Gainward CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!! 64MBby Matthew Witheiler on June 14, 2001 12:04 AM EST
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As we have seen many manufacturers do, the CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!! attempts to distinguish itself from the competition in one of the most basic ways: visually. The theme of the CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!! is red, and just about everything on the card is this color, from the PCB to the heatsinks to the daughter card. It does make for a pretty smooth looking card - too bad it is going to be housed in a metal box for its usable life.
Those red components we mentioned before do more than add visual appeal to the card; they make it what it is. What is behind the red exterior of the CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!!?
Well, the red PCB of the card is based off of NVIDIA's reference design and therefore looks identical to the layout we see on almost every other GeForce3 card. This is a safe move that we see more and more manufacturers making especially in early releases of a product. Not only does using the reference design decrease the time needed to manufacture a board, it also ensures that a design is going to work right off the bat.
The red circular heatsink that is used to cool the GeForce3 core is identical to the circular design we have seen in the past. We have found this type of heatsink and fan combination to cool as well as the reference square design, however the CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!!'s heatsink and fan is noticeable smaller than the large reference fan. We would have to wait for the overclocking results before we could make a judgment on the red fan's effectiveness.
The heatsink and fan combination is attached to the GeForce3 core with a thermal pad. Of all the attachment methods, the thermal pad falls to the bottom of our preferred list ranking only above strict core to metal contact. We would have been much more pleased to find the assembly attached with a thin layer of thermal grease but some manufacturers choose to use thermal pads for ease. Once again, judging the effectiveness of the thermal pad would have to wait until we overclocked the card.
The third red component on the CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!! are its red RAM-sinks. Gainward choose to outfit the RAM with the reference heatsinks, which were obviously good enough to win NVIDIA's approval. With 16 large fins, the CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!!'s RAM-sinks differ only from the heatsinks on our reference card in color.
Below the red heatsinks lie eight, 8MB 3.8ns (265MHz) EliteMT DDR SDRAM chips for a total of 64MB of memory. This is the same memory type and speed used on all other GeForce3 cards we have come across. We suspect that it will be quite some time before another brand of memory starts popping up on GeForce3 cards simply because EliteMT seems to be the only manufacturer willing to rate large batches of their memory this high.
Like we saw in the original GeForce2 GTS cards, manufacturers are forced to use higher rated memory due to low yields at these faster speeds. In the case of the GeForce3, the stock memory clock requires only 230MHz or 4.3ns memory chips (460MHz effective) but manufactures are forced to use faster memory in order to ensure that all chips hit this high clock speed.
The red heatsinks are attached to the memory chips in the same manner we have seen on many GeForce3 and GeForce2 Ultra cards: using thermal tape. This provides adequate heat transfer while at the same time keeping the RAM-sinks from falling off.
The last red component of the CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!! is its red daughter card, but this is no ordinary daughter card. The CARDEXPERT GeForce3 PowerPack !!! is the first card we have come across to offer VIVO (video-in video-out) functions thanks to a Philips SAA7108E encoder/decoder chip, although we do know that other manufacturers are using this chip as well. The chip is a fairly typical video encoder/decoder and includes Macrovision copy protection and supports PAL and NTSC output and input formats. What is special about the chip is that it finally brings true VIVO functions to NVIDIA products.