Summary: ABIT's Siluro GF4 Ti 4200 OTES is not your typical GeForce4 Ti 4200 card. Not only has ABIT upped the clock speed over stock, they've also thrown in their own unique cooling solution. As a result, the Siluro Ti 4200 OTES is the coolest GeForce4 card we've tested! Find out how this board rates in our review, and don't forget to answer the quiz questions for your chance to take home a Siluro Ti 4200 OTES of your own!
When ATI released the fully DirectX 8.1-compliant RADEON 9000 Pro, NVIDIA’s GeForce4 MX line was instantly relegated to the bargain bin. Who needs a rehashed piece of DirectX 7 hardware when a faster, more modern card can be had for a few dollars more? NVIDIA was quick to remind mainstream gamers that the GeForce4 Ti 4200 easily outperformed the RADEON 9000 Pro at a marginal price difference. Since then, prices on the 9000 Pro have fallen, making the card an exceptional value for well under $100.
So with the release of its RADEON 9000, ATI began a methodical march that has allowed the Canadian graphics firm to command attention in the mainstream, mobile, enthusiast, and most recently, workstation markets. As a result, several third-party board manufacturers have taken up the ATI banner by selling cards centering on the RADEON 9700 Pro and RADEON 9000 Pro processors. An even larger percentage is remaining faithful to NVIDIA and the GeForce4 moniker, though. Most of these manufacturers are still waiting with baited breath for NV30, NVIDIA’s answer to the RADEON 9700 Pro.
While it may be true that GeForce4 Ti is no longer the fastest chip on the block, it is definitely an undeniable performer. And, considering the price premium commanded by ATI’s flagship, there is still plenty of room on the market for less expensive graphics hardware. The GeForce4 Ti 4200 illustrates this point perfectly. Cards based on the 64MB DDR design can be found online for just over $100, complete with programmable pixel and vertex shaders. 128MB variants of the same card can generally be had for an extra $30. Furthermore, the overclocking community has demonstrated that most Ti 4200 cards run reliably at the same core and memory frequencies as the GeForce4 Ti 4400. It’s no wonder that the “budget” GeForce4 Ti card is such a strong seller – it embodies the compromise between brutally raw speed and the painful reality of price.
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Rather than wait for NVIDIA’s next generation graphics technology, ABIT has spent some time improving the already value-packed GeForce4 Ti 4200. The official result is a Ti 4200 core that comes from ABIT clocked comparably to a Ti 4400 card. With the addition of an extravagant cooling solution, the Siluro Ti 4200 OTES also runs cooler than the more expensive Ti 4400. As if the deal could get any sweeter, we’ve already found the card for less than $180 online.
The GeForce4 Ti 4200 is identical to the Ti 4600 in all regards other than operating frequency. It delivers the same DirectX 8.0 functionality through programmable pixel and vertex shaders. Obviously, the Lightspeed Memory Architecture II and Accuview anti-aliasing features are also included. As previously mentioned, the only difference is clock speed – 250MHz for the Ti 4200, 275MHz for the Ti 4400 and 300MHz for the Ti 4600. The Ti 4200 doesn’t require the same power circuitry as the faster 4400 and 4600 cards, so the board design differs slightly, yet the NV25 remains the central feature.
There are currently two versions of the GeForce4 Ti 4200. One sports 64MB of DDR memory effectively operating at 500MHz and the other houses 128MB of DDR running at 444MHz. Of course each design has its own strengths and weaknesses. Since the 64MB card features slightly faster memory, it is usually able to outperform the 128MB variant. However, as the quantity and quality of cached textures increases, 64MB of memory proves insufficient. So if you anticipate frequent video card upgrades, a 64MB card will best suit your needs. Conversely, the 128MB version will work well for the long haul.
ABIT plans to offer the Siluro GF4 Ti 4200 OTES in both 64 and 128MB configurations, though the card we are looking at today comes with 64MB. Rather than adhering to NVIDIA’s reference design, ABIT uses 3.6ns Hynix memory modules rated for operation at 555MHz. Consequently, NVIDIA’s design calls for a 250MHz core and 500MHz memory clock, but ABIT has superceded that level of performance with a core clocked at 275MHz and a memory speed of 550MHz.
Sowing the OTES
Under normal circumstances, increasing the core and memory frequencies would be a difficult task. NVIDIA guarantees the core will run at a given speed, so surpassing that limit introduces the possibility of product failures and inevitably, warranty returns. ABIT’s secret is an innovative cooling method dubbed OTES (the acronym stands for Outside Thermal Exhaust System). The base of the ‘exhaust system’ is a large, conductive copper plate that removes heat from the GeForce4 GPU. A liquid-filled, copper heat pipe is soldered to the conductive base running a constant condensation-evaporation cycle, theoretically removing heat faster. As heat is absorbed from the GPU, the liquid begins to boil forcing hot vapor to the other end of the pipe. Then, heat is released from the upper part of the cylinder after being exposed to cooler air. The liquid returns to the bottom of the pipe (generally under the force of gravity) where the cycle begins anew. ABIT uses a copper fin heat sink in conjunction with a 7200 RPM ball-bearing fan to accelerate the process. The plastic covering the fan purportedly creates a sealed environment so that all of the fan’s air output is directed through the heat sink. As you can see, ABIT completely covers the GPU with thermal compound to ensure rapid heat transfer.
Apparently, ABIT has learned from eVGA’s failed venture into active cooling. With the OTES system, all of the heat absorbed from the copper base is quickly directed away from the graphics processor and none of the memory modules are subjected to the heated copper pipe. The result is a truly effective cooling system. I was able to obtain a non-contact thermometer manufactured by Raytek featuring 8-point circular laser sighting to test the OTES system. In scanning the Siluro GF4 Ti 4200 OTES board, the highest temperature reading was 131 degrees Fahrenheit, which happened to be near one of the memory modules. ABIT’s original Siluro GF4 Ti 4200 64MB card, clocked at a more conservative 250/500MHz, registered a searing 156 degrees. Even the reference GeForce4 Ti 4400 had a 143 degree hot spot.
SIDEBAR: eVGA was the first to market heat pipe technology on a graphics card, but it didn’t do so well.
All That and a Bag of Chips
Because the OTES cooling system consumes so much room on the board’s surface, ABIT extended the mounting bracket to accommodate a 15-pin VGA output and an S-video connector (a single DVI-I output is located below the VGA port). Keep this in mind before you upgrade, as the first PCI slot on your motherboard will probably be inaccessible.
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
Quake III - High Quality
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The first Siluro Ti 4200 card we saw from ABIT was of average fare. It ran at NVIDIA’s recommended operating frequencies and featured a large heat sink, but was certainly not enough to ring anyone’s bell. This is ABIT’s second time around with the Ti 4200, though, so we’d naturally expect more features and more performance. Fortunately, ABIT doesn’t disappoint.
However, the Ti 4200 OTES also features an effective means of active cooling, which kept temperatures low throughout testing. Two drawbacks accompany the OTES technology. First, as a result of the cooling implementation, the card’s mounting bracket consumes two slots, and second, the 7200 RPM fan is fairly loud. Regardless, the copper heat sink assembly is truly a sight to be seen.
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