Leadtek is a virtual granddad in the computer business having been around since way back in 1986 and their GPU roots dig back past the days of the Riva TNT’s all the way to the era of 3Dlabs Permedia cards! One of the latest products to cross my desk is their WinFast A170 DDR T card. The WinFast A170 is a 64mb card based upon Nvidia’s Geforce 4 MX440 with NV17 core. Despite Leadtek’s long presence in the GPU market this was my first experience with one of their products and I was anxious to take a look at what they had to offer.
My first step was to break into the box and see what was provided with the WinFast A170. The box contained the following items:
The games were a nice surprise to me. While I wouldn’t buy a video card just for the games inside I always thought it was a nice touch to provide you with something to test out the new card you just bought. Some companies offer them these days, others don’t. I kind of like the ones that do.
One thing of particular note is the Quick Installation Guide pamphlet that came with the card. I’m not generally one to pay much attention to the directions until after I’ve screwed something up but I have to admit that Leadtek did a superb job with this guide. Even if you’d never swapped out a piece of hardware in your PC before this step by step guide would make it a snap with clear diagrams and easy to understand text. Considering the market that a GF4 MX card is likely to attract (casual gamers, folks upgrading older machines, etc) that’s probably a very wise move on their part. Either way though it’s a nice touch you don’t see too often.
Along the same lines, the manual itself is well put together, easy to follow and filled with screen shots that walk you through software setup and tweaking. A genuinely useful manual with a piece of computer hardware! Who’d have thunk it?
The Leadtek WinFast A170 DDR T follows the same lines as other Geforce4 MX440 cards that we’ve covered here at Bjorn recently. One thing I did notice though was that it’s a smaller card than the Ti4600 I recently reviewed. This WinFast is about the same size as my old Geforce3 so case room shouldn’t be much of an issue with it.
Here’s a quick run down of the features (swiped from Leadteks web page) as a refresher:
Nvidia latest nView technology
Nvida Light speed memory architecture9tm) II
Nvidia Accuview Antialiasing
Nvidia Video Processing Engine (VPE)
Integrated dual 350MHz RAMDACs
Integrated TV encoder
2 dual-rendering pipelines
4 texels per clock cycle
Cube environment mapping
64M high-speed 128-bit DDR RMA
High-performance 2D rendering engine
AGP 4X with Fast Writes
Nvidia Shading Rasterizer
AGP 4X/2X support
Integrated hardware transform engine
Integrated hardware lighting engine
True-color hardware cursor
High-quality HDTV-DVD playback
True, reflective bump mapping
Multibuffering (double, triple, quad) for smooth animation and video playback
DirectX and S3TC texture compression support
OpenGL 1.3 ICD support
32-bit color with 32-bit Z/stencil buffer
on-board active heat-sink cooling fan
AGP 2.0 slot support
TV-out up to 1024×768 resolution
Win 2K, ME, Win 98, Win XP
Intel Pentium II/III/Celeron, Pentium 4
(systems with AGP 2.0 Slot)
One of the pieces of software that the WinFast A170 comes packaged with is Leadtek’s WinFox utiliity. WinFox is an application that provides you with a great degree of control of your GPU settings from a convenient pop up task bar and tray icon. In addition to some basic stuff, like allowing you to set up regular display properties and choose anti aliasing settings, it also provides a variety of tools that allow you to monitor your hardware performance and memory resources, do DirectX diagnostics, and show a variety of systems information.
While that’s all pretty handy stuff WinFox is also likely to warm the hearts of overclockers as it’s got the Overclocker-Speed Runner app built in that lets you quickly and easily set both the chip and memory clock frequencies of your GPU. A no fuss, no muss way to see what your new card can really do.
Installation was painless and trouble free. The card dropped right in and the Leadtek driver CD walked me through the software setup. I later installed Nvidia’s latest 28.32 drivers but only because I wanted to try out the current batch, not because of any issues with the provided ones. All in all this was one of the more painless card swaps I’ve done. Had I any problems with the installation I’m sure that Leadteks excellent setup guide would have helped pull me through them but fortunately it wasn’t needed.
For test purposes I used my home machine which has the following specs:
I ran the Leadtek card through the usual array of benchmarks including Madonion’s 3dMark2001SE, Quake 3 Arena Demo 1, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and the new Commanche 4 demo. The Commanche 4 demo was run using a DirectX 7.0 batch file as the GF4 MX cards don’t have DX 8.x support. I used the benchmarks from my recent Geforce4 Ti4600 article as a base for comparison for this test. That should show the relationship of Leadtek’s Geforce4 MX440 as compared to a Geforce3 and a Geforce4 Ti4600. 3dMark2001SE [DirectX] First up was MadOnion’s 3dMark2001 and it showed us some interesting stuff about the WinFast A170 card. With no antialiasing on the WinFast took a strong lead over the Geforce3 out of the gate! At 2x AA this GF4 MX lost some ground but was still pretty competitive with the GF3. It wasn’t until we reached 4x AA that the GF3′s core starts showing it’s strength. 3dMark2001SE crapped out at 1280×1024 resolution at 4x AA on my machine so I’m only reflecting the no and 2x AA scores on the second graph.
