Articles: Graphics

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Noise, Overclocking and 2D Quality

Against the manufacturer’s claims, the new system couldn’t boast an absolute noiselessness. You could always hear the sound of the fan with a mixture of hiss from the air passing through the fine lattice. Fortunately, the noise level was low enough, even with the system case open. Due to some mysterious reason, Leadtek didn’t endow its new product with an ability to control the fan speed depending on the load on the graphics processor. The fan is always rotating at a constant speed. Well, we can hardly call it a drawback since a constant quiet sound is less irritating than the constant transition from silence to roar of NVIDIA’s reference cooling system. Overall, 3 Air-Surround Cooling System boasts an excellent efficiency, but it is only average in terms of noise. It has a long way to go to become a truly silent system.

Overclocking pleased us a lot. Considering the typically bad overclockability of NVIDIA’s new graphics processors, 450MHz with air cooling is a good achievement. The memory could work at 1200MHz, i.e. at its nominal frequency, but after a while, the card produced various image defects and even hang up a couple of times. So, we dropped the frequencies to 440/1170MHz and enjoyed absolute stability.

2D quality was another matter. The reviewed card has two DVI-I connectors and we had to use a DVI-I ? D-Sub adapter to attach our monitor. The extra connectors affected the image quality negatively; we had to screw the cable to the adapter and the adapter to the card very tight, or else any accidental movement of the cable made the onscreen image into a blur. We also found out that the first DVI-I output (labeled “1”) provides a crisp image in all resolutions up to and including 1600x1200@75Hz. The second connector, labeled “2”, was much worse in this respect – the image was fuzzy in 1024x768@85Hz already. The blur was stronger in 1280x1024@85Hz, and in 1600x1200@75Hz, the image quality was downright nasty.

It’s strange to see this difference between the two ports: there are two identical 400MHz RAMDACs in the GPU die, and the reference GeForce 6800 Ultra produced an image of the same quality whatever port we attached our monitor to. It is probable that this problem, most likely provoked by defective output LC filters on one of the ports, only occurred on our particular sample of the Leadtek WinFast A400 Ultra, though.

In the practical part of the review we will examine the performance of the Leadtek WinFast A400 Ultra TDH and compare it to the ordinary GeForce 6800 Ultra that works at its regular frequencies as well as to the RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition.

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