Leadtek Winfast F320 II Review

We have had the Leadtek TNT2 in our grubby little hands for over 2 weeks now. It has no doubt been thoroughly abused by the HOCP krew. Leadtek is the first company to my knowledge, to bring the TNT2 AGP to market. Still wondering how they beat the "bigguys" to the plate..... I had my doubts about the TNT2 chipset after getting to play with STB's V3 card, but then we got hold of the new 1.73 TNT2 drivers. They have brought the performance of the card up to the level where it can seriously compete with the others in the market. Now lets take a look and see if it is worth its' salt and just how well we can trick this mutha out.....

First off lets get you up to date with what this TNT2 actually looks like. If you want a run down on ALL the specs, cruise to this Leadtek Page. I am not gonna bore you with all the data. As usual, thumb-nailed to protect the modem users.

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This is the top-of-the-line model with Flatpanel support and 32 megs of SGRam. The picture is of the preproduction card and the card used in the following tests did NOT have LCD Flatpanel support. This card DOES come with the little fan installed.

This card installed easy and was up and running in no time. The Leadtek drivers do load on some "Winfast Utilities" that are tabbed under the "Display Properties" settings. All your regular fare. Nothing out of the ordinary. This card came from Leadtek set to 150MHz Memory and 140MHz Core speeds.

First things first, I ripped off the factory installed fan. Why? For starters, NO ONE in the industry has the want to put them on properly for one. Second because you know we like to OverClock hardware around here and are going to need some extra cooling.

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Here is a picture of the chipset itself and the BACK of the stock fan. A big circle of adhesive is what is holding the fan on. So the heatsink included is working at maybe half efficiency. The heatsink needs to have better contact with the chipset and less glue insulating it. With this glue on here so think, it is acting to insulate the heatsink from doing its job.

If you are NOT going to be OverClocking your video card, it is very likely that you will experience no problems with the stock setup. However Leadtek includes a utility to OC the card. So it seems to me that they are pretty much inviting the practice and should make the buyer ready for OC'in off the shelf. Of course this itself brings up all kinds of manufacturing costs, concerns, and liabilities, so for now you are gonna have to trick the cooling out for yourself.

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This is the actual OverClocking utility that comes with the Leadtek TNT2. While it is a nice setup, and killer for an out-of-the box util, I still like to use Powerstrip from Entech. I think that Leadtek should be commended for their efforts in getting this type of setup to the end user that may not be "plugged in" with the hardware community. Leadtek has just allowed anyone with this card to step up and get a little extra performance for their dollar.

Now that we know what comes out of the box (that I find of importance), just what did we cook up here at the HOCP when it comes to cooling of new vid card. As usual, we try to keep the spirit of being totally whacked while still allowing you to use these ideas at home without any special government permits being required. Remember kids, safety glasses are always a must when totally trickin' your schtuff out HOCP style.....

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Do we have a beast here or what? I have just really been getting off to the fact that this badboy does not need any help standing up. No kickstand required...... :P

What we done is applied a modified heatsink and Radio Shack/Nidec blower to the back. We had problems adapting the heatsink on the back due to the fact that there are capacitors mounted around the chipset on the back of the card. Basically, no flat place to put the sink. We decided after testing that it was imperative to pull some of the heat off the back of the chipset. We were getting temps of over 135 degrees F on the back.

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The capacitors that caused us grief are outlined in the red box. Next to that you see the heatsink we mounted. We used FragTape and an aluminum plate we cut to fit with a dremel tool. (told you to get your safety glasses) Now we have facilitated contact between the heatsink and the back of the chipset where we had bad heat buildup.

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These images show exactly how the aluminum riser raises the back of the heatsink above the transistors. This will hopefully keep us from shorting out our brand-new card. The blower is held on with a 3M double-sided tape I also got at Radio Shack.

On the front side of the card, we have mounted a modified AZZO.Com Socket 370 cooler with FragTape. This heatsink is the perfect size for the front of the card, except we ran into one problem (which I dont have a before picture of). There was a little edge extension that protruded downward that was not allowing the heatsink to sit flush to the front of the TNT2 heatsink.

