Nvidia’s Arcade FX GeForce4 Ti 4200
delivers eye-popping graphics
Believe it or not, there was a time
when computers didn’t come with video cards, and almost every game launched used
software-driven graphics. If you are old enough to remember that time, you might
also remember the wonder that accompanied launching the first 3D game with a
newly installed graphics card.
The world of graphics cards have come
a long way since those early days, and sometimes the technology implemented in
the cards outstrips the technology designed into a game.
It may be years before games’ minimum
system requirements demand processors that are in the gigabyte range, but that
doesn’t mean you have to wait until that era to demand better graphical quality
from your favorite programs.
That’s where the newest Nvidia cards
come into play. Best Data is currently marketing the GeForce 4 Titanium series,
and GameZone was privileged to review the Arcade FX GeForce 4 Ti 4200 (which
currently has a retail price of $199.99).
Before getting into the performance
specifics of the card, here are some of the features:
This is a 64 megabyte DDR card with a
4x/2x AGP and a 250 MHz core clock – which all adds up to faster graphic loads.
The card also feature Accuview Antialiasing, which delivers high resolution
full-screen multisampling to eliminate the jagged edges on graphics. This card
has a fill rate of 4 billion AA samples per second.
Using Nvidia’s nfiniteFX II engine,
the card features advanced Pixel shaders with Z-correct bump mapping, and dual
programmable Vertex Shaders, which translate to more realism in the graphics.
The Lightspeed Memory Architecture increases the memory bandwidth (it has an
eight gigabyte per second bandwidth) to deliver faster and smoother frame rates.
This card can literally outstrip the capabilities of most monitors by offering
32-bit colors in a screen resolution of 2048×1536.
The card also has a high-definition
video processor for full-screen, full-frame video playback; independent H/W
color controls for video overlays; H/W color space conversion; 8:1 up/down
scaling; and a DVI out for digital LCD monitors.
The card supports Windows XP, 2000,
98, and ME display drivers; Microsoft DirectDraw, Direct3D, DirectVideo, and
ActiveX drivers; OpenGL ICD for Windows XP, 2000, 98, and WinME; and has
complete Linux display and OpenGL driver support.
System requirements include an Intel
Pentium II or AMD-K6 or higher; 266 MHz or higher CPU
Windows 98, ME, 2000, or XP; one
available AGP 2.0 compliant slot; CD-ROM drive; and 64 megs of RAM.
Whew! What a mouthful.
The host system, in this case, was
operating on Windows 98SE. Installation was not that difficult. First, the
initial display drivers were dumped and the system was shut down. The old card
(a GeForce2 400 MMX video card) was removed and the new card was inserted into
the slot. The system was restarted. Initially Windows was directed to the CD
containing the drivers, but apparently failed to load them because the system
came back online with minimum display settings. A quick trip to the CD
containing the drivers and clicking on them to begin a manual install did the
trick, and after the system was restarted, the card was fully on-line.
Three games were initially used to
test the card – PopTop’s Tropico Mucho Macho, Humongous Entertainment’s Backyard
Baseball 2003 and BioWare’s Neverwinter Nights.
It was readily apparent that load
times seemed somewhat reduced. Tropico loaded quickly and time to in-game was
cut down. Texturing was greatly improved on El Presidente’s island paradise; the
buildings were richer in detail and while the environment did not appear
noticeably different, the overall look of the game was brighter (requiring a
quick trip to the monitor display’s brightness and contrast controls).
Backyard Baseball, because it is an
animated game (akin to a cartoon) was a different proposition. Again, load times
were reduced and the vibrancy of the colors was amazing. The reds almost
threatened to burn through the monitor’s screen because of the intensity of the
color. The animations were smoother, but the disparage between the highlighted
skin tones and shadows were deeper.
Neverwinter Nights was the real
eye-popper though. Previously, using the GeForce 2 MMX card, when in the
forests, the streams were moving bodies of water; there was no below-the-surface
detail. The GeForce4 Ti 4200 card revealed details and textures, which were
mind-boggling. Depth of water was apparent, and the bottoms of the streams were
covered in rocks of various sizes and shapes. There were even subtle differences
in color tone. Doubtless designers put in several hours in adding this kind of
graphical detail to the game – it was nice to finally be able to notice it. Cave
experiences were different because of the increased detail and textures in the
environments, and lighting was much more dramatic. Zoom in and you can see what
appear to be buds on the stalks of the plants swaying in the breeze.
The card comes bundled with PowerDVD,
a program that turns your PC into a DVD player with dynamic capabilities. The
newly released “Lord of the Rings” movie was the guinea pig for this aspect of
the package, and the card (and computer system) delivered exceptional video and
audio. Enya’s “May It Be” never sounded so full and rich as when playing back in
surround-sound with a Battlechair.
The Nvidia Arcade FX GeForce4 Ti 4200
is an amazing card, capable of bolstering the graphics of any compatible system
to incredible dimensions. Having a top-end system/processor will only take games
as far as the video card allows – this video card powers up the graphical
capabilities and is highly recommended.
The antialiasing capabilities, increased
bandwidth, and ability to render more realistic, vibrant environments and
animations speak for themselves. Toss in the HD processor and PowerDVD software,
and you have a card that will rip through graphics and deliver incredible
This card reveals graphical elements that
may not have been apparent with other cards, and increases the overall joy of
game playing. It delivers superior graphics with faster load times, smoother
edges and colors that can almost overwhelm. The Arcade FX GeForce4 Ti 4200
delivers eye-candy by the bucket. Simply put, it is amazing.