For some discriminating consumers, stock just isn’t good enough. In the automotive industry you have custom tuners like Saleen, Ligenfelter, and RUF. These companies take factory cars and tune them into supercars with price tags that are usually the cost of the car itself, if not more. Engines will be bored out, turbo and superchargers installed, transmissions swapped, while the suspension and brakes will be tuned for superior handling and performance. Cost is literally no object. Fortunately for these tuners, their customers have the bank to afford these modifications. After all, if you have to ask how much it costs, chances are you can’t afford it right?
Just below these companies are the factory tuners. AMG, SVT, SLP, BMW’s “M” division, and Toyota Racing Development (TRD) are some of the most famous examples. Cost is definitely a factor to these guys, but increasing performance is still the primary objective. These tradeoffs of price and performance must be weighed heavily into the final product so their ultimate creations can be successful for the company’s balance sheet and at the racetrack.
In the computing world we have our own factory tuners. Companies like Alienware, Falcon Northwest, and VoodooPC have made a name for themselves building custom gaming rigs, while in the motherboard market names like ABIT, Epox, and Soyo have done quite well. On the 3D video side of things custom manufacturers have also thrived, despite the cutthroat nature of the market, and more recently, the strict manufacturing restrictions ATI and NVIDIA have implemented on their high-end products.
Leadtek: Paving the way for better 2D?
Leadtek is one of the oldest of these companies; with products dating all the way back to NVIDIA’s original RIVA 128, making them one of NVIDIA’s senior board partners. Leadtek has come up with all kinds of ways to enhance their products in the past. For instance, back in the TNT2/GeForce days, NVIDIA-based cards from third-party manufacturers were often criticized for their poor 2D display quality. While NVIDIA’s reference boards utilized high quality components and filters, third-party manufacturers utilized cheaper parts in order to cut costs. Consequently, as the screen resolution increased, signal strength decreased, resulting in blurry text and images.
This was less of a problem in the TNT and TNT2 days, when 14” and 15” monitors were most common, 17” was considered high-end and 640x480 and 800x600 were common desktop resolutions. But as technology progressed, CRTs became cheaper, 17” became mainstream, while 19” and 21” monitors could be found at good prices if you looked hard enough. Gamers and enthusiasts began to crank up their screen resolution only to discover that their shiny new GeForce or GeForce2 card didn’t look so good. ATI and Matrox cards provided excellent 2D output, even Voodoo3 and S3 Virge cards delivered better 2D displays than many NVIDIA-based cards!
Leadtek and eVGA's Ultra pose for the camera
GF4 Ti 4600 reference (top) WinFast A350 Ultra (middle) and ASUS V9950 Ultra (bottom)
In came Leadtek with its TDH series of GeForce cards. Not only did they resolve the problem, Tuan found that their 2D quality was superior to that of Matrox’s G550 in the WinFast Titanium 500 TDH
So what advantage does Leadtek have in store for us with its GeForce FX 5900 Ultra card? For starters, it’s plain to see that Leadtek has placed an emphasis on cooling, a tradition they’ve upheld for all of their GeForce cards we’ve reviewed. But they have a few other tricks up their sleeve as well. Let’s take a closer look at the hardware underneath its daunting cooler.