May the GeForce be with you

We tested the cards on two machines - a Pentium II 300MHz system fitted with 64MB of SDRAM, and a Peripherals Plus Athlon 550MHz with 128MB of SDRAM. Both systems were configured with Windows 98 and DirectX version 7. We gauged the gaming performance of the cards by running Open GL-based games Quake II and KingPin, at resolutions of 1024 x 768, 1280 x 960 and 1600 x 1200. We also ran Futuremark's 3DMark 99 Max, and the cards' 2D performance was measured by the PC WorldBench test suite.

Common traits of both cards include 32MB of RAM, TV-out, 350MHz RAMDACs (random access memory digital to analog converter) supporting resolutions up to 2048 x 1536, heat sink and fan combinations, and AGP 4x with Fast Writes.

Under the default resolution of 800 x 600 and 160-bit colour depth, the Leadtek card performed well in the 2D test, returning a PC WorldBench result of 169 on the PII 300 machine and 254 on the Athlon - good results indicating top-notch business application performance. 3DMark tests on the Leadtek card returned scores of 2594 on the PII and 4470 on the Athlon.

Quake II results obtained on the PII 300 system were surprisingly faster at resolutions of 1280 x 960 and 1600 x 1200 than on the Athlon system, but KingPin results were markedly faster at all resolutions on the Athlon. At 1600 x 1200, the card squeezed 24fps out of KingPin on the PII compared to the 38fps it managed on the Athlon. At the same resolution, Quake II results favoured the PII system with 54fps compared to the Athlon's 47fps.

While the Leadtek WinFast installation was simple, installation of the Guillemot 3D Prophet did not run so smoothly. We were surprised by an unusually tight fit for the card in the Athlon's motherboard, finding it quite difficult to insert and equally hard to remove. The PII system did not have such a problem.

However, after installing the Prophet's drivers, we found that we could not run any of the Nvidia demos nor play any games. A later version of the driver was found at Guillemot's Web site, and everything worked like a charm thereafter.

Benchmark results turned out to be identical to the Leadtek card in all tests bar 3DMark, where the score differed by only a few points. This is not surprising, seeing that both cards run a default 120MHz clock and 166MHz memory setting. Both cards also feature an overclocking utility in their respective driver programs.

Tweaking the clock and memory settings higher than the default settings will often compromise the stability of your system, but if you experiment with a lot of different settings (a time consuming process) you might be able to extract a little more performance out of your card. On the 3D Prophet we found a stable setting of 133MHz for the clock and 182MHz for the memory. This gained the card an extra 5fps in Quake II and an extra 2fps in KingPin. Amazingly enough, the Leadtek was also happy at this setting, but did not gain any extra performance in either Quake II or KingPin.

What our results indicate is that either the Leadtek WinFast GeForce256 or the Guillemot 3D Prophet is perfect for those contemplating a graphics card upgrade. You will see a great performance boost, particularly in gaming, even if you are not running the latest and greatest CPU.

Leadtek WinFast GeForce256

Price: $499

Distributor: BCN Technology

Phone: (02) 9648 0888

URL: www.bcntech.com

Guillemot 3D Prophet

Price: $599

Distributor: Acclaim Entertainment

Phone: (03) 9674 5900

URL: www.guillemot.com

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