We'll start with the packaging. The box is your standard cardboard (no metal
briefcases here to jack up the cost) with a blonde man, or woman--not really
sure--sporting some yellow face paint, freckles and a red targeting reticle. I'm
sure there's some meaning behind this but it escapes me as to what it is.
I know some of you would prefer that I elaborate ad nauseum on the finer
points of package design, presentation, etc but I just don't have it in me. Like
they say, "it's what's on the inside that matters" so let's take a peek at
At first glance, it appears that the bundled software inside isn't a whole
heck of lot. However, taking a closer look reveals more than you'd first think:
InterVideo WinCinema - This CD is what changed my initial "hmm, not
much" impression. The CD actually contains a suite of three complete
WinDVD 4 - This is one of the most popular DVD players with a lot of
neat features such as Time Stretching, which lets you speed up or slow down
playback without audio distortion (so you can finish the movie before your
laptop battery is dead). Intervideo claims "eight of the top ten PC
manufacturers bundle InterVideo's WinDVD". Retail value: $39.95
WinRip 2 - This is basically MP3, WMA, CD player/recorder with some
added features like "WinRip's IDI technology adds synchronized lyrics to
your songs, then use the Karaoke and other DSP effects for a great party!" Retail value: $19.95
WinProducer 3 CD - This is probably the most interesting/valuable
part of the suite as I already have variations of the other two as most of
you do I'm sure. With this, you can burn your own VCD, SVCD and mini-DVD
formats to CD. You can also capture video, edit movies with over 80 total
video and audio transitioning effects and more. Retail value: $79.95 _________________ Total value: $139.85
All three of these applications installed and ran without any problem. They
all have nice, slick interfaces and were intuitive to use. I did not have the
time for this review to use them to any extent but
based on the reviews around
the web it looks to be a solid addition from Gainward.
Serious Sam - That's not a typo. I didn't forget the "2". We all
know what this is, and frankly I wonder why Gainward bothered tossing this one
in. It's better than nothing I suppose but it's older than dirt and you can
snatch it up for $10 or less practically anywhere.
Gainward PowerCD - This CD contains the 41.04 nVidia Detonator
drivers and Gainward's ExperTool.
ExperTool is primarily Gainward's utility for overclocking your core and
memory clock settings. It delivers exactly as promised too; I had no problems
at all with this utility whatsoever.
ExperTool also provides an alternative interface to your standard Windows Display settings
which I really liked. Quite a bit of detailed information regarding your video
card, monitor, etc can also be found here along with a nice
pattern to boot. At the time of this writing I noticed that a new version
(3.05) was available from the Gainward website. I'd been using version 3.04 so
if I find anything worth mentioning from version 3.05, an update to this review
will be posted.
S-Video VIVO (Video-In, Video-Out) Cable - Pretty self-explanatory
here. The cables are very flexible, about 11" long and are in a cool red
color to match the card's color scheme.
DVI-to-VGA Adapter - Same here, also in a cool red color to match
the card's color scheme.
Gainward Logo Case Badge Sticker - These are always a nice little
Paperback Manual/Installation Guide - The PDF version is also
available on the Gainward PowerCD
CARD LAYOUT / COMPONENTS
Gainward uses the red PCB as you can see below. You either think this is cool
or could care less. I like it myself and am just waiting to see who'll come out
with a multi-colored, camouflaged, photo-inlaid, etc PCB (you know it's just a
matter of time). Plaid, I think plaid would be a nice way to make your video
card standout in a case. Seriously though, the card is of high quality build and
there's really nothing to gripe about.
One of the first things worth noting is that of the memory heatsinks on both
sides of the card. These undoubtedly help to make this card as stable as it is,
even at overclocked speeds well above spec. The memory used is -3.3ns Samsung
DDR m-BGA type which also aids in the stability for this card.
The GPU HSF is solid aluminum and isn't really all that exciting. However, it
looks nice (details such as "GAINWARD" and their logo) spruce it up. What is
exciting about it is that it was relatively quiet in my opinion (compared to a
recent ATI Radeon LE GPU HSF that I'd been using). Most importantly is that it
performs well as overclocking the core to 320 MHz (+15% over the default core of
275) was no problem at all. I'd assume that replacing the standard thermal paste
with some Artic Silver would yield even more headroom.
Three other items worth noting on the card are the firewire connector
(upper-left). This particular product doesn't come with a firewire card but
Gainward does offer this option.
The second point of interest is the
THine THC63DV164 chip set. This is the transmitter for the signal to a
monitor connected to the DVI output of the card. This is the newest transmitter
chip set from THine and is 25-170MHz instead of the older 25-120MHz version.
Among other things, this chip set has on chip input jitter filtering, low power
requirements and various programmable features.
The final point of interest is the
Philips SAA7108AE video encoder/decoder. In short, this puppy packs a ton of
functionality into a very small footprint. It can output to TV up to 1280x1024
and also HDTV output of (1080i/720p/480i).
The faceplate of the card provides what you'd expect with VGA, S-Video and