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Review: Sparkle SP7000 GeForce 3

by David Ross on 11 October 2002, 00:00

Tags: Sparkle SP7000 Geforce 3, NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA), Sparkle

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qahk

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Sparkle SP7000 GeForce 3

 


UK RRP £199.00 Inc V.A.T

Sparkle are becoming more well known within the consumer graphics industry, they produce a massive array of graphics cards  for the PC industry, ranging from basic 4MB PCI cards right the way up to the 64MB GeForce3.  The Sparkle  GeForce3  has been around for a while now and is probably one of the cheapest GeForce3's available.  It follows the Nvidia reference design to the letter, running at default GeForce3 clock speeds of 200MHz core 460MHz memory. The card has a green PCB and green heatsink's,  it doesn't grab your attention like some cards around at the moment,  but in the end it is the performance that counts. A quick look on the Sparkle website shows a much  funkier looking heatsink arrangement than on the card pictured there. The Sparkle GeForce3 comes comes bundled with the full version of PowerDVD, Driver CD v12.41 and of course a user's manual. It is equipped with all the usual connectors, TV out and the DVI interface which nowadays is becoming more widely used. The product is backed up by a unique 1 year end user warranty and free web support.










Specifications

Features

RAMDAC: 350MHz
Core Clock: 200MHz
Memory Clock: 460MHz
Memory Interface: 128 Bit

nfiniteFX engine for full programmability
Lightspeed Memory Architecture for unmatched performance
Surface engine for high-order surfaces and patches

Programmable Vertex Shader

  • Procedural deformations
  • Programmable matrix palette skinning
  • Keyframe animation interpolation
  • Morphing
  • Fog effects
    - Radial
    - Elevation
    - Non-linear
  • Lens effects
    - Fish eye
    - Wide angle
    - Fresnel effects
    - Water refraction

Programmable Pixel Shader

  • Phong-style lighting for per-pixel accuracy
  • Dot3 bump mapping
  • Environmental bump mapping (EMBM)
  • Procedural textures
  • Per-pixel reflections

HRAA-high-resolution antialiasing

  • Featuring Quincunx AA mode
  • Integrated hardware transform engine
  • Integrated hardware lighting engine
  • DirectX R and S3TC R texture compression
  • Dual cube environment mapping capability
  • Reflection maps
  • Accurate, real-time environment reflections
  • Hardware accelerated real-time shadows

Performance

  • 3.2 billion AA samples per second fill rate
  • 7.36GB/sec memory bandwidth
  • Lightspeed Memory Architecture amplifies memory bandwidth
  • True, reflective bump mapping
  • Z-correct bump mapping
  • Phong-style lighting effects on bump maps with reflections

High-performance 2D rendering engine

  • Optimized for 32-, 24-, 16-, 15- and 8-bpp modes
  • True-color hardware cursor with alpha
  • Multi-buffering (double, triple or quad) for smooth animation and video playback

High-quality HDTV/DVD playback

  • High-definition video processor (HDVP) for full-screen, full-frame video playback
    of HDTV and DVD content
  • Independent hardware color controls for video overlay
  • Hardware color-space conversion (YUV 4:2:2 and 4:2:0)
  • Motion compensation o 5-tap horizontal by 3-tap vertical filtering
  • 8:1 up/down scaling o Per-pixel color keying
  • Multiple video windows supported for CSC and filtering
  • DVD sub-picture alpha-blended compositing

Operating systems

  • Windows 2000 , Windows NT4.0
  • Windows 98, Windows 95
  • Linux , Mac OS

API support

  • OpenGL 1.2 and lower
  • DirectX 8.0 Version 1.1 and lower

Test Rig

Athlon Thunderbird @1600MHz (12*266MHz)
Epox 8K7A + 
256MB Crucial PC2100 DDR RAM
Sparkle GeForce3 64MB
SoundBlaster Live 1024
Windows 98SE with NVidia Detonator 21.83 Drivers


Benchmarks

For benchmarking I updated the driver's that came with this card to the newer Nvidia Detonator drivers v21.83


3DMark 2001

This is the standard benchmark you see everywhere on the internet and in PC magazine's nowadays. I have included all the current resolutions including 1600x1200 as  games are becoming more playable at this very high resolution. 

