Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/310

ASUS V3800 TVR TNT2

by Anand Lal Shimpi on June 3, 1999 10:42 AM EST


Who would’ve thought that a motherboard manufacturer would become a very popular force in the mainstream graphics card industry? Normally you associate Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers with cheaply made products that you can find at your local techie store (not a big Fry’s or a Best Buy, but a small almost mom ‘n pop store), and for the most part, that association seems to unfortunately reign true. The case is a bit different with ASUS, when it comes to motherboards ASUS’ philosophy has always been (and still is) that stability should be the top priority. About two years ago ASUS was experimenting with a new jumperless design for their upcoming 440LX based board, the P2L97. Although jumperless designs were in great demand and would definitely guarantee ASUS more sales for the product, ASUS noticed a stability problem with the solution and immediately canceled production of all jumperless P2L97 parts. With a dedication of that nature, there is no way ASUS would stand by and let even the most insignificant graphics card pass without their seal of approval.

Unfortunately, most end users don’t realize that although two companies may have seemingly identical products, the reliability and quality assurance testing that went into each board could hold worlds of difference. In ASUS’ case, they had the reputation, but no product to target gamers. Their big break came with the TNT based V3400. After a stellar review of the product by Tom’s Hardware, it seemed as if, all of the sudden, ASUS had a new calling, graphics cards. Needless to say, after the incredible amount of sales the V3400 generated (which was indeed a very nice card), ASUS is ready to rise to the top once again with the TNT2 based V3800.

The Specifications

Taken from www.asus.com

Graphics engine nVdia TNT2
Video Memory 32/16MB (128-bits, up to 150MHz ) SDR SGRAM
RAMDAC Triple 8-bit 250 MHz Palette DAC
Vertical refresh rate 75-250 Hz
Video port Full VIP V1.1 interface
Bus standard Full VIP V1.1 interface
VGA connector 15-pin D-sub VGA connector
TV-OUT Model One S-VHS mini-DIN and one RCA jack for TV-out
Video-IN Model One S-VHS mini-DIN and one RCA jack for Video-in
LCD Panel Model One DFP Connector (20Pin) for DFP Digital LCD Panel

Key Benefits

  • nVidia TNT2 graphics processor
    • AGP 4X/2X/1X interface pipeline or sideband support
    • True 128-bits graphic engine
    • Twin-Texel architecture
    • Activ Cooling Fan Onboard
    • Anisotropic filtering (better than Tri-Linear MIP-mapping)
    • Built-in 300 MHz RAMDAC with gamma correction
    • Multi buffering (Double, Triple, Quad buffering) for smooth animation
  • Free Software bundled - HereticII (Full version), published by Activision; Free ASUS Live3800 Video Capture driver bundled (to capture true 30fps Video)
  • *Crystal TV-Output - Dual View for TV and CRT screen, NTSC & PAL Video System support, Complete S-VHS & Composite Video Ports support (for TV-Out models only)
  • *Sharp Video input - Support NTSC/PAL standard signal input, True real-time 30fps video capture support by ASUS Live3800 Video Capture driver (for Video-in models only)
  • *LCD Panel Support - Up to 1280x1024 resolution for LCD display, Standard VESA Panel-link LCD display support (for LCD Panel models only)
  • Extend Your Application - Fully extend the application of ASUS' excellent graphic boards, Fully compatible with the ASUS TV-BOX, ASUS Virtual Reality 3D Glasses Kits, and ASUS software DVD pack - ASUSDVD.

Available Models

AGP-V3800: VGA
AGP-V3800 TVR: VGA + TV-out + Video-in+ ASUS Virtual Reality 3D circuit +video capture
AGP-V3800 TVR Deluxe: VGA + TV-out + Video-in+ ASUS Virtual Reality 3D Glasses +video capture
AGP-V3800 Ultra Deluxe: VGA with TNT2 Ultra Graphic Engine + TV-out + Video-in+ ASUS Virtual Reality 3D Glasses +video capture

* ASUSDVD, ASUS TV-BOX, and ASUS Virtual Reality 3D Glasses are optional.



