Summary: Leadtek recently updated its GeForce4 lineup with video-input/video-output capability, these cards fall under the MyVIVO moniker. Not only do these cards continue to boast Leadtek's impressive cooling and 2D display quality, they now sport video editing capabilities! See how these cards perform in today's article!
Currently, the computer graphics market is in quite an uproar. ATI released its attack on NVIDIA earlier this year with its RADEON 9700 and 9000 family of graphics cards and as you’ve all heard, RADEON 9500 is nearly upon us. Obviously we’re seeing the same trend on NVIDIA’s GeForce4 line of cards although NVIDIA’s naming schemes are a little more ambiguous.
With new product releases, the benefit that buyers will get upfront is the fact that companies will lower the prices on existing products and they usually do so by a significant amount. In case you were thinking that prices for flagship products are ridiculously priced, we have a few solutions today from Leadtek that are positioned exactly to fulfill this drop in price.
When I buy products, the rule for me to make a good purchase is to always buy the product that’s one step behind the cutting edge. This usually gives me performance and features that are slightly different if not the same as the cutting edge products at a cheaper price. Most of the time, with video cards, the difference will only be in speed. Most of the time however, you’ll be able to overclock the product anyway. With GeForce4 cards, it’s possible to hit Ti4600 speeds by simply overclocking a Ti4400, and if you’re lucky, a Ti 4200.
Today we have three GeForce4 Titanium cards on hand with us from Leadtek. All three cover the entire line of Ti cards across the board starting from 4200 and going up to 4600. However, this time around, they’re not the plain Ti cards but Leadtek has included what they call MyVIVO, which basically means the entire line of Ti cards from Leadtek incorporate Video-In and Video-Out.
Finally you’ll be able to pipe all your video into your computer. Leadtek includes its Video viewing program to let you watch videos on your PC. Because it only has composite or S-Video in, it’s possible to still watch cable TV by attaching your CATV cable to a VCR and use the VCR’s video output connectors to send video into the Leadtek cards. Of course, if you’re using other forms of TV services like satellite, the satellite receiver will most likely have S-video output. Then simple input the sound into your soundcard’s Line-In port.
That being said, it really is a perfect time to move up to a GeForce4 Ti card if you’re still stuck in the GeForce2 or slower days. Even users with low-end GeForce3 cards will appreciate the horsepower that is packed with each GeForce4 Ti card.
SIDEBAR: I don’t have any hard drives in my computer chassis. All my hard drives are either on my storage server or in an external HD box attached to my main machine via an Ultra160 SCSI cable. Speed baby!
Three of a kind
Each of the Titanium models from Leadtek has received the MyVIVO enhancement to them, boasting a TV output resolution of 1024x768. Other than the obvious VIVO ASIC, Leadtek has done a bang-up job of making sure that their cards are absolutely cooled. The heatsinks are practically laid out without going over the edge or doing something that would have prohibited the use of the PCI slot adjacent to the AGP slot.
The first picture is a snapshot of Leadtek’s new GeForce4 Ti4200, which is slightly smaller than the 4400 and 4600. The picture on the right is the 4600 but we only took a picture of it and not the 4400 because both look the same. Keep in mind that all three cards featured here are identical except for the speed of their core and memory, which are:
Ti4600: 300MHz Core / 650MHz Memory
Ti4400: 275MHz Core / 550MHz Memory
Ti4200: 250MHz Core / 444MHz Memory
Performance in fill rate and vertices are pretty similar across the board. All cards perform in the upper end of the spectrum and at that level there won’t be too many differences. However, all is not the same when talking about memory bandwidth. This is where the Ti4600 shows its authority with the fastest DDR memory available. At its default setting, the Ti4600 is able to push a theoretical memory bandwidth rate of 10.4GB/sec. On the other end of the scale, the Ti4200 is only capable of doing roughly 70% of what a Ti4600 is capable of doing, at 7.1GB/sec.
