Unlike ELSA's introduction into the GeForce 256 market, ELSA decided not to use a custom design for the GLADIAC, a decision well made. Although producing a custom card design often-times has its benefits, such as faster speeds and additional features, the advantages gained by having a custom design are many times diluted by the time and money that goes into producing a card design. ELSA knew that there are other ways to impact the market besides having a unique design. One of these ways is to be first to hit the retail market, a feat that ELSA accomplishes with flying colors. By abandoning a proprietary design, ELSA was able to use the already working reference design to allow for fast production of the GLADIAC.
Overall, the reference design used for the GeForce 2 GTS is very similar to the reference design of the DDR GeForce 256 based cards. The DDR SGRAM chips lie in nearly identical positions on both boards, with four chips of 4 MB density residing on both sides of the card. GPU placement and board design remain relatively unchanged. Long gone is the VIP-port as well as PCB space for video out; both have been replaced by vital components of the GeForce 2's advanced circuitry.
The standard heatsink is attached to the GPU with thermal glue. You may have noticed that while the GeForce 256 GPU had a metal plate between the GPU cover and the core to aid in heat transfer, the GeForce 2 GTS does not have such a plate. This is because even at 200 MHz, the GeForce 2 GTS is still running very cool. The .18 micron
process used to manufacture the new chip results in less heat production, and therefore there is less of a need for extreme cooling solutions. Although it would likely be possible to overclock the card even further if metal was used again, NVIDIA had no reason to justify the extra manufacturing cost associated with such a solution. With this in mind, the thermal glue and standard heatsink/fan combination seem to work fine cooling the GPU. Even at the stock speed of 200 MHz, the GeForce 2 GTS was running noticeably cooler than the GeForce 256 running at 120 MHz.
As we have seen in the past, card manufacturers have chosen to use Infineon SGRAM chips to power the DDR memory system. As we saw with the GeForce 256, Infineon is the only company currently producing DDR SGRAM chips for use on a retail market. The SGRAM chips seen on the ELSA GLADIAC are identical to the SGRAM chips found in DDR GeForce 256 cards, both rated at 6 ns. This time, however, NVIDIA decided to crank the performance up a notch, as the memory clock is now running at the full speed rating of the RAM: 166 MHz DDR (for a total of 333 MHz memory clock speed). In the GeForce 256 DDR cards with the same Infineon SGRAM chips, NVIDIA took the cautious route and clocked the memory in at 150 MHz (300 MHz DDR memory clock). As detailed in the overclocking section, it seems that Infineon finally got their act down regarding memory speed and quality, thus making it safe for NVIDIA to sell cards with a memory clock at the full memory speed rating. As far as faster RAM chips on cards go, it is not very likely any time in the near future: Infineon currently only makes DDR chips rated at 6 ns for their fastest chips. The good news is that the current product lineup does call for 5.5 and 5 ns SGRAM chips to be produced.
We mentioned earlier that PCB board space was saved by removing what was the video-out area of the PCB on the GeForce 256. In its place on the GeForce 2 GTS we find additional electronic components as well as a 50-pin header whose placement looks mysterious. As it turns out, it is into this connector that a daughter card goes which can provide video-out as well as video-in if the manufacturer so chooses. A "cute" little device, as it has been known to be called, the daughter card houses the Brooktree 868 chip that was found on the majority of GeForce 256 cards with video-out. The video out quality is identical to the Brooktree 869 chip described in our Picture This: TV-Output Comparison, which means that it should prove to be suitable under almost all circumstances. In addition to the video-out daughter card that ships with the ELSA GLADIAC, ELSA will also be offering a video-in upgrade module. This separate daughter card, which would take the place of the included TV-out only card, will be available for purchase from www.shopelsa.com for a retail price of $25-$35. Called VIVO, the module will use a Philips input chip and will be an upgrade for all GLADIAC cards. This upgrade will result in easy video editing, a plus for many consumers. In addition, the price will not be that high.
As you may have noticed, the GLADIAC does not come with a DVI connector of any sort. In fact, when looking at the reference design, we see that there is no spot for the previously used dual channel TMDS Silicon Image chip. This is due to the fact that the GeForce 2 GTS has a built-in single channel TMDS capable of powering a digital flat panel 1280x1024, a slight downgrade from the dual channel Silicon Image chip, which can power a panel up to 1600x1200. Although maximum resolution is slightly decreased by the single channel TMDS, price is substantially cut. No longer does a manufacturer have to purchase additional chips or electronics for DVI interface; all that needs to be added is the simple DVI connector. Once again, with this in mind, you may be wondering why ELSA does not include such a low cost feature standard. The reason for this omission is time. ELSA wanted to be the first company to have GeForce 2 GTS products on the shelf, meaning that some features and support could not be implemented in time, such as the DVI interface. The good news is that if you go and buy an ELSA GLADIAC now and the card does not have the DVI support that you want/need, ELSA will provide a swap for your card. All you need to do is send your card to ELSA, once DVI support becomes standard, and they will swap your card for one with DVI support in about 2 days. Would it be that bad using your TNT-2 for two additional days?
One final note on the card. Rumors of a purple PCB are floating around. While we have not had this confirmed by ELSA, rest assured that the card reviewed here is the exact same as any purple one that is out there. The only difference is the dye used.