Model AGPV3800
Ultra Deluxe
AGPV3800
TVR Deluxe
AGPV3800
TVR
AGPV3800
Basic
Chip nVidia Ultra TNT2 nVidia TNT2 nVidia TNT2 nVidia TNT2
Memory Capacity 32MB SGRAM 32MB SGRAM 32MB SGRAM 32MB SGRAM
AGP 4X/2X 4X/2X 4X/2X 4X/2X
Feature Highlights
Video-In Yes Yes Yes No
TV-Out Yes Yes Yes No
LCD Panel Yes Yes Yes Yes
VR Circuit Yes Yes Yes No
VR3D Glasses Standard VR-100G Standard VR-100G Standard VR-100G Standard VR-100
Engine Clock (Default) 150MHz 125MHz 125MHz 125MHz
Memory Clock (Default) 183MHz 150MHz 150MHz 150MHz

Accessories

VR-100G Only for AGP-V3800 Deluxe & AGP-V3800 TVR
VR-100 VR Circuit + 3D Glasses + 2 Cables;
available for AGP-V3800 (basic) and AGP-V3400TNT series
TV-BOX TV Tuner Box + Remote Control;
available for AGP-V3800 Deluxe, AGP-V3800 TVR, and AGP-V3400TNT with TV-Out Feature
ASUS DVD
(Software)
Available for AGP-V3800 series and AGP-V3400TNT series

The Card

After reviewing a number of TNT2 cards, AnandTech is at the point where seeing a TNT2 card should generate the same response seeing the 50th BX board did upon entering the lab, "oh, another TNT2" This was not the case with the ASUS V3800 TVR that entered as the board looked nothing like the past few TNT2 cards AnandTech reviewed, if a single word was used to describe the manner in which the V3800 differed from the competition, it would have to be "busy."

cardfront_sm.jpg (12668 bytes)
Click to Enlarge

Thats essentially what the PCB of the V3800 is, busy, looking at the board itself there isnt a square centimeter of space that isnt populated with a trace, a voltage regulator, a capacitor, a resistor, or some critical component. Why is the card so "busy"? Well, the V3800 sets itself apart from the cloning tendencies of the competition by including virtually every feature you could imagine possibly having into . the V3800 TVR

The V3800 TVR, as the name implies, does have TV-out support courtesy of the Chrontel 7003B-V chip. The quality of the Chrontels output is slightly superior to that of the Brooktree 869 that most reference design TNT2s use.

chrontel.jpg (12562 bytes)

The Chrontel chip has been used by ASUS as well as Canopus in the past and does make for excellent TV output. To build on the feature set, ASUS included composite (RCA) as well as S-Video output connectors for the sake of convenience. The TV-out mode is set via a jumper on the board (JP1) that allows the user to select either NTSC or PAL TV-out depending on their video standard. Going along with the TV-out theme is a unique feature on the V3800 board, the presence of a S-Video input for video capturing. Once seemingly a feature only Canopus would ever bring to the eyes of the gamer, ASUS decided to capitalize on a market that exists but isnt really addressed by most graphics vendors. In a world where the lowest price usually takes the gold, its nice to know that ASUS strives to achieve a balance between quality/features and an affordable price.
back.jpg (10936 bytes)

The S-Video input of the card isnt a competitor to Matroxs Marvel G200, nor is it intended to be a professional video editing solution, however if you happen to have a video camera around, the V3800 makes a great interface board for your very own web cam. Its a great feature for making AVIs out of some clips from home videos, etc After recently attempting to edit together a NTSC VHS quality 30 minute film on the Marvel G200, dont expect the V3800 to be able to tackle tasks such as that (however the major limitation will end up being processing power and HDD space), but it is definitely a nice and very useful feature ASUS decided to include.

On the back panel of the card there is what looks to be a 1/8" stereo connector port for headphones, however upon closer inspection the label VR Out provides a small indication for its purpose. The VR Out port is for ASUS own set of stereoscopic VR3D glasses. As far as AnandTechs stance on 3D glasses goes, we feel that it is a niche market and there are some users that simply get a kick out of them, while others would rather play on a 21" monitor. Depending on the type of user you are this feature may be a definite plus or a waste of money, keep this in mind though, you wont be "the man" if you come to a LAN party with a pair of 3D glasses on your face. Youd be better off playing outside with your plastic light saber ;) For single player scenarios, where there is not much interaction with the physical bodies around you, 3D glasses can add to your gaming experience, however there is a large population of gamers out there that will find 3D glasses to be the most annoying things ever invented. You decide.



With the features tackled, it’s time to get to the core of things, the Riva TNT2 chip that drives the V3800. The board AnandTech received was not an Ultra version, meaning it was clocked at 125MHz core and was equipped with 32MB of SGRAM running at 150MHz. The 32MB of SGRAM was all placed on one side of the PCB in a manner similar to that of Leadtek’s Winfast 3D S320 II. The chips themselves were manufactured by Samsung and were 7ns SGRAM parts, an early indication that a 200MHz memory frequency isn’t going to be too possible on the V3800 (non-Ultra). The core is cooled by a generic heatsink/fan combo that happens to be the same unit used on the Guillemot Maxi Gamer Xentor 32. From AnandTech’s tests, the fan did an average job of cooling, however it was not as efficient as the more expensive AAVID unit used on the Hercules Dynamite TNT2 Ultra as well as on the Matrox Millennium G400MAX.

