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ASUS V3400TNT AGP Review

Date: 31st December 98
by Vijay Anand

- The Good
- The Bad
- Test System Configuration
- Conclusion
- Rating

- Other video cards reviews

ASUS, an extremely well known manufacturer for it's motherboards due to it's history of well-built motherboards, good features and fairly high prices. Only in the past few years they have ventured into video-cards, networking, PC/Workstation/Server cases(made by Elan Vital) and is still expanding. Since they are newer than most established brands in the video-card arena, they have priced their video-cards at fairly good prices. Asus has many video-card models covering numerous chipsets and many come with multiple configurations, e.g. like having 8mb TNT models and including TV-out/Video-in for some video-cards based on some chipsets that the other manufacturers don't provide. So there's a video-card for every person at every budget.

nVidia's 1st chipset, the NV3 was partially a failure as it was not used by almost any video-card besides the Diamond Edge-3D which didn't become famous but the NV3 did have some unique new features, also unfortunately never used. nVidia went back to redesign and came up with the Riva-128 which became very famous overnight due to the fact it was faster than the competing 3Dfx Voodoo graphics chipset and so was the fastest chipset of it's time. But from the very begining, the 3D quality of the Riva-128 was not up to par of all other video-card chipsets. Now the new nVidia Riva-TNT is the fastest 2D cum 3D card and has excellent 3D quality. Prior to the TNT's release, it was over-hyped that it's core clock speed will run at 125MHz with amazing fill-rate numbers but the fabrication plant that manufactured nVidia's chipset was unable to move to the 0.25 micron process as yet. Coupled to the fact that it's core was very advanced, nVidia had to settle for a normal 0.35 micron chipset and underclocking it to 90Mhz so that it can run stable. It didn't meet the market's expectation due to the initial hype but it's still the fastest chipset available.

Video Card Specifications

Interface AGP 2x
Chipset nVidia Riva-TNT (90MHz clock)
Ram Hyundai 16MB SDRAM 8ns
Data Path 128 bit
RAMDAC 250 Mhz
TV-Output Optional
Video Playback MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DVD, Indeo, & Cinepak
Supported Resolutions 640 x 480 - 1920 x 1200
Supported Refresh Rates 60 - 250 Hz

These are the contents of the box:

The box design is not as professional like other brands but they have all the essential product info and explanation. The card is packaged in a plastic electrostatic bag. Here's a snapshot of the board:

These are the utilities & softwares that are given on the installation CD:

  • ASUS V3400TNT AGP Drivers

  • ASUS V3400TNT Manual

  • VCD PowerPlayer

  • VGARTD drivers

  • Asus Live3400 (to be used only with TV-out version of Asus TNT).

  • MS DirectX-6

The board is a bit long for a TNT-based card. It has the 0.35 micron TNT chip which is hidden behind a green motherboard chipset heatsink and a screwed-on very low profile black fan (similar to that of a Canopus Pure3D II) which draws it's power-supply from the board itself. That heatsink and fan is so effective that the TNT chip & the board are only warm to touch when it's running. There are 8pc MIRA 2MB SDRAM of 8ns type around the TNT. Other features on the board are 2 feature connectors, the small Flash-Bios and spare space for the video decoder that provides TV-out and Video-in functions.

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The Good

The V3400TNT Encounter

Installation of the card is very straight-forward like many other cards and is well documented in the manual. The Bios (2.04.14) on the card and drivers(1.0) provided on the CD are a bit out-dated when checked with those from Asus web-site. I downloaded new Bios (2.014.16) and drivers (1.01) from the web. Both updates were easily applied. For the Bios, Asus has on their website, 2 versions of the Bios. The 1st one can be executed through DOS, by the normal way and the 2nd one is a Bios that can update the card through Windows itself! That's new and something very convenient. The drivers had to be extracted to a temp directory. The read-me file only mentioned that you have to use the display properties, change adapter method to make windows use the new drivers. But you can also just execute the file Asetup.exe which updates the drive in a jiffy.

The manual's cover looks interesting, has many geometrical shapes rendered in 3D with an ocean as a base (reminded me when I was using Bryce-3D to render landscapes for fun!). The manual itself is slim and is of the normal Asus standard. There are instructions and screen shots to show you the installation procedure for Win95/98 and Win NT-4. Since this manual is a manual for all models of the V3400TNT (8mb, 8mb TV-out/V-in, 16mb, 16mb TV-out/V-in), the begining of the manual provides the layout of each type of board and where and how-each connector can be used. Just for your information, the Asus V3400TNT with TV-out and Video-in has a jumper on the board to set it to PAL or NTSC mode.

The 250Mhz RAMDAC makes my screen-output very sharp and even but surprisingly it was brighter than the Canopus Spectra.

