Aside from the often complained about naming conventions and arguably lite
software bundle, there were no issues at all with this card from a hardware,
software or performance standpoint. Put simply, this card does exactly what
Gainward claims it will do and then some. It actually goes well above what
Gainward claims it will do and I've seen claims of exceeding 720MHz on the
memory with tools like RivaTuner in other reviews, which I don't doubt after
having worked with this card.
The memory timing differences between the OEM and retail versions of this
card obviously won't be a problem if you buy this from a brick and mortar store.
However, if you order this card online and the memory difference between 3.3ns
(retail) and 3.6(OEM) is important to you then you need to verify what the bar
code is before purchasing.
The following is not related to the card at all, but rather a brief soapbox
speech regarding benchmarking in general. Benchmarks should always be taken with
a grain of salt unless you can verify the specifics (game options, map/level,
AA/AF settings, etc) that so directly affect the end results. Many of the
Ti4800SE reviews that I've read over the past month or so have laughable
benchmarks at best and are just useless without more information. It's by no
means an exact science.
2D quality was always a negative with older GeForce cards and even with GF3
cards. However, my opinion is that nVidia has made big improvements in this
area. I have a Matrox G450 at work and a G400 before that; this 2D quality
difference to this Gainward card is negligable. Neither ATI or nVidia have
likely bested Matrox in 2D quality but this card is such an improvement that I
wouldn't mind using it for day-to-day 2D business applications at all.
Although this is an nVidia enthusiast website I know that I speak not only
for myself but others here that there's no interest in being a "fanboy". Doing
so would be a disservice to you. So, having said that (as I firmly straddle the
fence), here are my closing thoughts.
This card is a very high quality piece of hardware and one that shows a lot
of room for growing with faster processors. My CPU was a considerable bottleneck
in many of these benchmarks. However, since most of you likely don't own the
latest motherboard/CPU on the market, I'm confident that the class of system
these benchmarks were run on will be something you can relate to. I obviously
didn't do any tests to confirm this with say, a P4 3GHz system, so this is of
course just my opinion. If you spend some time reading other similar reviews
based on faster systems though you'll quickly see that this card has plenty of
horses under the hood.
The AGP-8X isn't something I discussed to any degree and as most of you know
it simply doesn't merit much discussion, at least not in the immediate future.
If I get a hold of an AGP-8X motherboard I may update this article if anything
interesting shows up but I won't hold my breath.
As of the writing of this article the card can be found for ~$200. I won't
spend a lot of time drawing comparisons between what options are in that price
range as there are obviously a few out there. Basically though, this card should be a very nice card to have for at
least the next 12-18 months for the majority of games out there (perhaps not so
for Doom3, but only time will tell). If you have a GeForce3 class, Radeon 8500
class card or below then my opinion is that this card is well worth the upgrade. Or, if
you don't currently have a VIVO card then this would be an excellent choice
while providing excellent gaming performance.
This card is extremely overclockable and I never once experienced any
artifacting, crashing or otherwise to suggest that the card couldn't take
whatever I threw at it. It's just rock solid from my experience. It easily beats
a stock Ti4600 in almost every scenario based on benchmark comparisons.
Granted, there really isn't much of anything new with this card. It's
basically a highly overclockable Ti4400 with very fast memory.
It is built on the new NV28 chip set though so one can safely assume that at
least some minor improvements were made from the NV25 chip set. It's a bit
lacking regarding DirectX 9 hardware support but with games just now starting to
really come out with DirectX 8 support you're still ahead of the curve.
High quality components
Impressive 4X Anti-Aliasing results
Red, 8-layer PCB
Memory heatsinks front/back
Excellent ExperTool utility
InterMedia WinCinema software (valued at $140)
Good price/performance ratio for most users
Excellent VIVO capability/features
AGP-8X support (unmentionable now but nice to have at least)
Quieter than expected
Very lite gaming software bundle
Product naming conventions
Lacking full DirectX 9 support
Possible "gotcha" for some if product is OEM instead of retail
Confusing explanation of which BIOS to use on Gainward website (Not important to most, but for those that do want to update the BIOS it isn't
terribly clear as to which file to use)
I would like to thank
Gainward for providing us with their latest NV28-based graphics card for
this review. My contact at
Gainward was always willing to answer my questions and was patient with the
extended timeframe for this review to be completed.
I would also like to give a special thanks to Brian and Steve for their
feedback on some of the rough drafts of this review and for their insight on