Here’s the million dollar question, how far did it overclock? The 125MHz core made it up to 150MHz reliably, however 155MHz and 160MHz did exhibit a few stability issues after running numerous Quake 2 crusher tests for a few hours straight. The SGRAM did not overclock nearly as well as the core did (for obvious reasons, 7ns SGRAM wasn’t meant to be run too far above 150MHz) as it only hit 160MHz without instantly crashing under Quake 2. With 150/160 being the stable maximum of the V3800, it’s obvious that the board wasn’t intended to compete with 175/200MHz boards floating around, but it does its job at holding down the competition at the 125/150 non-Ultra level.

Unlike Leadtek, who used very aggressive memory timings on their non-Ultra board, ASUS chose the same memory timings both Diamond and Hercules used on their boards to ensure stable operation, rather than to squeeze a few tenths of a frame per second out of their card. From the perspective of the manufacturer, ASUS could’ve used more aggressive memory timings and in a big roundup their card would be featured at the top of a graph with a lead of 0.1 or 0.2 fps; or they could concentrate on stability and make sure the customers that do buy their cards come away without a single complaint about stability/quality of the product. Following ASUS’ philosphy, it’s no surprise that they picked the latter.

The performance of the V3800 is on-par with that of the Diamond and Hercules boards at the same clock frequencies, so there is no point in re-publishing the wheel with more benchmarks. AnandTech will be rounding up all of the TNT2 cards that have come into the lab and will compare the performance of the individual cards in that roundup, but for now, performance shouldn’t be your top concern in looking for the TNT2 board that’s right for you. Features, overclockability, quality, and price are the four pillars that should support your TNT2 buying decision.



The software bundle of the V3800 is stellar considering the fact that ASUS' main market isn't the graphics card industry.   Full versions of Turok2 and XG2 are bundled with the card, as well as the card's Live3800 Video Capturing drivers.  The drivers that ASUS shipped with the V3800 TVR seemed to be a slightly out of date version of the TNT2 drivers from NVIDIA with relatively poor support for Super7 platforms.  Hopefully NVIDIA will release the next version of their TNT2 drivers shortly which will allow Super7 users to enjoy improved 3DNow! performance as well as a general performance increase across the board.  Speaking of Super7, ASUS chose (wisely) to bundle the latest AGP GART drivers on their CD, for MVP3 users this means virtually guaranteed compatibility as v3.3 of the VIA GART drivers eliminate most problems with the TNT2 and the MVP3 chipset.  Keep in mind that if you download the latest reference drivers from NVIDIA for use with your V3800, you lose ASUS' utilities until ASUS updates their drivers with the latest version of the NVIDIA drivers.  It won't be a permanent loss, but keep in mind that it is a loss you'll have to live with for a short time.

ASUS also chose to include one of the most detailed and helpful user's manuals AnandTech has ever seen bundled with a graphics card, although the manual isn't perfect, it's better than what the competition is shipping with their cards (if anything at all). 

Once again breaking the tradition of Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers that enter into the graphics card industry, ASUS put much time and effort into the production of their V3800 drivers. The utility bundled with the V3800 is top notch, and almost as user friendly as Diamond’s praised InControl Tools 99. Not only does the bundled utility contain information about your board as well as other V3800 boards in the product line, it allows for the disabling of v-sync, as well as the overclocking of the card itself. From the manufacturer of the world’s first widely available motherboard with support for the 83MHz FSB frequency, would you expect any less?

vr3d.jpg (18418 bytes)
ASUS 3DVR Output

Final Words

ASUS’ combination of features and quality would definitely make the V3800 the board of choice if it wasn’t for one very important factor, cost. All of these features come at a cost to the user, and a cost that quite a few gamers don’t want to or can’t afford to pay. The ASUS V3800 TVR as reviewed here, with the TV-in/out and the VR-out, retails for $199.99. Keeping in mind that the 125/150 default clock of this board is considerably lower than the 175/183 default of the Guillemot Maxi Gamer, as well as the 175/200 of the Hercules Dynamite TNT2 Ultra which are both priced around the $199 - $229 mark, the V3800 doesn’t seem to be the most cost effective product on the market for the gamer on a budget. You do get what you pay for in this industry, but you need to make the decision, support for nerdy glasses (and a handful of other features) or blazing performance ;)

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