3DMark 2001 640*480 800*600 1024*768 1280*1024 1600*1200
1600MHz 8077 7708 7026 5743 4494



At 1024x768x32 the Sparkle GF3 scores 7026 3dmarks which is on par with most of the GF3 flavour's available today.

Unreal Tournament

I've included UT as I just love the game and its still very popular in the gaming world, although it doesn't really serve much purpose as it is so heavily CPU dependant as you can see from the results below.  The FPS barely changes  from the lowest to the highest resolution. 

UT 640*480 800*600 1024*768 1280*960
1600 124.13 120.69 117.45 111.26


Quake3

This is the good old favorite graphics benchmark, I'm using the old version 1.17 Quake patch, so that I can use the standard timedemo001.dm3  demo. As always I've run the game with a variety of settings. EHQ is with the graphics settings maxed out with full eye candy. At 1600*1200 resolution the FPS  creeps down to under 100FPS, showing just how much Quake 3 needs the memory bandwidth.  Later in the over-clocking section you can see just what a difference the extra memory bandwidth makes.

Quake3 640*480 800*600 1024*768 1280*1024 1600*1200
Fastest 193.5 191.8 184.8 157.7 118.4
HQ 180.2 176.5 162.4 128.5 96.3
EHQ 175.6 171.7 153.2 115.3 83.6




Overclocking

Besides the features on the card the main thing that separates one GeForce3 from another is the overclocking ability of it. Looking at the heatsinks on the Sparkle card they didn't exactly fill me with confidence in terms of overclocking ability,  but the only way  is to try it out.  I installed the well known 'Coolbits' registry file to allow overclocking of the core and memory. I quickly moved this up a few notches and ran a loop of 3DMark 2001 to test stability. After a few loops of 3DMark, I got up to a an amazing 250MHz core 575MHz memory.  This is above the core speed of the newer GeForce3 Ti500's and the memory speed is way above the default setting of 500MHz for a GF3Ti 500. 
  


Overclocked Benchmarks

I ran all the benchmarks again with the card clocked at 250MHz core 575MHz memory as shown above.

Since the Sparkle GF3 overclocked so well, lets see what it means in terms of performance gain.

3DMark 2001

640*480 800*600 1024*768 1280*1024 1600*1200
1600 8077 7708 7026 5743 4494
1600OC 8617 8345 7821 6785 5559

This shows quite a large performance gain over the default core and memory speed. At 1024x768x32 resolution this reflects a 12% performance increase.

Unreal Tournament

Not much of a difference here at all less than  1FPS difference,  truly showing that this game is very CPU speed dependant!

UT 640*480 800*600 1024*768 1280*960
1600 124.13 120.69 117.45 111.26
1600oc 124.52 120.94 117.89 111.97


Quake3

I've decided to show the Quake3 results using just the Extra High Quality (EHQ) settings, this is with the sliders set to maximum quality. In the higher resolutions there are some very impressive gains in performance, below 1024x768 there really isn't much difference though. Its the higher resolutions that matter anyway because in the lower resolutions a GeForce3 running at default speed does the job very well anyway!

Quake3 640*480 800*600 1024*768 1280*1024 1600*1200
EHQ 175.6 171.7 153.2 115.3 83.6
EHQoc 175.6 174.1 164.6 136.1 104.4




Conclusion

The Sparkle SP7000 GeForce3  ran everything I threw at it flawlessly and performed very well. The card's looks are a little tame when compared with some of the funkier looking GeForce3's around, but as I said before its the performance that counts and this card certainly has plenty of that. The standard GeForce3 GPU is being phased out at the moment to be replaced the GeForce3 Ti500 and Ti200 cards, so there may well be some cheaper deals on them at the moment, so if your'e after a powerful graphics card that won't burn a huge hole in your pocket go out and grab one now!