The famous chipset manufacturer, nVidia company, announced the coming of its new offspring - Vanta microchip - almost simultaneously with the announcement of nVidia Riva TNT2 chipset. Launching two products at the same time was undertaken on purpose. The products had different final target: TNT2 was intended for separate gaming graphics cards manufacturing and Vanta - for integrating into mainboards and office cards manufacturing.
Actually, the situation in the present day computer industry happened to be quite evident. On the one hand, integration fans support this solution as a really cheap one, and expect it to significantly reduce prices of the PCs assembled on the basis of all-in-one mainboards. But on the other hand, it is considered necessary for some reasons to equip the mainboards with the cheapest mid-level graphics chipsets with a mediocre performance.
Nevertheless, integrated graphics chipsets turn out worth it for office systems in the first place, where there is no need in high-quality gaming features, and good and fast 2D graphics is more than enough. Integrating the graphics card component onto the mainboard allows saving a few bucks and making a cheaper system compared to a multi-component one. Besides, the system logic manufacturers aim at continuing the integration development. They are planning to integrate the graphics accelerator directly into the main chipset and to use system memory for graphics purposes, which will make the whole system even cheaper. Got the point? To illustrate this recent approach we can mention VIA MVP4 and i810.
That is why after taking a close look at the new chipset announcements when we found out that it has a 64bit memory bus instead of 128bit one, we started suspecting nVidia of striving for maximum price reduction of the system due to its new development. However, the old 64-bit memory bus is very likely to influence the general performance. And baffled by these doubts we carried out all the benchmarks for Vanta chipset, so that to clarify the matter in full. To be more precise, we should say that we tested a Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V graphics card based on this chipset. Here is the full list of the chipset specifications:
|nVidia Riva TNT||nVidia Riva TNT2||nVidia Vanta|
|API support||Direct3D, OpenGL||Direct3D, OpenGL||Direct3D, OpenGL|
|Core frequency, MHz||90||125-150||100|
|Memory frequency, MHz||110||150-175||125|
|Max supported memory, MB||16||16-32||8|
|3D Truecolor (32bit) rendering||yes||yes||yes|
|3D maximal resolution|
|- Highcolor (16bit)||1600x1200||2048x1536||1600x1200|
|- Truecolor (32bit)||1600x1200||2048x1536||1024x768|
|The number of rendering pipelines||2||2||2|
|Fillrate, mln pixels per second||180||250-300||200|
|Processing power, mln polygones per second||6||8||6|
|Larger (1024x1024) texture support||yes||yes||yes|
|- AGP 2x||yes||yes||yes|
|- AGP 4x||no||yes||yes|
|Z buffer accuracy||24||24||24|
|Per pixel MIP-mapping||yes||yes||yes|
|- Single pass||no||yes||yes|
Most graphics cards manufacturers gave their preferences to Vanta as to a convenient solution for low-cost graphics cards. And the reason is the same in all cases: these mainboards are supposed to be extremely cheap which will make them the sales hit for a long time. And it is really true: the price for the graphics card based on a 19-dollar Vanta chipset with 8MB graphics memory is only $45-50, and can be compared only to the price of the i740 mainboards.
So, WinFast 3D S320V - an AGP 4x graphics card with 8MB 7ns SDRAM - looks as follows:
The graphics memory is divided into 4 parts and located in 4 different microchips. Besides, the chipset can boast a relatively small flat radiator, because Vanta with its 100MHz working frequency is supposed to heat much less than a TNT2.
Well, actually the way this card looks and especially its multicolor box make us believe that the card is intended for kids and looks none other than a toy. :) nVidia introduced Riva TNT2 for grown up kids, and invented a WinFast 3D S320V for those who made up their mind to get a low-cost PC :) Of course we are just kidding, you know, but nevertheless there is a grain of truth in it: throughout all the work on this card we simply couldn't forget about its limited features and abilities.
We were lucky to receive a retail version of S320V. In a beautiful childish box we found the card itself together with a drivers CD-disk and a user's manual.
And before we shower you with the whole bunch of our benchmarks results let us remind you of our testing system configuration:
Intel Pentium III based system:
- ASUS P2B-B (440BX) mainboard;
- Intel Pentium III 500MHz processor;
- 128MB PC100 system memory.
AMD K6-2 based system:
- Chaintech 5AGM2 (MVP3) mainboard;
- AMD K6-2 450MHz processor;
- 128MB PC100 system memory.
Both systems included a ViewSonic P810 (21") monitor, and were provided with Windows 98.
Now a few words about S320V installation procedure. The drivers installation didn't cause any difficulties and in the end we got a number of additional pages in the display properties including the one with the card info:
And all the rest can't boast anything new, so they aren't worth dwelling on. They simply provide an nVidia standard set of 3D-functions controls, such as MIP-mapping, anti-aliasing, Vsync, etc. Besides, we would like to draw your attention to the possibility of setting any resolution you like disregarding the monitor you have and depending only on the supported resolutions list of the graphics card. The same thing turns out possible for the refresh rates as well. No kidding: Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V supports all the resolutions up to 1920x1200.