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This baby really moves some heat I tell ya! The red box shows where the "little dealy" was sticking down. Once again we used the dremel tool and an abrasive blade to cut the thing off and go back and polish the surface so there are no sharp edges. My fingers are delicate you know....

Where did this get us and was it totally necessary to do this? Necessary? Hell no, but it was fun and it sure looks cool! To use this size heatsink on the card we have sacrificed the two adjacent PCI slots. All the cooling junk also cost about $35. Here is the kicker. It did allow us to bring the operating temperature down from right at 140 degrees F to close to 105 degrees F. This allowed us to feasibly clock the the core at 170MHz. That is over a 17% increase in core speed. We were able to clock the memory to a stable 175MHz. That gave us over a 14% increase in memory speed. Pretty dang cool eh?

One thing we need to make clear to the peeps out there. Some of you are gonna get TNT2 chipsets that will run FASTER than this, and some of you are going to get cards that might have NO CHANCE at 170MHz core speeds. Please keep in mind that this one card may not be representative of everyone on the shelf.

You keep hearing about the Ultra TNT2, right? Well all it really is, is the same chipset that would test at a higher speed reliably. In essence, NVIDIA is picking out their own overclockable parts and selling them at a higher price with a more aggressive spec...

RESULTS PLEASE?!!?!

System specs as tested: ABIT BX6.2, Celeron 300A / PIII 500, 128 Megs Azzo SDRam (133Mhz certified), IBM 10Gig 7200 RPM, Diamond MX-300. NVIDIA TNT2 Ref driver 1.73.

Now that we have explained just what kind of abuse we put to the card. Lets check out some benchmarks in Quake 2 using 3fingers Massive1 demo. I have pretty much standardized on this demo for now because it seems to replicate real-world deathmatching conditions.

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Frames per Second

PIII-585MHz Vid OC'd

PIII-585MHz No Vid OC

Celeon 450 Vid OC'd

Celeron 450 No Vid OC

800 x 600

91.1

83.9

74.4

72.4

1024x768

70.3

60.1

65.8

59.1

There is no doubt that these are impressive numbers. The numbers on the Celeron are not that much higher when compared to my CL TNT card. About 10% across the board. The PIII / TNT2 combo is surely a killer way to go, but that is a big investment. I think we are seeing the Celeron 450 system being CPU limited for sure. The Celeron does not have the power to drive the TNT 2 anywhere close to its full potential. But that is not to say that games are not extremely playable on the Celeron 450 setup. I have been playing deathmatch all night with no problems..

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These marks were taken using the Kingpin Demo. The timedemo file can be found at Planet Kingpin by following this LINK. All benches were run using the "High" settings. No, we were not buzzed when doing these, it is simply having all the good stuff turned on so that it really taxes the card. Planet Kingpin also has there own benchmarks posted if you want to see what the difference is between our system and some of theirs. (we smoked ass :) )

Frames per Second

PIII-585MHz Vid OC'd

PIII-585MHz No Vid OC

Celeon 450 Vid OC'd

Celeron 450 No Vid OC

800 x 600

52.4

51.3

40.8

40.4

1024x768

48.9

47.4

39.8

39.2

The Kingpin timedemo is extremely stressful. Even on the PIII at 800x600 you can see where the images get extremely complicated especially with all the eye candy turned on. You can really see where the Celeron is topped out here.

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These marks are using the FPSTimeDemo for Unreal, by Lothar. You can grab it here. Be advised you now simply have to type "timedemo 1" and "timedemo 0" to turn on and off the demo. These FPS's were taken using he 1.76 Nvidia ref driver as opposed to the 1.73 as all the others. Sorry for no PIII results, the chippy is already back in its owners box.

