In the Forums...
Posted: August 4, 1999
Written by: Sangfroid
Estimated retail price: $139.99
The board we received from Leadtek was the 32 meg SGRAM, non ULTRA version. Ergo, the Leadtek S320II comes clocked at the default nVidia speed. With a 125 mhz core and 150 mhz memory, this isn't a screamer by any means, but it certainly does the job.
The system test board should represent a fairly standard gaming setup. We've avoided using a Pentium III, as many of the results received fail to reflect the ability of the card, but the drivers ability to utilise SSE. We've also benchmarked the card at default speed, so you can get a realistic idea of the cards speed straight out of the box.
3Fingers Quake2 Massive Demo was used as the principal benchmarking test, as it effectively represents a standard deathmatching experience, and is widely used over the hardware community. It is an excellent measure of OpenGL performance.
800x600 - 74fps
1024x768 - 65fps
1280x760 - 39.4fps
1600x1200 - 25.6fps
The results show a sharp decrease in frame rates under OpenGL at resolutions of 1280x760 and above. Hopefully a faster CPU and SSE instructions, would allow the S320 II to run at 1600x1200 resolution in the mid 30s.
Test 2- WinTune 98
WinTune 98 by WinMag is quickly becoming a benchmarking standard. As you can see the board is a capable windows performer, with excellent OpenGL and Direct3D results.
Click here to see the WinTune 98 results.
The 3D-image quality on the TNT2 is stunning. If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing an original TNT in action, the TNT2 offers identical quality. However, expect the image quality to be coupled with stunning frame rates and the ability to run 32 bit colour at acceptable speeds. You can also be confident that you can run all your games at beautiful 1024x768 resolution. After using 32 bit colour in Quake3, it really is hard to go back to the comparatively lacklustre 16 bit.
2D-picture quality is merely satisfactory for an otherwise cutting edge product. The 300mhz RAMDAC isn't quite up there with the Voodoo3 or the Matrox G-Series, but it was a noticeable improvement over the quality of my old Asus TNT. I would like to see nVidia implement a much faster RamDAC for their next permutation of the TNT series. Better 2D really does make a difference, especially at 1280x760 resolution and above. Many professionals are turned away from nVidia's products by the mediocre image quality at high resolutions.
My 19" monitor has decent specifications. However, my old TNT 1 card failed to provide satisfactory picture quality at the resolutions I wanted to use my monitor at. With the improved 300mhz DAC, I'm able to utilise 1600x1200, which is a significant improvement over the 1280x1024 resolution that I had to use with my antiquated TNT 1.
With all TNT style cards, owners have the opportunity to overclock both the operating speed of the onboard memory (SGRAM) and the timing of the core processor clock. As I mentioned earlier, the Winfast S320II offers the standard TNT2 clockspeed of 125mhz core and 150mhz RAM. On close inspection, the system memory appeared to be 7ns Samsung RAM. There are 8 memory chips altogether, with 4 on each side. Generally, 7ns RAM has a maximum reliable speed of about 150mhz. Anything over the default speed of 150mhz could be possible, but would be pushing the performance envelope beyond an accepted industry wide standard. The core processor is quite a different kettle of fish, however. All TNT2 chips are made at the same .25 micron fabrication line. They are all tested, and the chips that survive the more gruelling tests are relabelled as Ultras. Basically, nVidia search for chips that they can overclock and, as a result, mark at significantly higher prices. The chips that don't operate reliably above the predetermined threshold are marked as standard TNT2s. In this way, almost all TNT2 cards should operate above their standard settings, but your luck really rests on your luck.
The test bed was a large, well-ventilated full tower In-Win case, with several case fans. It also features The Card Cooler, which we reviewed several months ago here at Tweak3D. Essentially, the card was placed in optimal and realistic conditions. No thermonuclear cooling or fragtape here, Kyle!
Leadtek made the excellent move of including an overclocking utility with the software bundle. It allows users to clock the memory all the way to 180mhz, and the core up to 160mhz. You can move the slider in 1mhz increments. We found that the board operated reliably at 170 mhz memory and 145 mhz core. Needless to say, this is quite a jump in performance, really encroaching on TNT2 Ultra speeds. I'm sure any hardcore tweaker could have got the card running marginally faster with a larger heatsink/fan combo or some other cooling method.
The key point is not to EXPECT to get this board up to Ultra speeds. It really is a matter of fluke. Two boards on the same shelf could potentially have completely different overclocking success rates. I've heard some freaky reports of non-Ultra boards approaching Hercules TNT2 Ultra speeds, but this wasn't quite the case with the Leadtek part. I spent hours working on this, and any speeds above the levels I described earlier resulted in horrendous unreliability or major image artifacting.