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AZTECH RIVA TNT2 32MB AGP Review
Reviewed by Matthew Fam K.L
(2
0 November
1999)


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

- Other video cards reviews



With the upcoming release of NVidia's latest GeForce 256 graphic chipset, it is easy for everyone to forget the once mighty Riva TNT2 graphic chipset. The release of the GeForce 256 graphic cards have made the TNT2 cards more affordable and may become a favourite among budget conscious buyers. Let's look at it this way, not many users can afford a S$400+ graphic card. In addition, most never reach resolutions higher than 1024x768 pixels. Users normally own 15-17" monitors that's ideal for resolutions up to 1024x768 pixels, which makes the TNT2 chipset the best that money can buy. Since the Aztech's Riva TNT2 is targeted at the budget market, it makes plenty of economic sense to consider this as a choice for a budget system.

Hardware Zone have done several reviews on the TNT2 chipset before, but just how much different is this card be as compared to the rest? First things first, the card uses a 125MHz core with the standard 32MB SDRAM clocked at 150MHz. This will roughly give you an idea how fast this card was designed to be.

AZTECH is a company established in the 1980s along with CREATIVE Technology as the top 2 sound card manufacturers in the world during the birth of the sound card era. Today, AZTECH has diversified their core business to venture into other peripherals such as modems, speakers and video card products.

This new kid on the block are among one of the last few manufacturers to add diversity into brands carrying the Riva TNT2 chipset. Looking back, we have already seen more than 10 different brands introducing over 20 different models of video products based on the TNT2 family. This particular card goes straight into the budget category.

At first look, the packaging design will definitely leave you little impression. However, a closer look at the price tagged onto this product, it should instantly catch your attention.


 

Video Card Specifications

Manufacturer
Bus Type
4X/2X/1X AGP interface with full sideband support
Controller
nVidia Riva TNT2 (standard @ 125MHz core)
Ram
EliteMT 32MB SDRAM (rated @ 7ns)
Data Path
True 128 bit
RAMDAC
300 Mhz
Video Playback
MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Multitap X Y Scaling & filtering, color space conversion
Supported Resolutions
640 x 480 - 2048 x 1536
Supported Refresh Rates
60 - 200Hz


These are the contents of the package:
These are the contents of the package:
Software & Drivers included
  • (1) AZTECH RIVA TNT2 card
  • (1) Installation guide (on CD)
  • (1) Easy Start Manual
 
  • AZTECH Retail Driver Version 4.11.01.0130
  • MICROSOFT DirectX v6.0 Final

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The Good

The Card

( RIGHT : Aztech TNT2 front view / LEFT : Aztech TNT2 reverse view )

As a safe bet on the stability of the graphics card, AZTECH decided to stick to the original reference design from nVIDIA. The tweaking features were almost not available at all. Nevertheless, the availability of nVIDIA in-house reference drivers (the remarkable Detonator series) allows you to keep updating the performance of your card since the performance between various brands do not differ by more than 8%. The performance normally falls within the region of 2-5% depending on the quality of the card and the memory used.

The board I received had sixteen 2MB EliteMT SDRAM chips rated at 150MHz with 7ns timing. As with all TNT2 boards, AZTECH have attached a fairly huge heatsink on top of the chipset. This is to enable sufficient heat dissipation as standard TNT2 models does not need the cooling fan as much as their ULTRA counterparts. 

Built for the price conscious buyers, AZTECH have altogether designed and built 4 different models using the TNT2 chip. The reviewed model is the TNT2-AGP(A) (as shown above).

1.
AZTECH TNT2-AGP
32MB
TV Out + Digital Flat Panel Out
2.
AZTECH TNT2-AGP(A)
32MB
TV/S-Video Out
3.
AZTECH TNT2-AGP(A1)
32MB
features unknown
4.
AZTECH TNT2-AGP(B)
16MB
Standard

The Installation, Driver features and Programs

Installation of today's computer components were almost a non hassle event. Unless you are a first-timer, the process is usually pretty simple. Below are some features of the TNT2 driver (click on the thumbnail to see an enlarged view).

