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ABIT Siluro GF256 GTS video card

by Bob Wright
2000/12/20


ABIT Siluro GF256 GTS
Video Accelerator Card
a review

Drew Dunn Reviews Siluro

by Bob Wright


During the last year or so, we have been testing/reviewing numerous ABIT motherboards. Recently, we even did a comparison of the ABIT UDMA100 Raid controller. So, it seems only a natural extension that we take a look at their new line of high-end video cards. Most everyone who considers themselves a power user knows about ABIT, knows that their motherboards are usually the first on the market with the latest technology and expects the best from them.

The good people at ABIT were kind enough to send us their new Siluro GF256 GTS nVIDA video card, just to test and evaluate it.

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.

History
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.

Specifications
The Basics:
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

Conclusion
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.

ABIT Computer Corporation
http://www.abit.com.tw

Bob Wright


Abit Siluro GF256 GTS Addendum
By Drew Dunn

Bob put the Siluro through its paces and found that it was a mighty fine card. When I got the opportunity to test it, you can bet that I jumped at it. After all, the GeForce2 GTS chipset is the bomb in video card performance.

I replaced a fairly dated TNT2 card with the Siluro. Obviously the performance difference was immediately noticeable. One of my favorite games is Microsoft's Motocross Madness 2. The Siluro ran it at 1600x1200 on my Hitachi 19" monitor without a flicker or any hesitation. At that point I began having reservations about giving the card back to Bob.

Next, I took Dynamix's Tribes for a spin. This game uses OpenGL instead of DirectX for its graphics work and again the Siluro gave nothing less than stellar results. I started making up excuses for why I couldn't give the card back to Bob.

All of the subjective data in the world is meaningless unless there's something to compare it with, so I decided to do a few benchmarks on the card. Now, I have some real reservations about benchmarking specific peripherals. Since the only way to effectively duplicate the benchmarks is to run the same test on the same machine, the results you get probably won't match mine…but hopefully they'll be close.

The test setup:

  • Abit SE-6 Motherboard

  • Pentium III 933MHz

  • 256MB Crucial PC133 CAS2 SDRAM

  • Abit HotRod Pro 100 IDE RAID Controller

  • (2) Maxtor DiamondMax Pro 30.7GB IDE Hard Drives (Striped)

  • Sound Blaster Live! Platinum Sound Card

  • 8X DVD ROM

  • Acer 4x4x32 CD-R Drive

  • Windows 98SE with latest updates from Microsoft

  • DirectX 8.0

  • Nvidia Detonator 3 (6.31) Drivers

I set up a fresh installation of the latest point release of Quake III Arena. The three settings that I used for testing were the defaults, changing only the resolution, the High Quality setting, again, changing only the resolution, and High Quality with Texture set to maximum. Here's what happened:

.

Normal (16bit)

High (32bit)

Max (32bit)

800x600

115.4

111.6

107.2

1024x768

112.3

90.1

84.9

1280x1024

91.7

56.1

52.7

Holy smokes. That's very fast indeed. A quick look around the rest of the Internet shows that the benchmarks fall in line nicely with pretty much every other GeForce2 GTS card out there. The card is just blazingly fast. I started thinking about changing my phone number so that I wouldn't have to talk to Bob about giving the card back.

A video card's feature set is usually pretty narrow. Unless you've got something like an ATI All in Wonder, you basically get an output connector along with a lot of jargon from the manufacturer about their graphics engine. The Siluro is no different, except that it also has a TV-out jack for S-Video. I was kind of drooling as I connected the output to my 50" Toshiba big screen TV for a quick Quake III frag-fest. The card is capable of TV-out at 800x600 and 32 bit color. It looked…well…tremendous. Almost enough to make me motion sick. A run or two of Motocross Madness 2 finished the job for me. This was almost too much fun to endure. I started thinking about boarding up the windows of the house so Bob wouldn't be able to see me inside.

Finally, after getting calls from work and school wonder why I hadn't been around for a while, I realized that I was going to have to give the card up. And that's a shame, too, because the Abit Siluro GF256 GTS is, without a doubt, a sheer work of video acceleration art. For a price-is-no-object, nothing-but-performance choice, you won't go wrong with this card.

Drew Dunn

 

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