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home : reviews : GeForce4 4200 Preview




Benjamin Sun
April 9, 2002

Reference GeForce4 Ti4200 Preview
NVIDIA's brings GeForce4 to the masses!

Power on a budget. NVIDIA announced the GeForce3 in February of 2001. At the time, it was the most advanced videocard available. In the fall of 2001, NVIDIA launched two new versions of the GeForce3, the GeForce3 Ti200 and GeForce3 Ti500. The Ti500 was their flagship card for the release timeframe. Sporting a core clock of 240mhz and a memory clock of 250mhz, the Ti500 was at times 20% faster than the original GeForce3 and had a MSRP of $349.

The GeForce3 Ti200, on the other hand, was NVIDIA's mainstream GeForce3. Sporting a core clockspeed of 175mhz and a memory clockspeed of 200mhz, the Ti200 is still one of the most popular mainstream videocards available. Boasting the complete featureset of the GeForce3 series and capable of overclocking, the GeForce3 Ti200 is one of the better mainstream videocards available.

NVIDIA's competitor, ATI, released a new videocard series in September of 2001. Dubbed the Radeon 8500, this card took on NVIDIA's best cards and in some respects, improved upon the featureset of the GeForce3. Launching at a retail price of $299, the 8500 has several variants. The retail 8500 with a 275/275 core/memory clock, the 8500LE, a mainstream card retailing under $199, with a 250/250 core/memory clock, and the Radeon 8500LELE with a 230/230 core/memory clock.

In February of 2002, NVIDIA released the "refresh" to the GeForce3, the GeForce4 Ti4600. Boasting 300mhz core/325mhz memory clocks, and a second vertex shader, along with some architechtural improvements, the Ti4600 is the fastest videocard you can buy today, especially if you enable FSAA (Full Scene Anti-Aliasing). The problem, of course, was the least expensive GeForce4 Ti available was the Ti4400 with a MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) of $299.

While $299 is fine for the hardcore gamer, most people upgrading a videocard will not spend more than $200. At the launch, NVIDIA stated that they would release a "Ti4200" card with clockspeeds of 225 core/250mhz memory (note I never double DDR speeds and always use the actual speed the memory is used at).

Two months later, NVIDIA rethought their Ti4200 strategy. Indeed, with a 128MB card boasting only a 50mhz difference in the core and a 25mhz difference in the memory from their Ti4400 card, and the rapidly escalating prices of memory they decided to release a 64MB 250/250 card for $179 and a 128MB 250/222 card for $199, I believe NVIDIA made the right choice. This preview is based upon the 64MB 250/250 reference board.

I expect several things from the Ti4200 based upon my initial reading of the specifications and early tests by Tom's Hardware and Anandtech. First thing I expect is better than GeForce3 Ti500 performance. It was only 6 months ago that NVIDIA launched the Ti500 for double the price of the projected 4200 price. Second, I expect excellent FSAA performance. With the GeForce3 Ti500 capable of excellent performance with FSAA up to 1280x1024 and it's brother the Ti200 often capable of reaching Ti500 speeds, the Ti4200 needs to bring a little more than Ti500 speed to make it worth my while.
GeForce4 Ti Logo
NVIDIA
NVIDIA® Corporation (Nasdaq: NVDA) is the recognized global leader in advanced graphics processing technology for mainstream platforms. The unmatched breadth of NVIDIA's product line provides stunning 3D, 2D, and high-definition digital video and television for every audience and price point of the desktop computer market.




Performance

System Specifications
AMD Athlon 1800+ XP running 1533mhz
256MB PC2400 DDR Ram
60GB WD 7200RPM Hdd, 2mb cache, 8.9ms seek time
nForce motherboard running unified driver 1.0
64MB Ti4200 running 250 core/250 memory using 28.32 drivers
64MB Ti500 running 240mhz core/250mhz core using 28.32 drivers
128MB All In Wonder Radeon 8500 9016 drivers
Onboard sound disabled
Windows ME

Now a mid-range system for most OEMs, this system has served me well and should make for a interesting performance curve on the Ti4200. Note, for purposes of the tests, onboard sound is disabled No tweaks have been made, I don't overclock anything on my system and used the same drivers for all tests run.

Games tested
  1. Quake3 Arena 1.30 Point Release Max settings
  2. Jedi Knight II Outcast JK FFA
  3. Comanche4 benchmark
  4. Serious Sam The Second Encounter Yodeller demo using Extreme Quality addon
You might notice the use of 2 new benchmarks in this preview. Comanche4 is a DirectX 8.1 benchmark based upon the game of the same name released by Novalogic last year. Jedi Knight II Jedi Outcast is LucasArts' latest Star Wars game and has a handy-dandy benchmark feature. I used Quake3 as a benchmark to show the effect of turning on anisotropic filtering in a game and Serious Sam TSE is the sequel to one of my favorite games from last year.

You might notice the use of 2 new benchmarks in this preview. Comanche4 is a DirectX 8.1 benchmark based upon the game of the same name released by Novalogic last year. Jedi Knight II Jedi Outcast is LucasArts' latest Star Wars game and has a handy-dandy benchmark feature. I used Quake3 as a benchmark to show the effect of turning on anisotropic filtering in a game and Serious Sam TSE is the sequel to one of my favorite games from last year.

Being that this is meant as a preview and not a full blown review I'll just let the numbers speak for themselves:











Conclusion
With a retail price of under $200 USD, the GeForce4 Ti4200 is the spiritual replacement for last fall's GeForce3 Ti200. NVIDIA brings another winner in my opinion here. The Ti4200 easily outpaces the previous generation's fastest card, the GeForce3 Ti500 (I'll go more into direct performance comparisons with the Ti500/Radeon 8500 in my full GeForce4 Ti4200 review.) and improves upon the FSAA performance as well. The addition of the second vertex shader and improved pixel shaders makes this a much better buy than the GeForce4 MX 460, which previously held this pricepoint in NVIDIA's arsenal.

Considering that the GeForce3 Ti500 retailed at $349.99 at the beginning, the Ti4200 has to be considered one of the better purchases at this time. I'm sure with a little tweaking (read overclocking), the Ti4200 can come close to or exceed the speed of it's bigger brother the GeForce4 Ti4400. I, however, do not overclock anything in my system. Therefore, if you're looking for overclock scores, you won't find them here.

The lack of 128MB on the reference card I tested here, doesn't really concern me. Most games today barely fully use 32mb videocards. The extra memory is only really useful in real high resolution Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (1280x1024 32bit 2x FSAA and above as you can see from the benchmarks where the bottleneck lies at that resolution and higher). One concern recently is that memory prices have risen. It's unlikely that NVIDIA would release a 128MB 250/250 version within the current climate.

Let me leave you with a few thoughts. With the release of the Ti4200, NVIDIA now has a mainstream card (the Ti4200), a gamer's card (the Ti4400) and the high end gamer's card (the Ti4600). All three significantly outperform the previous generation's flagship, the Ti500. If you go the 4600 route, you're assured of getting the fastest available videocard today, if you go the 4400 route, you're assured of a fast card. However, NVIDIA has a real winner in the Ti4200, IMO. Anytime you release a card that's 1/2 the cost of the previous generation but 10-20% faster, it's a good thing. I can't wait to see what NVIDIA and ATI have coming up next!

—Benjamin Sun, Contributing Editor
—Joe Glass, Editor-in-Chief

Email the author.

Visit NVIDIA's Website for more information.










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