Put Up Or Shut Up
Over the course of the years, I have been a well documented fan of ATI cards, feeling that they have held up well against the competition in terms of quality and value. I've fought the good fight from multiple angles - early on as a dutiful hardware reviewer who focused heavily on facts and benchmarks and later as an Op/Ed writer who focused more on opinions. On both counts, I've been able to support my preference for ATI products over those from other companies, including 3DFX, Matrox and Nvidia. However, my last Fanboy article had people fuming!
I got a big chunk of emails telling me that I was speaking from complete and total ignorance because I did not have a 'modern' Geforce 3 product to compare my ATI cards to. I was taken to task (by a whole pile of rabid Geforce fanboys, I might add) for testing ATI cards with the latest drivers but not doing the same with Nvidia based cards. How dare I try to write an opinion piece with such a hardcore ATI bias when I was so unwilling to give the latest Nvidia offerings so much as a look!
I sifted through the hate mail and pondered the few actual points that people were making and realized that at the heart of all that anger, they did indeed have a valid argument. Even though I'm not a hardware reviewer anymore and the requirements for editorials are vastly different than reviewers, I realized that in order to have any semblance of credibility (and stop the massive flood of angry mail) I needed to work on putting any biases to the side and actually try to write from a position of experience. I'm a fairly open minded guy actually, so instead of closing my mind up and refusing to listen to the opinions of others, I wanted to Walk The Talk and be fair.
Walkin' The Talk
I have had in-depth hands-on experience with the original Geforce 3 Reference card direct from Nvidia. However, at that time I had a different motherboard, processor and memory and even a different monitor. In addition, I had only used the 11.x and 12.x series of drivers, as provided by Nvidia. Not only that, but Nvidia had come out with a refreshed line of cards called the Titanium and a flood of new driver releases that upped the ante substantially.
First, 2D text quality is very important to me. I make part of my living as a writer, so naturally, I need to be able to sit in front of my 21" Viewsonic P225 monitor for hours on end putting together articles, taking screen shots and editing spreadsheets, for instance. I did some searching and found right off that FiringSquad's own Tuan Nguyen had just completed a review of the Leadtek Ti 500 in which he praised mightily the 2D quality of the top of the line Nvidia offering. Since 2D was one of my biggest concerns about the older Geforce lines, I decided to put this Leadtek card at the top of my list for procurement and set about trying to find one at the retail level.
Living in one of the modern day technology corridors of awesomeness, I felt I had a pretty good shot of finding one, but it was a much tougher task than I thought it would be. After a dozen phone calls, I finally found a store that had an actual Leadtek Ti 500 retail kit in stock. I didn't care about the bundle, nor the included driver tweaks. I just wanted to get my hands on the same type of component that any other buyer would be able to get from walking in off of the street. So, debit card in hand, I bobbed and weaved my way through insane traffic and arrived at yonder store. My eyes met the box and I was locked in for the purchase, price being no object. Well, no object until I actually saw the $350 price tag and realized that the almost 9% sales tax would juice that up even further. I steeled myself and asked the clerk to ring up the purchase. We chatted about how they had a shipment of 25 and only had four left, well, three after this purchase. Said they were flying off the shelf. Darn Dot Com Boom... I realized that an open mind was an expensive "flaw" to have. Maybe I should try being a stuck up snob who's mind is closed to change, like so many Media Boyz I know. Nope, I grasped back onto my resolve and decided that some of us had to fight the good fight! Still dazed, I headed home to play with this new toy.