NVIDIA’s GeForce4 Ti 4200 is a perfect example of why a highly competitive environment is good for the consumer. As we stated in our original Ti 4200 preview, the Ti 4200 was born at the last moment to compete with ATI’s RADEON 8500LE. ATI caught NVIDIA off guard with the 8500LE announcement and ATI’s subsequent price cuts. NVIDIA retaliated by quickly throwing together preliminary specs and pricing for the GeForce4 Titanium launch, even though the Ti 4200 didn’t physically exist. NVIDIA had planned to rely on the GeForce4 MX series in the value segment, with leftover GeForce3/GeForce3 Titanium cards filling the space between the GeForce4 MX and the GeForce4 Titanium line.
By now we know how the story eventually played out: two variants of the GeForce4 Ti 4200 were ultimately released (versus the one model that was initially announced) after the Ti 4400 and Ti 4600 hit retail shelves, with street prices that redefine the word value. As a result, the GeForce4 Ti 4200 has been one of the biggest success stories at NVIDIA. Unofficial reports claim shipments of Ti 4200 cores are second only to the GeForce4 MX 440, a GPU that officially lists for considerably less. We’d argue that the GeForce4 Ti 4200 has been the most significant NVIDIA release since the GeForce2 MX: just as GeForce2 MX brought hardware T&L to the masses so has the Ti 4200 brought DirectX 8 gaming to the mainstream consumer.
Gainward’s “golden” video line
The GeForce4 Ti 4200 we’re reviewing today however definitely wasn’t designed for the mainstream consumer. As one of Gainward’s “Golden Sample” products, the PowerPack! Ultra/650 TV/DVI Golden Sample has been engineered specifically for the most demanding consumers out there: 3D gamers and hardware enthusiasts. Unlike traditional graphics card manufacturer’s, Gainward has multiple product lines based on each of NVIDIA’s GPUs. In the case of the Ti 4200, seven Gainward PowerPack models are available. This complicates board production and product marketing, but it also gives Gainward the ability to tailor each of their cards to a specific market.
The term “Golden Sample” originates from message boards and other online forums where hardware reviews are discussed. Legend has it that hardware manufacturers would send websites such as ours handpicked video cards that overclocked (and performed) to stratospheric heights in the hope that consumers would see this and immediately want one. These cards became known as golden samples. While we’ve seen our fair share of duds and gems from hardware manufacturers, the fable persists nonetheless. In the same sense, Gainward’s Golden Sample products are designed specifically to outperform your typical, everyday graphics card. You’ll have to read on to find out if our Gainward GeForce4 PowerPack! Ultra/650 TV/DVI Golden Sample lived up to the hype!