Unfrotunately right now the 4xs mode only is availalbe in D3D. To see some discussion about how the new modes work – read our Geforce 4 preview article.
To see what the Geforce 4 could do for the image quality I fired up the Commanche 4 benchmark demo and tried to take a screenshot at the same time using both the Ti500 and the Ti4400 with different types of AA.
|2×1||Hypersnap refused to take a shot|
|Quincunx||Hypersnap refused to take a shot|
I don’t know if these screenshots can show you how good the new 4xs mode really is. It is quite a bit difference over the normal 4x mode. Currently I am playing Dungeon Siege at 1024×768 (the highest supported mode) with 4xs AA plus the highest level of anisotropic filtering and it looks beautiful.
In fact – if there is something you can say about the A250 TD it is that you now can play the games the way they should be played – at high resolutions with great AA. It is quite interesting that even though I was completely happy with my Ti500 and the fact that it allowed me to play games at high resolutions with AA the Geforce 4 still has impressed me since I the quality is improved. I guess you can never have to much power under the hood.
Image quality under 2D is also excellent. I’m currently running WinXP at 1600×1200 on a 19″ monitor and there is no fuzziness at all in the text.
With the kind of heatsink the A250 has it would be stupid not to test the overclockability. Since Leadtek even supplies an overclocking utility it is clear that even they expect you to try to get the most out of your card. Compared to the Ti4600 the Ti4400 is ‘modestly’ clocked – 275/550 compared to 300/650 MHz. Latest rumours has it that the difference between the Ti4200, Ti4400 and Ti4600 basically depends on speed binning at the factory. The Ti4600 is chips that passed a higher speed.
So, what can our A250 Ti4400 muster? Could I reach Ti4600 speeds? I would expect the core to manage a 9% increase but how about the memory? Going from 550 to 650 is almost 20% increase in clockspeed. Well, I bravely clocked it up right away and the result was…. it worked!
I have now run the computer @ 300/650 MHz for more than 1 week and I haven’t had one crash, one pixel blinking (a early sign of problems when o/c-ing) or any signs of anything wrong. Below are some charts that show the benefit of o/c-ing.
Not a huge increase in speed but you shouldn’t knock 11% I guess.
Looks like you can expect about 10-15% increase when o/c-ing.
Just a week or so ago a new benchmark called CodeCreatures benchmark (http://www.codecreatures.com) was released. This is a Dx8 benchmark that looks awesome. It resembles the Nature-scene in 3DMark2001. Since I didn’t have my Ti500 anymore I tested my Ti4400 at stock speed and overclocked and here are the results:
There really isn’t anything bad I can say about this card. It is fast. It has a huge o/c-potential. It is built with quality and comes with a good software package. At $250 (which was the cheapest I could find it for at pricewatch.com) it isn’t that high priced and there definitely is no real reason getting a higher priced Ti4600 unless it has some extras like TV In.
On the other issue of the worth of upgrading from a Geforce 3 to Geforce 4 I can only say…. yes – if you’ve got the machine to handle the GF4. As Tim and Gene have shown in our other reviews, you definitely need a machine better than a 1 GHz to benefit from a Geforce 4. But if you have it – go for it. Turn on AA once and never turn it off again.