Frames per Second

Celeon 450 Vid OC'd

Celeron 450 No Vid OC

800 x 600

34.86

34.22

1024x768

32.45

30.19

I think it is obvious that we are pretty much CPU limited again. These are very good numbers compared to the TNT running OpenGL in Unreal. The difference really becomes noticeable when you get to 1024x768 res, almost 10FPS. You can cruise here to Maximum Hardware, our boy has started putting together a benchmark database.

Let's now scope out some 3D Marks. If you do not have this program, it can be of real use to you when comparing your results to your buddy's numbers. I think it is a good comparison for looking at the overall value of the cards features instead of simply looking at a Frame Rate Comparison. 800=800x600, 1024=1024x768, 1600=1600x1200 resolution. 450=450MHz Celeron processor. Card OC'd to 175MHz Memory and 163MHz Core. The 3D Mark is stressful enough that we had to back off the core OC a bit. We kept getting lockups. I can honestly say that we had this particular chipset pushed to the edge. We could see performance differences by adjusting the room temperature 2 degrees.

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Overclocking the TNT2 on the Celeron 450 system had almost no effect on the scores at all. In fact if you look at the 800x600 resolution marks for the NoOC system they were actually a bit higher. This result is correct and I have asked 3D Mark for their comments.

Now lets see where the PIII at 585Mhz got us..............

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About all you can say is "Jeez!" 5000+ marks across the board for both two lower resolutions. Again we see little to now spread in the 800x600 3DMarks while as the resolution increases so does the spread. I can say this, the TNT2 while running the 3dMark at 1600x1200 resolution using the May Payne 3D engine was EXTREMELY fast.

You can grab all the 3DMarks zipped up right HERE if you wanna really scope of them.

Conclusions, I Got Your Conclusions..

I think that Leadtek has lead the pack with one hell of a card. This card is something you can purchase right now that will let you expand into the next generation of games most likely. By that I mean that the card is capable of expanding with your system over the coming year. Larger textures will be showing up in games soon and this card should be able to handle most of them. 4X AGP Sidebanding is also capable with this card. Right now we are locked into 2X until the Camino chipset gets here. 32bit color display is also possible on this card. I have not run any benchmarks using the 32 bit simply because I do not think it is an important point right now. In a month or two it could be a big deal.

2D performance is stellar, just like little brother TNT....

While I do not want to get into a full comparison here, but will soon, the 3dfx V3 is a Faster card than the Leadtek TNT2 when we look at frames per second benchmarks in Q2 engine games, but that is about all I can say for the 3dfx V3 at the moment (the full comparo is coming up!! :) ) This TNT2 card is far from slow and will play any game on my system with an uninterrupted flowing framerate.

With Q3A and Unreal Tourney up soon and Unreal now taking advantage of OpenGL, the TNT2 may be the card you want to purchase to play the games that will be on the shelves soon. It actually comes down to this in my eyes, this Leadtek TNT2 actually produces what 3dfx's new tagline says.......so much power it is almost ridiculous......or something like that.

Speaking of game engines, you gotta remember if your fav game is not OpenGL friendly, this is not the card for you. All you Glide freaks will have to hang with the 3dfx.

As far as OverClocking our card, in some games/systems it made a difference, some did not. Not any sense in running card extremely hard if you are not getting any increases?

Overall, I think purchasing a Leadtek TNT2 for your 450A or faster system today would be a safe move if you gotta have an upgrade. If you currently own a TNT or SLI setup, I honestly dont see the need to spend the cash. If you own just about any other card, it could be the purchase you need to make. This card is going to expand with your system. If you dont have to have the fastest card right now, this might be for you. Remember, good things come to those that wait. This could either be waiting for the next generation of vid cards or simply waiting for your TNT2 card being able to take advantage of 4X AGP in 32 Bit games. To answer the first question I asked, "Is it worth your hard-earned $$$?". I can say I think I would be satisfied with purchasing this unit if I did not currently own a TNT or SLI rig.

Bottom line Leadtek has put out a solid piece of hardware.

Thanks go out to....

Eric Lai with Leadtek, he has endured to help out the HardOCP whenever possible. Many thanks bro!