   

The standard properties feature from NVIDIA's driver are already very in-depth with many advanced features and settings for users to select. For example, the DIRECT3D and OpenGL settings as depicted above.

      

Above, you can see the different display properties of the driver released for the AZTECH TNT2 card. From the left, we see the driver based on v4.11.01.0208, followed by v4.11.01.0334 and the latest v4.11.01.0353 right. Notice the different NVIDIA logo?

Even without the unique overclocking feature bundled with DIAMOND or CREATIVE's driver, you could still overclock the card using any third party softwares like Powerstrip or the TNTclk. Powerstrip has been the favourite among overclockers as it allows you to overclock various chipsets other than the Riva TNT2. On the other hand, the TNTclk is a simple utility for you to tweak the core and memory clock for TNT-based graphic cards only.

Almost all of the standard non-Ultra TNT2 models comes without any fan on the heatsink, and the AZTECH TNT2 is no exception. This is because the standard TNT2 do not generate as much heat as their Ultra counterparts. However, one could always attach a fan on the heatsink (just like the other TNT2 Ultras) to keep the chipset cooler. In this way, you can have a better chance of overclocking the card. Hardware Zone have been very successful overclocking this card, although it is using a cheaper type of memory.

   

The chart below shows the 5 stages I undertook to overclock the graphic card. You can use this as a guide by starting with the "Beginner" level and moving slowly up to the "Professional" level with a 140MHz (core) and 160MHz (memory) clock speed. Basically, overclocking the card will benefit users a slight increase in framerates. However, if you can reach the higher stages like "Overclocker" or "Professional", you can roughly ensure a minimum of 10-15% increment in framerates for some of your favourite 3D games. Changing the core to 127-130MHz will not do much impact, and will typically let you gain 1-3 frames at most. However, increasing your core clock speed to 127-130MHz will probably be the best overall setting since the card does not come with any active cooling (e.g. fan).

In the experiment, I used the latest Global Win card fan to cool the graphics chip. The large 5" fan covers 3/4 of the card surface, ensuring both the chipset and memory are cool. This allows us to effectively achieve speeds of up to 137MHz for the graphics core and 160MHz for the memory. Increasing to 140MHz (core)/160MHz (memory), I experienced missing fonts while booting up, and benchmarking could not even complete. For those of you who intend to buy the card fan, it costs about S$50. This is not too appealing as it adds up to the total cost. I scouted around Siml Lim Square for a cheaper cooling solution and came out with an $8 fan that comes with a small heatsink. I detached the heatsink by removing the screws and subsequently screwed the fan on the TNT2's heatsink. With that, I managed to get myself a card that overclocks up to 135MHz (core) and 157MHz (memory) for only a mere S$228. Do note that Hardware Zone does not guarantee all Aztech TNT2s to function at such frequencies. Users that overclock their TNT2 do so at their own risk and may void all warranty terms.

Before I carry on, let's take a look at the core and memory clock of the 5 different boost levels I've adopted as my overclocking strategy.

Stage
Active Fan required?
Core Frequency
(in MHz)
Memory Frequency
(in MHz)
Normal
No
125
150
Beginner
No
127
152
Intermediate
Optional
129
156
Advance
Yes (recommended)
132
157
Overclocker*
Yes (A Must)
135
160
Professional**
Yes (A Must)
138
160

Over-clocking Tweaks on Registry

The latest NVIDIA reference driver does actually allows users to bump up their clock rates. Meaning you can simply go into the display properties and adjust the slider clock to clock up your graphics card. No more requiring of the 'TNTclk' utility or the 'Powerstrip'. Work similar to Diamond's Incontrol Tools but this new registry tweak. You can simply test the new settings and even allow to apply the settings right at the startup. Cool ?

 
Email to me if you wants the registry tweak.

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The Benchmarks

The 3D Mark 99 Max Pro was used to benchmark the card. Altogether, there were as many as 26 different tests performed, including anti-aliasing and more. The results are as shown below.