The question however, is whether the reduced bandwidth actually affects bandwidth in a significant way. Obviously we’ll be seeing slower performance with a Ti4200 than a Ti4600 but if the differences are negligible, the only question of which board to purchase becomes easily determined by price.
Strangely when we were testing with the boards, we were not able to get the boards to work properly with video-in. Vide-out worked fabulously but it wasn’t so for input. We tried it with different drivers from both Leadtek and NVIDIA and even tried on different OSes but to no avail. We eventually gave up and contacted Leadtek technical support and although they were helpful we just couldn’t get the drivers working. Strangely, an error always appeared saying that the drivers couldn’t detect a video-in capture device. Perhaps this is a driver issue or a BIOS issue with the card but Leadtek assured us that shipping cards would not have any issues and from our experience, Leadtek cards are stellar cards in every case.
Here’s where we see exactly where memory bandwidth will be the largest determining factor in performance. All cards stay relatively close to each other. Of course the core speed differences are accountable for a percentage of the performance differences although no much at all.
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
Serious Sam doesn’t seem to benefit much from the GeForce4’s power scaling until the very high resolutions. Of course, if you’re running at these speeds, why play at any other resolution?
Quake III - High Quality
As Quake 3 is another OpenGL benchmark, we’re seeing the same trend here as we saw in Serious Sam. The entire line of GeForce4 Ti’s is able to bench well over 100FPS at virtually all resolutions. Take the fact that our CPU is rather slow compared to the recent Pentium 4’s that are available, and you can see the potentials of these cards.
Unreal Tournament 2003
Now is definitely the time to think about buying a graphics card if you feel like you’re lagging behind the bandwagon. Plenty of options are available from all around the industry. We have exciting products from ATI, Matrox and NVIDIA to choose from each at different price points that are aimed at the needs of a wide range of consumers.
Just a few months ago, a GeForce4 Ti would have broke the wallet, but today, a raging GeForce4 Ti4200 can be had for as low as $109.
How has Leadtek differentiated itself from others? First of all, their entire line now contains the VIVO module that was supposed to be a standard feature on all GeForce4 cards. You’re able to watch your favorite TV shows anytime and record them in MPEG2 format – if we were able to get the VIVO feature working, we’d be able to claim doing just this, but alas, this wasn’t the case. A little disappointed over the video-in issue, we’re hoping that all issues have been resolved by the time you read this. Leadtek also bundles 3 complete games with each of its Ti line of cards: Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear – Black Thorn; Master Ralley; Aquanox.
Another significant feature that should not be overlooked is Leadtek’s impeccable 2D quality that’s on par with the best of Matrox. Some may disagree and others may agree but it really has to be seen to be appreciated. We’ve tested many video cards in our time and we must admit that Leadtek did a superb job in tweaking its GeForce4 cards to output the best video quality available for its customers.
Cooling is one area that Leadtek didn’t skimp on either. On each of the cards we tested, we checked to ensure that enough room was left for air movement. Leadtek’s Ti4400 and 4600 cards are a little loud to work with but with a little handy work, you can quiet the cards down a bit. By removing the black mesh, we were able to slightly lower the volume of the fans on the cards. Disabling one of the two fans reduced the noise even more. If your case is a monster already, just leave the cards the way they are. The noise shouldn’t be a bother to most.
All in all, Leadtek has delivered fantastic enhancements to an otherwise played-out deck of cards. It’s interesting that there isn’t any hardware monitoring devices integrated on the boards as with Leadtek’s previous cards. This could be because of the GeForce4 GPU itself and not Leadtek’s design. Because of the way an AGP port works, communicating with a hardware-monitoring chip on the card will be regulated by the GPU. But monitoring aside, the new WinFast MyVIVO series from Leadtek certainly fits the bill and couldn’t come any sooner. During a time when prices are dropping and products are being announced, there’s no better time to be a GeForce4 Ti owner – unless of course you want the bleeding edge.
SIDEBAR: Will you be purchasing an NVIDIA-based graphics card or ATI card this holiday season? Sound off in the comments!
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