While testing this card we faced a very serious question: what should we compare this graphics card to? If we take into account its price, the best opponent will be something like S3 Savage3D, i752 or Trident Blade3D. However, this comparison is unlikely to retain its topicality for long. As soon as the prices for nVidia Riva TNT drop (which is about to happen, actually) it will lose all its meaning and importance. And then we will be forced to compare these cards with Riva TNT. Nevertheless, we shouldn't forget that Vanta-based graphics cards are already positioned as office cards with a high quality 2D graphics and a relatively good 3D. That's why taking into account all the forecasts we have already shared with you, we decided to compare Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V with a Riva TNT based graphics card (Creative 3D Blaster Riva TNT). And in order to estimate Vanta's chances against Riva TNT2 (since both chipsets came out almost simultaneously) we have also posted some data concerning Diamond Viper V770.
Ok. It's high time we get started. And the first thing will be 2D-garphics. The benchmarks were carried out on the Pentium III system at the resolution set to 1600x1200 with 32-bit color depth. This regime proved to be the most difficult of all supported by graphics cards nowadays. The results below were obtained in WinBench 99:
As we see, S320V is beneath any reasonable criticism because its speed in 2D is almost twice as low as that of Riva TNT2. But despite these poor results we still believe all the modern chipsets including Vanta to be pretty fast. Ok, let's not stop here any longer, and pass over to the quality provided by the card in 2D. But here we also have to admit that Vanta failed again. At 1024x768 the quality was still up to the mark but the higher got the resolution the worse became the quality: at 1280x1024 it is quite satisfactory though worse than that by Riva TNT despite 250MHz RAMDAC frequency of both chips, and much worse than that by Riva TNT2. At 1600x1200 S320V proved absolutely impossible to work with. Of course this verdict is quite subjective, but as for us we could hardly stand it because our eyes got awfully tired after working for a short while. As for the top resolution set to 1920x1200, the monitor managed to cope with it, but we could hardly see anything distinct on the screen. So, we arrived at the conclusion, that they included this regime support only for marketing purposes.
Well, we think the conclusion here is more than evident: this graphics card can be used at the resolution set to 1024x768 and down (15-17" monitors). However, the slower CPUs can make its speed decrease greatly and the card becomes absolutely unable to serve its direct purpose - to provide perfect graphics. While for office applications Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V will be a good solution since the 2D speed isn't so important here.
And now let's discuss the 3D performance. According to the announcements Vanta is supposed to have the same core as TNT2 with the only exception of the memory bus (64-bit bus instead of 128-bit one as by TNT2 and TNT). The default core frequency is 100MHz, and memory frequency is 125MHz. The Leadtek Tweak-utility allowed us to overclock the chipset up to 125MHz core and 140MHz memory frequency. That's why we considered two variants of Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V: the default one (100/125MHz) and the overclocked one (125/140MHz). Before we continue with the benchmarks results we would like to mention that higher frequencies didn't provide the expected cool performance. The card proved very unstable and the system was constantly crashing down.
So, here are the results of Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V obtained for Intel Pentium III system:
In the AMD K6-2 system we got the following:
The analysis of the results obtained on the Pentium III based system shows that unfortunately Vanta falls behind Riva TNT (not to mention TNT2!). Frankly speaking it is a rather sad fact though the lag is not that great. The performance drop while shifting from 16- to 32-bit color is somewhere between Riva TNT and Riva TNT2. And the picture remains the same with central processor frequency decrease.
As for the results obtained on AMD K6-2 system, we may only say that the picture is very similar to the previous one, i.e. here as well Vanta falls behind Riva TNT. However, in this case the lag is relatively small and sometimes to our great delight Vanta even manages to slightly surpass Riva TNT chipset.
What makes nVidia Vanta perform so slowly in 3D? Does it mean that Vanta is a significant step backwards compared to TNT2 or even TNT? Judging by the announced chipset specs, it is undoubtedly expected to surpass Riva TNT, however, it fails to for some reason. It is worth mentioning that in Shogo, which allows multitexturing, the results shown by Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V are much closer to those of Riva TNT than in a default regime with two parallel pipelines. This is another proof that Vanta's weak point is its memory bus. When the ordinary regime is on (two parallel rendering pipelines) the frame-buffer of the local memory is much busier than in case of multitexturing (here the frame-buffer is accessed more rarely). That's why Vanta's multitexturing regime appears far more preferable than that by TNT or TNT2.
We won't dwell on the details concerning the 3D-qulity of Leadtek WinFast 3D S320V. The only thing we would like to mention in this respect is that the quality is the same as that shown by Riva TNT (TNT2). The only difference is a smaller number of screen resolutions supported by the card, especially in 32-bit color.
Summing up we would like to say the following. According to the latest press-releases Vanta chipset is mostly intended for business sector, which demands a relatively fast 2D-graphics in office applications and satisfactory gaming features. And what have we got here? WinFast 3D S320V graphics card showed a rather acceptable quality in 2D at 1024x768 at the most, and in 3D it performed well at 800x600 in 32-bit color and at 1024x768 in 16-bit color. But these are the most promising and optimistic assumptions. If we take into account that most users don't have or can't afford a powerful CPU, then Vanta graphics card turns out not so highly demanded though it retains its position of a relatively cheap solution. So, we have every right to conclude that WinFast 3D S320V graphics card proves to be a nice solution for the office applications in its price group. Besides, it can boast some relatively good gaming features.
However, if a graphics card on Vanta chipset costs over $50, the chipset will be doomed to a total failure or at least to a hard future. If it happens, a much better solution will be represented by Riva TNT (which costs by now somewhat about $75 for a 16MB version, and about $55 for a 8MB one). And since they both go at almost the same price, Riva TNT will of course seem more attractive than Vanta.