From its initial appearance in April of 2002, the NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200 has been recognized as having one of the best price/performance ratio of any graphics card on the market. Months later with the introduction of the GeForce FX chipset, the GeForce4 Ti 4200 looks to be positioned for an additional drop in price which would certainly qualify this card as the bargain of a lifetime.
Initially, NVIDIA was very specific with vendors and their choice for PCB and memory options for each card. The market called for there to be some differentiation between that various GeForce4 Ti models. However, with the gradual phasing-out of the GeForce4 Ti 4600 and the limited success of the GeForce4 Ti 4400, the GeForce4 Ti 4200 has been given a new lease on life.
With the new GeForce FX anchoring the high-end aspect of NVIDIA’s products, vendors were now given the liberty to match nearly any component to the GeForce4 Ti 4200 chipset. As such, companies began introducing models with faster memory, higher-quality PCB boards, and unique heatsink assemblies. In doing so, the overclocking potential of the GeForce4 Ti 4200 was dramatically increased. Given that nearly all GPU’s used were of the same A3 stepping found on the GeForce4 Ti 4600, overclocking to a core frequency of 300MHz was not at all uncommon.
However, the achilles heel of the GeForce4 Ti 4200 was the use of high-latency memory which limited the overclocking headroom for the memory frequencies. As a result, the card was limited to a smaller bandwidth and performance trailed behind the GeForce4 Ti 4400 and Ti 4600 series cards. The addition of low-latency memory modules to the GeForce4 Ti 4200 products now made it possible for enthusiasts to overclock their "budget" cards to levels which once graced NVIDIA’s $399 flagship GeForce4 Ti 4600!
Today, we are looking at two cards based upon the GeForce4 Ti 4200 which characterize these new extremes. Here, we have the Abit GeForce4 Ti 4200 OTES and the EK Argos GeForce4 Ti 4200 "Special Edition". On one hand, we have the Abit card with the radical new OTES heatsink assembly. Utilizing heat-pipe technology, the OTES system should enable enthusiasts to overclock the GPU core frequency with relative ease. On the other hand, we find EK’s special edition GeForce4 Ti 4200 equipped with 3.3ns BGA memory and the same 8-layer PCB found on the Ti 4600. Make no mistake, the only "budget" aspect to these cards is their price as one comes overclocked from the factory.
Each card offers a somewhat unusual size for a typical graphics card. Referencing the figure below, we see that the cost of the 8-layer PCB on the EK Ti 4200 is an additional inch or so in length. Although this was a minor issue when first discovered with the introduction of the GeForce4 Ti 4600, one can assume that nearly any motherboard configuration will accept this additional length without issue.
Does Size Really Matter?
In the case of the Abit GeForce4 Ti 4200 OTES, the additional hardware associated with the specialized heatsink assembly necessitates filling an additional slot. With the advent of high-performance integrated peripherals found on most high-end motherboards, the days of multiple PCI cards are all but a distant memory for most. Regardless, users will be forced to leave the top most PCI slot empty in order to accommodate the additional size of the OTES system.