The 3DBlaster TNT2 Ultra at a Glance
Let's see the board
Contrary to expectations, most TNT2 (Ultra) boards on the market sport individual circuit board designs. The Creative Labs 3D Blaster is no exception, as you can see from the below snapshots.
The 3D Blaster up close
Check out the back
In fact, this board differs in configuration even from the official press image Creative has on their site. Before we all go out and harp on "bait and switch" conspiracies, let's just take a look at what it means. Quite simply, in the case of TNT2s, manufacturing depends heavily on the source of high-speed SDRAM. The (presumably older) Creative image shows a Viper V770-esque design, with 16 x 2MB memory. The actual cards we received shipped with 8 x 4MB modules, which constitutes a design change, no more, no less.
Creative's old reference board
There were no timing information on the SDRAM modules themselves, but we know that the Creative TNT2 Ultra is clocked at 150MHz core and 183MHz memory, which "requires" use of 5.5ns SDRAM. We say "requires" simply because in reality, the timing labels on ram chips means very little. The memory has to be qualified by the vendor (Creative) when implemented onto the board, and it's not uncommon for specific 6ns chips to outspec some 5.5 or 5ns. As far as speed-binning goes, the standard industry line is "if it passes the tests, we use it."
Keeping it cool
Like any good TNT2 Ultra on the market, Creative has equipped the 3DBlaster with an active cooling fan. Heat has always been a major culprit in visual artifacts, random crashes, and overclocking limitations, so this decision was a no-brainer.
I want my TV-Out
Nowadays, few cards ship without the highly-vaunted TV-Out option. OK, so maybe that's a little sarcastic, but in our experience, TV-Out is used far less than marketers would make us believe. Still, it's an important factor in the "check-box" wars, and for the folks who do use the feature and get a kick out of it (3D games on a good TV can look amazingly fresh and saturated), they'll know that Creative isn't skimping on this feature to make a few extra bucks!