Amidst great anticipation and demand, NVIDIA released their newest variant of the GeForce4 Ti architecture. The sole purpose of the GeForce4 Ti 4200 was to bring powerful new features, such as the nfiniteFX II Engine and AccuView Antialiasing subsystem, to the masses at a reasonable cost. Up to this point, power hungry consumers were forced to break the $200 barrier by purchasing the GeForce4 Ti 4400 to enjoy these features.
Initially, skeptics were puzzled by the economic strategy behind such a card. How would NVIDIA be able to provide such a powerful package of features and still maintain their sub-$200 price point? Curiosity was laid to rest the day the first review samples of the GeForce4 Ti 4200 were released. In order to decrease the production costs of the card, the expensive eight layer PCB boards found on the GeForce4 Ti 4400 and Ti 4600 are bypassed in favor of the six layer PCB board used in the GeForce3 Ti series. In theory, the eight layer boards provide less signal noise and are better suited for the increased operating frequencies of the flagship GeForce4 Ti series. In practice, the six layer PCB handled the slightly lower frequencies with relative ease.
An odd feature of the GeForce4 Ti 4200 is the presence of two versions. Here, we find a 64MB version as well as a 128MB model. In addition to the obvious 64MB difference, there's a somewhat major difference between the two. The 64MB version relies upon 3.6ns DDR modules from Hynix which are rated up to 277MHz. To allow some headroom, this versions' stock running speed is 250MHz.
In contrast, the 128MB version utilizes 4ns DDR modules from Samsung. Although these chips should handle speeds up to 250MHz, vendors take speeds down to 222MHz. As a result, the 64MB version has higher bandwidth than its 128MB counterpart and should perform better at higher resolutions. This is a paradox of sorts because the lack of the extra 64MB hampers its performance at those same resolutions. In this case, the 128MB version has an advantage as well and each card is left with equal pros and cons. Despite the variance in memory speeds, each version does share the same GPU frequency of 250MHz.
This review will focus upon the 128MB version of the XFX GeForce4 Ti 4200. To date, there are several manufacturers who offer cards based upon the GeForce4 Ti 4200. With so many similarities between them, it can be difficult to make a purchasing decision. In the end, consumers typically make a choice based upon a balance of cost, reliability, and features. XFX enters the market with the strategy of selling a top notch card for a rock bottom price. Here, focus is paid to function and cost instead of extravagant features.
As such, when you purchase this product you receive a graphics card. XFX does their best to give the consumer as much as possible though, and includes demo versions of DroneZ and Gunlok. They also manage to include a copy of Power DVD and an S-Video cable for connecting your TV. This is all done without a huge price premium and the card remains one of the cheapest in its class.
Some may argue that XFX should have focused more upon the software bundle and other non-performance related aspects. However, I firmly believe that the extra costs associated with including full version games and other accessories are not justified. When it all boils down, people buy graphics cards for one reason. They want to increase the presentation, performance, and playability of their favorite games and applications. Thus, one can walk away with this card and have all their desired goals fulfilled for an amazingly inexpensive price. Conversely, other brands offer their GeForce4 Ti 4200’s with games and accessories that the consumer may never use or want in the first place. Regardless of whether they are used or not, the consumer pays a premium for every bell and whistle in the box.
When looking at the card, one cannot help but notice the time and effort that went into to making this card "look the part." Combining a blackish PCB with a monstrous chrome heatsink/fan assembly on the GPU, you have yourself a stunning piece of hardware. The overall fit and finish of the card is also remarkable. The heatsink is very well made and is comprised of a series of fins directing air over the memory modules. The top of the heatsink has a chrome finish and looked as though it had been meticulously polished.
A quick peek underneath illustrated that the folks at XFX know how to correctly apply thermal paste and do not waste our time with less-effective thermal pads. With the heatsink off, I was also able to determine the revision of the GPU being used. Clearly written on the face of the chip was the code A3. The A3 stepping is the most recent version of the GPU and is used primarily on the GeForce4 Ti 4600. The presence of this stepping indicates some stellar overclocking characteristics which should mimic the stock 300MHz running speed of the GeForce4 Ti 4600.
128MB XFX GeForce4 Ti 4200
As expected, the card comes equipped with 4ns DDR modules from Samsung. Here, the lack of any passive cooling on the memory modules is somewhat of a null issue as the memory is already within 25MHz of the theoretical ceiling of 250MHz. However, given Samsung’s reputation in the overclocking world for having stable products, I wouldn’t be surprised if we managed to squeeze a little extra out of these memory modules.