Plug N' Play
The Installation Experience
As we techno-geeks are taught, I set Windows 98 SE to a standard VGA card and shut down the machine. I carefully opened the case, slid out the ATI Radeon card and slid the Leadtek Ti 500 into my Asus A7 Pro motherboard with the 1009 BIOS. Fastened the screw, plugged in the monitor cable and fired up the machine. I put the Leadtek CD into the drive and let the system find the drivers and install the software. So far, so good. The system rebooted and I was greeted with a standard 60hz screen. So, I went about setting all the refresh rates for all the resolutions and color depths and was on my way to visual bliss. Well, sort of.
Right off the bat, I noticed that the 2D on this card was incredible compared to other Geforce offerings I had tried. It looked about as crisp as my Radeon, even in the highest resolutions! I had defaulted to 1600x1200 for initial testing and found the 2D to be bright and sharp, with excellent color saturation. All this on a standard 15 pin cable - no BNC in the house. Not bad at all. So, I went to the mode I had been using on my Radeon, which was 2048x1536x32. Oops. We had a problem.
It turns out that this card only supports 2048x1536x32 at 60hz! That can't be right! So, I look at the box, and sure enough, it says it right there. Crud. It would work at 2048x1536x16 at 75hz, but what self respecting image editor would run in 16 bit color? What to do, what to do...? I decided that I would step down to the next best 4:3 ratio resolution, 1920x1440x32 at 75hz. Made the switch (just love Quickres) and then made the adjustments so that the screen was edge to edge and all was right with the world. In fact, this resolution was much easier on the eyes than the 2048x1536 mode I had used with the Radeon. Text was just that much bigger and was easier to read. Menus were the very same way, and through testing I found that I could still fit everything I wanted on screen at one time with no problem at all. I could easily view two pages in my word processor at 100% zoom in page layout mode. I could have one word processor window open on the left and one browser window opened on the right and do research on web sites as I wrote. I could still do all the important image editing stuff in Paint Shop Pro and could actually read the text on some of my favorite gaming sites without squinting. Don't know why the 128x96 pixel step-down made such a difference, but it did, and I realized that this small limitation was actually a blessing in disguise. (To be fair, I tested my Radeon card at 1920x1440 and found it too was preferable to 2048x1536.)
A Few Stumbles Along The Way
With that settled, I set about running this card through its paces. Right off, I found two problems. There was some serious application instability that caused some error screens. Also, there were reboots at odd times during benchmarking. Putting on the old thinking cap, I decided to take two steps. First, I would remove all of the WinFox and other extra video software from the system and install the 21.83 WHQL reference drivers straight from Nvidia. Second, I would do a complete BIOS reset, as it came back to me that I had tweaked the BIOS for maximum performance with my Radeon. Took care of business and rebooted the machine.
From that point forward, things were about as rock solid as I could have wanted them to be. They were not perfect, but no card I have ever used has been perfect, so a few issues are expected to be the norm. The Nokia monitor testing application, which was years old, could cause some screen corruption when testing certain modes, but 3D Mark 2000 and 2001 worked fine, as did all the Ziff Davis benchmarks and torture tests. I noticed that my 2D scores were about 20% faster than my Radeon had been with the 7199 drivers, which was a major surprise. In the past, 2D speed was not something that I had expected in my Geforce cards Very cool.
Of course, there were still some glitches with D3D apps like Unreal Tournament and Links 2001, but I had expected those from an Nvidia card. UT and Links 2001 only showed D3D resolutions up to 1280x1024. To get 1600x1200 on UT, I had to set that resolution in OpenGL mode, restart the game and switch it over to D3D, at which point the 1600x1200 stuck. I could still only see 1280x1024 in the list box, but 1600x1200 was working. With Links 2001 I had to set it to software mode, then pick 1600x1200, then restart and switch back to D3D and again, 1600x1200 stuck and I could play with no issues. Minor problems, but still, it was annoying.