ASUS Utilities

ASUS-LIVE3400 is the only utility/program provided but it's meant for the V3400TNT with TV-out and Video-in. This utility is still provided on the CD because it was meant to be used for all the models of the V3400TNT.

Other controls are integrated in the display properties. The installation process adds the Monitor, Advanced, Colour Correction, information and the TV tab (if yours has TV-out). The Advanced tab has Direct3D and Open-GL settings, of which, the most important is to enable or disable Vsync-waiting in either 3D-modes. Colour Correction tab has RGB, Contrast, Brightness, Gamma Control and a reset button for default settings. Note that this Gamma control adjusts the Gamma for all modes, regardless of colour-depth, resolution, 2D or 3D. The monitor tab gives users some control of the image position and size through software, as well as the important refresh-rate settings.

TV-output and Video-in

The ASUS TNT card I'm reviewing does not have TV-output and Video-in options but I do recommend you to get one with these options as you can do some small video capture/editing and capture still shots + use the TV-output option. Though it won't be as good as those provided with the Canopus, it's still handy and fun to have them. It can output to TV with a desktop resolution of 640x480 or 800x600. But if your watching your $$, you can skip it.

3D Quality & Features

The 3D quality looks great as any TNT will show. I tested games like NFS3, Star-Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Rogue Squadron 3D, Quake-2, Ultimate Race Pro & I ran the games at 800x600 and they all were as good as fun to play as the Spectra. (Note: Rogue Squadron 3D worked well with this Asus TNT but can't even launch the game on Canopus Spectra!)

These are the 3D Features:


The Benchmarks

I have benchmarked the V3400TNT in Windows98 with DirectX-6.

So here the dough :

ASUS V3400TNT AGP 16MB SDRAM

Benchmarking Softwares / Cpu Config Wintune98 Video (2D) / Mps Wintune98 Direct3D / Mps Wintune98 OpenGL / Mps Quake-2 Timedemo1 / fps Quake-2 Timedemo2 / fps
K6-2-300 (3 x 100MHz) 46.65 97.59 79.76 34.5 31.5
K6-2-350 (3.5 x 100Mhz) 48.45 99.46 80.65 37.8 34.9

Done @ 640 x 480 with OpenGL for Quake II V3.05 and @ 1024 x 768 for the rest of the other tests.

2D performance is way below par for a TNT but the Canopus Spectra running on the same system scored very much higher, therefore the Asus drivers have to mature further. 3D is on par with the Canopus Spectra TNT and can improve but this is due to the Super-7 motherboard and K6-2 chip used. Using a P2 system of the same speed, you'll see much higher performance. From the results, a super-7 system owner is better off buying a Banshee based card unless one is buying a video-card to keep for sometime to come, in which the more powerful TNT can be better utilised when the super-7 owner upgrades later on.

For overclockers, you can push up the core speed up to 110Mhz and the ram up to 125Mhz using Power-Strip. It's stability is a bit flaky at this speed. Beyond this speed for either the ram or core, your games will crash very quickly. There's no option in the the ASUS utilities to overclock the card.

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The Bad

2D is not strong in a super-7 system. Utilities and features are very standard. Price is not very tempting enough. Incoming game is getting old to be enjoyed as a game to bundle along. 8mb models use SGRAM but 16mb models use SDRAM. Hope Asus will use SGRAM for all it's TNTs to boost performance a bit. If you buy the ASUS V3400TNT with TV-output and Video-in, it's connectors will be at the back of the PC, so it will be a bit troublesome to go back and hook the connectors carefully. The page where you can download bios and drives for any Asus product needs more info(e.g, the date released) and needs be arranged in a way to please the eye.

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Test System Configuration

Processor(s) AMD K6-2-300
Ram 64MB 100MHz LGS-7J SDRAM Dimm
Motherboard AOpen AX59-Pro
HardDrive(s) IBM Deskstar-3 3.2Gb
Operating System MS Windows 98 Build 4.10.1998
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 6
Other software used Power-Strip 2.29 (for over-clocking)
Video Card(s) ASUS V3400TNT AGP
Video Card Bios Ver: 2.04.16
Video Card Drivers 1.01

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Conclusion

If you need a TNT from a good brand at a slightly lower price, the V3400TNT is a good option. Well, it's a nice TNT card by ASUS but from it's features, utilities offered, the price is not too attractive compared to it's neighbouring TNTs.


VIDEO CARD RATING

Overall Rating (Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

Installation *****
Performance ****
Price ***1/2
Software Bundle ***1/2
Material Quality ****
Overall Rating ****

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This product is provided courtesy by

AI-EN Pte. Ltd.

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Copyright 1998, Singapore Hardware Zone. All rights reserved.
Last updated November 25, 1998.

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