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Review: Elsa Shootout

by David Ross on 29 March 2001, 00:00

Tags: ELSA

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qafg

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Elsa Shootout

3D Graphics Cards have come on leaps and bounds since the early days of 3d acceleration, I remember back in 1998 buying the Orchid Righteous Voodoo 1, which came equipped with a staggering 4MB RAM running at 55Mhz, it cost then a quite considerable £85, from there, there was no stopping 3dfx, in the space of a year they flooded the market with the stunning Voodoo 2 which came with either, 8MB or 12MB of memory running at 90Mhz, many manufacturers produced graphics products using the 3dfx chipsets, all with pretty much the same specs. NVIDIA took rather a back seat position during this time, they produced, the rather unspectacular Riva 128 ZX and other similar multipurpose 2d/3d chipsets. 3dfx pretty much lead the 3d market, everyone else followed behind. Then NVIDIA brought out the rather good TNT2 chipset , it was one of the first chipsets to actually produce useable 32bit colour, in 3d games. Nivdia also produced a working OpenGL ICD (Installable Client Driver), which most manufacturers sadly neglected, Matrox with it's famed G200, and the Open GL ICD that never actually arrived, 3dFX, tried with it's mini GL drivers, but NVIDIA were starting to take the lead.

With the introduction of the Voodoo3 series of cards 3Dfx where having to play catch up with NVIDIA. NVIDIA had already introduced native OpenGL support, and 32 bit rendering, along with Windowed rendering, these goodies where missing from 3Dfx's lineup.

As 1999 rolled on faster and faster TNT2's where released, the fastest being the TNT2 Ultra equipped with 32MB of 183Mhz memory, and a 175Mhz core speed, with twin texel pipelines, this was indeed the card to own to play Quake 2 and many other 3D shooters of the time, 3Dfx just could not match the superior quality of the 32 bit rendering on the TNT2. ATI, and Matrox in the meanwhile where trying to play catch up again, with the ATI Rage Fury, and the Matrox G400 series, of cards.

Old to new, the Voodoo1 (bottom) that started it all (top left) Elsa Gladiac GTS

At the end of August 1999 NVIDIA announced the Geforce, the first consumer level graphics card with a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), The GPU was supposed to take the load off the CPU and was dedicated to Tranform and Lighting, in the event, not many games then where optimized to use the T&L chipset, but even with this minor hurdle the Geforce, was still the fastest card around, due to it's new architecture.

"August 31, 1999 marks the introduction of the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for the PC industry. The technical definition of a GPU is "a single chip processor with integrated transform, lighting, triangle setup/clipping, and rendering engines that is capable of processing a minimum of 10 million polygons per second."

This card promised a lot, and delivered much of it it. 4 pixel per clock pipeline engine, 256bit rendering engine, a whole new selection of buzzwords. The first Geforce was rather limited by it's slow SDRAM, rated at only 166Mhz, it limited the card considerably, especially in higher resolutions above 1024*768. NVIDIA had this problem sorted with the release of the DDR Geforce, this was equipped with the same core rated at 120Mhz and DDR (Double Data Rate) RAM rated at 150Mhz * 2 = 300Mhz, with the DDR memory the Geforce then had a memory bandwidth of 4.47GB/s, which is really quite a lot. The first actual retail Geforce DDR product hit the shelves in late November 1999 in the UK, and was met with great approval with Gamers all over the world, the cheaper SDR version was rather lost in the limelight of it's big brother.

The GPU promised a lot for the future of gaming, extra details that previously could not be developed in games, can now be used, a few pictures below from the NVIDIA website illustrate the difference the GPU makes

without GPU

with GPU

NVIDIA had a winner on it's hands the original Geforce cards met with great approval everywhere, the only way forward in the computer world at the moment seems to be, go faster and faster, NVIDIA are only to happy to oblige.

The Geforce2

As the new millennium rolled on NVIDIA, weren't sitting on there laurels, they made the Geforce 2 chipset, this had twice the fill rate of the Geforce one. The Core speed was up to 200Mhz and the memory was up to 333Mhz DDR, the real difference was with the GPU improved architecture, this doubled the Theoretical fill rate, to 1.6 Gigatexels. I say "Theoretical" as it was indeed just what the core was rated at, the memory, even at 333Mhz just couldn't keep up with the processing power of the GF2 (Geforce2)core.

Since the inception of the Geforce 2 the memory bandwidth had always been a problem, some manufacturers released 64MB cards, in both Geforce 1 and Geforce 2 guises, this helped increase the performance in games in the higher resolutions but, still the card was held back by the low bandwidth because even though there is more memory it simply cannot cope with the needed bandwidth. Bandwidth = Speed, and smooth gameplay which is what us gamers all want (O:.

Less than a years since the original Geforce DDR reached the UK again NVIDIA came up with another advance, using 4ns DDR RAM rated at 460Mhz DDR and paired with a 250MHz core they released the fastest Graphics card to date bar none.

The Geforce 2 Ultra is indeed the fastest Graphics card available to mere mortal, mere mortals with very large wallets I must add (O:. Retailing for around £380 for the standard Geforce 2 Ultra it is beyond all but the most hardcore gamers, so it is here in this review that I look at some other, Geforce graphics card solutions, at more acceptable prices.

Elsa kindly sent us some of their current product line up to review so lets get on with it.

click on the picture to go to Elsa UK website

Drum roll please

Elsa Geforce 2 MX

Elsa Gladiac Geforce 2 GTS 32MB

So enough of the background lets meet some of the Elsa Geforce2 family