The first thing anyone will notice is the box, a sleek angular container nearly the size of a PC case. It grabs your imagination before you even open it, unlike the usual little cardboard containers that are the size of a video tape. Inside, I found the video card, an S-video cable, the manual and three CDs, (the installation CD and two games). I will also mention that this card has a cooling fan attached to the GPU… though I understand that it runs cool,
with the ability to overclock the card, the fan is a nice safety feature.
Just as a starting point, I should mention that the ABIT Siluro family of video accelerator cards are the product of evolution that began with the original Voodoo card from 3DFX. Today, we no longer just discuss a video card in terms of the amount of color depth and resolution it can support under Windows for simple graphics manipulation.
Along the way we have seen three basic chipsets take the forefront: 3DFX's Voodoo5, ATI's Radeon and nVIDA's GeForce2 GTS. So, what is the most significant difference in these 3D accelerator chipsets? The speed. The Radeon and Voodoo5 chipsets rely on GPUs, (graphic processing units), clocked at 166mhz, while the Geforce2 GTS GPU is clocked at 200mhz. Now, of course that is very over simplified, since there are a myriad of other factors involved, such as the new DDR memory, (64mgs on this card), the polygon rendering, the use of AGP 4x with Fast Writes that allows the CPU to send data directly to the GPU that maximizes the system's overall speed… and much more.
High-End Video: WHY?
Now, my average reader is not a gamer and all this seems like a great deal of fuss to run Windows and enjoy the Web. But, not so. Understand that the future of PCs
and the Internet is full motion video, sending and receiving live video. Currently we have a robust market developing for DVDs in a home PC… the faster and clearer video is displayed by your hardware, the faster advances occur in the software, such as Microsoft's DirectX drivers. Why are DirectX drivers so important? Until the advent of DirectX3, PC games were designed to run in DOS for the simple reason that the game could make direct access to the functions of your video card. Now, with the advent of the Microsoft APIs used in DirectX drivers, currently Direcx7 with DirectX8 in beta testing, games and other video dependant software can make direct access to the your video card… which
improves the quality of software that can be written and your viewing display.
Installation and Testing (system one)
I decided to spend a day with this card, trying it in two different PCs. The first system was a PentiumIII 750mhz in an ABIT BE6 motherboard with 256mg SDRam and SCSI Ultra2 hard drives. The system was using a STB Rage Fury Pro 32mg video card. I simply set Windows98Se to generic VGA video driver, turned it off and switched out the
video cards. When turning on the PC and rebooting, of course it found the new video card. I decided not to just let Windows grab the driver off the CD, but finished the boot process and then ran the install program for the ABIT drivers. This went flawlessly. I have found that most video drivers for today's cards are best installed vs. loaded by Windows from an INF file in the drivers directory.
After rebooting, the first and most noticeable difference was the sheer depth of color and intensity of the video image. I know, Windows is Windows… but, in playing a few MPGs and AVIs… I was totally blown away. Of course, I have a few games around and considered bench marking the card with
Quake3… but, since we find that benchmarks are of little value to most people, I decided against wasting my time.
Let us suffice to say there was more than a small difference in
the quality of video on my 17" Mag monitor.
Installation and Testing (system two)
I decided at this point that I wanted to see if there was a real difference in TV out with this card. I removed it from the first system and opened my multi-media PC attached to our home entertainment center. This system is a PentiumIII 600mhz with 128mg SDRam with an ATI All-in-Wonder 128 Pro 32mg video card. Of course this card has video in and out.
The installation procedure was near identical to the first system and with no
surprises, the drivers installed quick and easily. This PC has no monitor, rather it is connected to a Zenith 60" big screen
television by the S-video link. Guess what…?? I was not only amazed but, totally taken aback. The slightly fuzzy display of Windows98Se was gone. In it's place was the sharpest and clearest image I had ever seen on this TV from the PC. Immediately I was excited and began experimenting with the DVD player. In the past, the DVD display was as good as cable television… but, now it was just ever so much more crisper and cleaner. The color was richer and deeper. This was amazing. I can tell you that the
ATI All-in-Wonder card no longer will be installed in this PC and DVD has become even more fun to watch.
Installing this card in our multi-media PC for DVD playback was well
worth any amount of time I invested. DVD and games are now
like watching TV... clear, crisp and sharp.
Incorporates nVIDIA's latest GigaTexel Shading (GTS) GPU processor
HyperTexel architecture delivers 1.6 GigaTexels and 800 MegaPixels/second.
Fast and optimized 64MB DDR memory
4 dual-texturing pipelines, mapping 8 texels/clock cycle
200MHz core clock, 333 MHz DDR RAM clock
4X AGP with Fast Writes/AGP 2X /1X compatible
The QUAD-Engine Architecture:
100% hardware triangle setup: 25 million triangles/second
Optimized Direct 3D and OpenGL acceleration
The most advanced supports for OpenGL and DirectX 7 and beta DirectX 8
New 3D features: per-pixel shading and lighting for rich, lifelike materials and cinematic effects
High performance 256-bit 2D acceleration
Resolutions of up to 2048x1536 in 16 million colors with a 350MHz RAMDAC
High Quality TV/Video Output & DVD Playback:
NTSC and PAL TV output in 640x480 and 800x600
High Definition Video Processor (HDVP) for full-screen, full-frame video playback of all HDTV and DVD and resolutions
ABIT has reached into the video card market with the Siluro family of video cards to produce a real winner. The ABIT GF256 GTS
64mg video accelerator card is an out standing choice in the high-end video card market. I rarely am surprised by the PC components we test, but there is no question that this video card has more than amazed me. I must admit that we are talking about a video card in the near $400 range, though I did find one vender on the Internet offering it for $340. If you have a reason for a high-end video accelerator card, such as DVD playback, CAD rendering, 2D/3D graphics design, web site design, PC gaming or you just want the very latest and greatest… then do not overlook this card.