I ran the Leadtek card through the usual array of benchmarks including Madonion’s 3dMark2001SE, Quake 3 Arena Demo 1, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and the new Commanche 4 demo. The Commanche 4 demo was run using a DirectX 7.0 batch file as the GF4 MX cards don’t have DX 8.x support. I used the benchmarks from my recent Geforce4 Ti4600 article as a base for comparison for this test. That should show the relationship of Leadtek’s Geforce4 MX440 as compared to a Geforce3 and a Geforce4 Ti4600.
[DirectX] First up was MadOnion’s 3dMark2001 and it showed us some interesting stuff about the WinFast A170 card. With no antialiasing on the WinFast took a strong lead over the Geforce3 out of the gate! At 2x AA this GF4 MX lost some ground but was still pretty competitive with the GF3. It wasn’t until we reached 4x AA that the GF3′s core starts showing it’s strength. 3dMark2001SE crapped out at 1280×1024 resolution at 4x AA on my machine so I’m only reflecting the no and 2x AA scores on the second graph.
Quake 3 Arena 1.17
[OpenGL] Quake 3 Arena proved to have a few surprises in store when it came to the WinFast A170. Take a look at those no antialiasing scores! The WinFast not only trounced the Geforce3 but also the Geforce4 Ti4600! The 4600 reclaimed it’s crown once any sort of antialiasing was added but the WinFast continued to do well against the Geforce3. In fact it lead the GF3 in both 2x AA and Quincunx and it was only up at 4x AA that the Geforce3 showed it’s edge.
Return to Castle Wolfemstein
[OpenGL] Return to Castle Wolfenstein showed similar results as Quake 3. The WinFast had a slight edge with no antialiasing, and stayed close to the GF3 up until we got to 4x AA again. No surprise really since RTCW is just a modified Q3 engine. At 1024×768 this card did a great job of keeping up although at the higher 1280×1024 resolution it didn’t fair as well. Then again though, neither did the Geforce3!
Commanche 4 Demo
[DirectX] Commanche 4 is a newer benchmark and it started to show a different story than that of the Quake based games. It’s geared towards DirectX 8.1, something that the Geforce4 MX cards don’t support and that showed in the results. I initially tried running the demo anyway but performance was pretty dismal. There were also minor graphics glitches and pixelation problems with some of the more complex graphics such as the helicopter rotor motion and some of the water animations. I then tried a batch file using DirectX 7.0 instead and that went a little better. Perfomance was a bit better when it wasn’t trying to push the DX 8.1 features but there were still some minor graphical glitches as when I ran it under the DX 8.1 mode. For the most part the numbers remain a good deal behind those of both the Geforce4 and Geforce3 and that’s likely a good indication of the advantage those cards are going to have in the upcoming DX 8.x compliant games.
Overall The Leadtek WinFast A170 DDR T seems to be a pretty good product. It’s packaged with all the cabling you need to take advantage of the card’s TV out features; it has some of the best doumentation I’ve seen in the industry to date; and it even comes with couple of games to try the card out on. Not too shabby! I didn’t get a chance to fool with the included games yet due to publishing deadlines, but I still think it’s a nice perk to get them with your new card.
As far as game performance goes, results were mixed. In current games the Geforce4 MX440 ran like a champ, in some cases surpassing the Geforce3 and once even the Geforce4! Scores declined pretty dramatically with newer generation games geared towards DX 8.x, as reperesented by Commanche 4, though. Visual quality was excellent in everything except for Commanche 4 which still had some minor issues even when run under the DX 7.0 batch file.
Something I mentioned in my previous review that I think may be worth noting here as well is the issue of processor limitation. In this case I suspect the WinFast A170 GF4 MX is actually a pretty good match up for a machine of my level (a 1.2ghz Athlon T-bird). It seemed to run well in my PC and had sufficient juice to utilize what the card had to offer. In the case of the Ti4600, my CPU simply couldn’t give the card everything it wanted. With the GF4 MX440 though the benchmark scores were often maxed out well below the point that the GF4 Ti achieved so I don’t think processor limitation came into play much this time around. This is probably a good thing when you think about it though as the MX cards are more likely to find their market niche in machines around my specs or lower, rather than in the ultra high end uber-computers. If you have a PC in my range you at least know your machine’s capable of using what this card has to offer rather than spending the extra money on a Geforce4 and not be able to take full advantage of it’s performance anyway.
While not offering the blazing speeds and texture and shading capabilities of the Geforce 4′s I felt that the Leadtek Winfast A170 DDR T was still a pretty good card for today’s games and a good match up for middle of the road machines like my own. It offered easy setup, solid performance, stable gameplay, and some nice extras as well as providing great documentation and installation instructions.
The WinFast A170 DDR T receives an 8 out of 10 and the Björn3D Seal of Approval.