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Take The High [end] Road
Dr. John

High End Video:  I took a look at the low end of the video card spectrum recently, but now I wanted to see what the new GeForce4 4400 was like compared with the GeForce3 Ti500. The new GeForce4 4400 from NVidia is not their fastest model, but it's close. Some of you may have a GeForce3 Ti500, and are wondering how it stacks up against the GF4 4400.  This mini-review takes a look at the new NVidia 4400, and how it compares to the Ti500.

Last time, I reviewed the new GeForce4 MX cards and compared them against the GeForce2 and GeForce 3 Ti 200 cards.  Most people aren't willing or able to hand over $300 to $400 for a video card, but that's the price range for a GF4 4400 or 4600. But if you already paid $300 for a Ti500, then this review is for you, to help decide if the GF4 will give you any significant boost in speed.

  The Cards: I put the new Asus V8440 GeForce4 4400 through some comparison testing against the GeForce3 Ti 500 to see if upgrading was worth the money. The models I used for comparisons were the Asus V8440 GeForce4 4400 128MB DDR card and the Visiontek GeForce3 Ti 500 64MB DDR card.

This is the Asus GeForce4 4400 card with 128MB of DDR DRAM.  Quite nice with the purple circuit board and large oval fan.  

The power control circuitry is impressive as well.

Twin-View dual-monitor support on the V8800 from Asus. You get one standard monitor connector, one digital video connector (flat panel), and one S-video connector for TV-gaming. The new 28.32 drivers from NVidia have excellent dual monitor controls, and you are taken through the setup automatically when you first boot up with the new drivers.

Introduction:   

As usual, rather than do an exhaustive test of these cards with many benchmarks, plus Serious Sam, Unreal, and the rest of the usual lineup, I concentrated on 3D Mark 2000 and 2001 to test Direct X 7 and 8 performance respectively. I threw in the obligatory Quake 3 Team Arena scores as well.

So what do you get in the box with the Asus V8800?  Other than the card and driver disk, you get a few bundled games.  Got to admit, they could have left these out, and no one would have noticed.  Aquanox, and Midnight GT Rally are not the way to show off your new video card.

System: I tested the video cards on what I consider a fairly mid-level new system with Abit's KR7A-RAID motherboard with the VIA KT266A chipset with DDR memory support. The system contained 512MB of Crucial PC2100 DDR DRAM and a 1.466 GHz (XP 1700+) Athlon CPU running at 11 x 133MHz (CPU and memory front side bus at 133MHz). The system had Windows 98SE installed.

Video Drivers:

For testing I used the latest 28.32 NVidia drivers that come with GeForce4 cards. The system had the latest VIA 4 in 1 drivers and Direct X 8.1 installed.

3D Mark 2000 (Direct X 7)

I ran 3D Mark 2000 version 1.1 to test what kind of performance you can expect in various Direct X 7 3D games. The results are shown in the next graph. 

The blue bars are for the GeForce4 4400, while the red bars are for the Ti500. All tests were run at 32-bit color depth.

From the graph above it's clear that the GF4 4400 is not much faster at Direct X 7 games than the GF3 Ti500, but as resolution increases, the difference becomes more noticeable. 

3D-Mark 2001 (Direct X 8)

Now we get to the benchmark that was designed for the GeForce 3 and 4 cards, the new 3D Mark 2001se (second edition). This benchmark can make even $400 video cards cry for mercy. 

The first thing you may notice is that even with a mid-range 1.4GHz CPU, that the GF4 4400 tops 10,000 at 640x480 in 3D Mark 2001se, and that it tops 9000 3D Marks even at 1024x768x32. That is quite impressive, but at higher resolutions, the Ti500 actually starts to catch up a little.  Considering that the Ti500 tops 6000 3D Marks at 1280x1024x32, I'll have to say that there isn't a huge performance difference between these two cards in DX 8 at gaming resolutions.

Overclocking GeForce Cards

I used Powerstrip 3.15 (Entech) to overclock the  memory on the GeForce cards. If you haven't tried Powerstrip, I highly recommend it. You can get it here:

http://www.entechtaiwan.com/ps.htm

The default graphics core and memory settings on the cards I tested are:

Standard speeds:
                             (core - memory)
GeForce3 Ti 500:     240MHz/500MHz 
GeForce4 4400:       275MHz/554MHz

Overclocked settings:
                             (core - memory)
GeForce3 Ti 500:     240MHz/544MHz 
GeForce4 4400:       275MHz/600MHz

I was quite impressed with the DDR memory on the Asus V8800, it clocked at 600MHz without a glitch.  The Ti500 ran very well at 544MHz.

The graphs below show the benchmarks with the overclocked settings. 

In Direct X7, overclocking gave the Ti500 a boost, but didn't do too much for the 4400's scores.  The difference between these cards is negligible at lower resolutions, and marginal at higher resolutions.

In Direct X 8, the 4400 puts in a slightly better showing at all resolutions.  But again, the differences between the two boards would not make or break game playing with DX8 games. 

Quake 3 Team Arena

So how about OpenGL?  Well a quick look at Quake 3 Team Arena should give us an idea.

My system capped out at 111 frames per second, even though I had everything I could find set to allow higher frame rates.  Nonetheless, as resolutions increase, the two cards show their differences.  By the time I got to 1600x1200x32, the GF4 4400 was about 24% faster than the Ti500.  So if you have a 21" monitor, and like to play Quake3 Team Arena, the GF4 4400 does give you a noticeable speed boost. But the Ti500 turns in an average of 80fps, so it is eminently playable at this resolution. 

Overclocking the two cards didn't change the picture very much at all here.  The GF4 4400 has a noticeable advantage at higher resolutions.

Conclusions

So what's the take home message folks?  If you already have a GeForce3 Ti500 (or for that matter, a GF3 Ti200), you won't get a huge improvement in gaming pleasure with the GF4 4400.  If you play games at very high resolutions, you will notice some speed improvement, but it probably isn't worth over $300 for that small an improvement.  The GF3 Ti series has all the pixel and vertex shaders you'll need for upcoming games, and they are quite fast at 1024x768x32. The GF4 series is a great line of video cards, but they don't offer new capabilities like the GF3 did over GF2 cards. So my recommendation for folks who value money is, if you already have a GeForce3 Ti card, you don't need a GF4 4400 card.  If, on the other hand, you have a GeForce2 Pro, or similar card, then upgrading to either a GeForce3 Ti card, or a GeForce4 4400 will give you new video capabilities (pixel and vertex shaders), and a big boost in performance.


Pros: 
  • 128MB of fast DDR memory
  • Looks cool (the purple board is nifty)
  • Good cooling 
  • Excellent digital video and dual monitor support
  • Fast!
  • Programmable special effects
  • Overclockable

Cons: 
  • The Asus V8440 is expensive
  • no DDR heat sinks
  • bundled games stink (Asus V8440)

Asus V8440 GeForce4 Ti 4400:

Price: Approximately $320 to $340 US

Rating, :  4.8 out of 5 smiley faces (96%).
:) :) :) :) +

Availability: Good

Copyright, May 5th, 2002