 3D Mark 99 Max Pro on INTEL Celeron 300A
Core / Memory clock
Driver Version
CPU 3DMark
(800x600)
800x600
16-bit colour
16-bit z-buffer
1024x768
32-bit colour
24-bit z-buffer
1280x1024
32-bit colour
24-bit z-buffer
125 / 150*
4.11.01.0208
4397
3965
2592
1962
130 / 155*
4.11.01.0208
4483
3877
2612
1971
125 / 150**
4.11.01.0353
3933
3987
3277
2105
130 / 155**
4.11.01.0353
3974
4468
3489
2178
 3D Mark 99 Max Pro on INTEL Pentium 558*MHz
Core / Memory clock
Driver Version
CPU 3DMark
(800x600)
800x600
16-bit colour
16-bit z-buffer
1024x768
32-bit colour
24-bit z-buffer
1280x1024
32-bit colour
24-bit z-buffer
125 / 150*
4.11.01.0353
8589
5359
3291
1990
130 / 155*
4.11.01.0353
8610
5355
3411
2061
132 / 158**
4.11.01.0353
8580
5400
3477
2111


* System clocked at default 300A(300MHz) / ** System clocked at 450MHz
* System clocked @ 124x4.5 = 558MHz using SL37C PIII 450MHz CPU.
4.11.01.0208 - AZTECH Driver / 4.11.01.0334 - NVIDIA reference beta Driver / 4.11.01.0353 - NVIDIA reference Driver

All tests were run several times to ensure accuracy. Overall, you will notice a performance gain of as much as 10% when the card is overclocked. Anyway, if you need more results, you can e-mail me.

AZTECH TNT2 TV Out peformance

The AZTECH TNT2 allows you to select the output between your TV or through the analog monitor (note that the AZTECH's TNT2-AGP support Digital Flat panel monitor as well). You can only select one option at a time and not both as this is not a DualHead G400. The resolution for TV output is maxxed at 800x600. Using the utility provided, you can centralise the display on your TV if it is not in the center of the screen. The overall quality is quite satisfying as the Brooktree chipset is quite a popular choice for TV out. The TV option is sure worth considering if you are going to use it for exciting games like Q3Test. However, it is not ideal if you intend to use it for web surfing as the fonts displayed on the TV @ 800x600 are still not as sharp as a conventional monitor screen.

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The Bad

AZTECH systems policy are to ensure their products are among the most affordable in the market.. The whole package does not contain any tweaking utilities, software or games. Just the standard installation CD-ROM. It does appeal to novice users if some basic software or games were included. It would also be wonderful if AZTECH can provide active cooling for the heatsink to reduce overheating problems and to enhance the possibilities of overclocking. However, almost all TNT2 (non-ultra) cards are without one.

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Test System Configuration

Processor(s) INTEL Pentium II 450MHz (Clk @ 558MHz)
INTEL Celeron 300A (Clk @ 450MHz)
Ram SAMSUNG 64MB PC-100 'G8' SDRAM
Motherboard ABIT BX-6 Revision 2.0 (BIOS : MW)
HardDrive(s) IBM Deskstar 34GXP 27GBGB 7200rpm (2MB)
Operating System MS Windows 98 SE
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 7.0 (Eng)
Other software used 1) Tirtinium OpenGL/D3D v1.5 (benchmark)
2) 3D Mark99 Max Pro (benchmark)
Video Card(s) AZTECH Riva TNT2 Graphics Card
Video Card Drivers AZTECH v1.30 driver incl. in CD (v4.11.01.0188)
NVIDIA v4.11.01.0334 reference Driver
NVIDIA v4.11.01.0353 reference Driver

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Conclusion

 AZTECH System has again made a product that's worth mentioning here. This price performer comes without any software or games like the DIAMOND Viper V770. But at a fraction of its price, it comes with all the support you can get. In addition, the card overclocks pretty well considering the fact that it uses the low cost EliteMT '-7ns' SDRAM. 

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VIDEO CARD RATING

Overall Rating
(Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

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

Any comments/remarks/questions? Click picture below. 


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