So what sets the Annihilator2 apart from other GeForce2 GTS based cards? Besides the price?
The Drivers. Blaster Control has one of the slickest interfaces I've come across. It all starts at the Windows taskbar where you are graced with the little tee-pee icon from Creative Labs. Right clicking on the icon brings up the following options menu:
Here you will find all of the typical controls, such as desktop resolution and screen saver preferences. You may notice the Manage Shortcuts at the top of the menu. When you launch an application, Blaster Control will change your desktop settings accordingly. Pull up that giant spreadsheet and the software will set your desktop resolution to 1600x1200 to view the whole thing. Close the program and you go back to your default settings.
You can modify refresh rates, monitor settings, desktop resolutions and activate the virtual desktop. For those of you without experience with a virtual desktop, your actual workspace is larger than your desktop resolution. By panning the desktop, you can increase your effective work area when cutting and pasting together your Annihilator2 review. These drivers are geared towards the average user and not the rabid overclocked my toaster gamer.
|Blaster Control Display Center|
Now for the fun stuff. I've included several screenshots of the Blaster Control interface. All of the full-size screenshots can be navigated in a new browser window by clicking on the image below.
Blaster Control Display Center
This is the Blaster Control Display Center. You have access to various settings for tweaking, running diagnostics, checking system information, and even a utility to check for updated drivers. Here's a sample from the Tweak Center:
Blaster Control - Tweak Center
The screenshot shows one of the GeForce2 tweak applets. Here comes my only beef with Blaster Control - no core clock adjustments. However, there is a memory clock slider, which can help boost performance quite a bit. Blaster Control allows you to clock the memory up to 366MHz, which is a fairly hefty gain.
Blaster Control - OpenGL
This screenshot is from an OpenGL control applet. Notice that Blaster Control has full scene anti-aliasing as an option, but you'll have to change registry settings to up the quality from 2X sample to 4X sample. The folks at Creative and NVIDIA say that a new interface featuring full FSAA tweakability is on the way.
|Blaster Control Diagnostics|
Blaster Control - Diagnostics
The Blaster Control also includes a Diagnostics section which can be used to verify driver version numbers and check the system for potential incompatibilities. From the diagnostics screenshot, you may notice the AGP Transfer mode defaulted to AGP 1X.
From what I understand, Creative defaults the setting to AGP 1X to insure stability on first install. Following a successful install, the setting can be cranked up to 2X or 4X depending on supported AGP modes on the motherboard. Certain types of Athlon motherboards still require the AGP 1X setting, and I don't blame Creative for making the first install a compatibilty mode. If anyone out there with an Annihilator2 installed straight to AGP 2X, let me know.
Blaster Control - Diagnostics
Blaster Control - OpenGL Diagnostics
In these two Diagnostics screenshots, you see the driver version numbers. This info is handy when troubleshooting. In my opinion, Creative supports users more than any other card maker and offers technical support in the Creative Labs Annihilator newsgroups. Bill Ball and his cronies are a wealth of info, and deserve notice.
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