The Lexus of all video cards has finally arrived.
Well, here we are, roughly 6 months after the release of NVIDIA's Geforce 2 GTS cards. It may seem amazing, it may sound pointless, but indeed, NVIDIA has held true to their plans of releasing a new GPU every 6-8 months. The new epicure of every hardcore computer gamer's billfold goes by the name of the GeForce 2 Ultra GTS.
Our friends at Creative were the first of the graphic card manufacturers to release a board based on the new NVIDIA Ultra chipset. How is it, you ask? Well, if you thought the normal GeForce 2 was love at first sight, then you should take this baby home to meet the familia because I think I hear wedding bells. In other words, this one kicks arse.
But don't go picking out curtains just yet. After you purchase this card, that wedding is going to be a paltry one: Five friends in your backyard knawing on delicious hors d'ouerves of Ritz Crackers and Cheeze Wiz, while you all listen to the wedding ceremony being performed by Precious, the pet cocker spaniel-turned-minister for the day. You guessed it - this card ain't cheap. $499!
Creative's Annihilator 2 GeForce Ultra GTS is a 64 MB DDR RAM AGP graphic-processing unit. This is twice the RAM that we saw in its predecessor (and about two extra abbreviations). What does that translate to? The answer is speed, and oodles of it!
Quite honestly, speed is the only real improvement this card has over its older brother. The Annihilator 2 Ultra boasts 6 massive fill rates of up to one Gigapixel and two Gigatexels per second. The ability to process complex pixel operations like flowing water and trees in full bloom with thousands of leaves comes easy for this powerhouse.
The Annihilator 2 Ultra can deliver full motion gameplay at resolutions beyond 1600 x 1200...though cranking it up to 1280 x 960 on my 700 MHz Athlon with 192 MB of RAM was just fine for me.
Featuring second-generation Transform and Lighting (T&L) engines (which we saw in the original Annihilator 2), this card is capable of producing 31 million triangles per second, roughly 6 million triangles per second more than its predecessor. That's enough processing power to handle the polygon complexity of any game on the market today, and any day to come for approximately the next 2 years. This combination of features makes the Annihilator 2 Ultra Creative's fastest GPU to date.
Speed is one thing. Features are another. What this beauty is really missing is a video-out function. Call it my console system sensibility, but I am always looking for big-screen gaming for any PC title. Supposedly, Hercules' version of the Ultra has this feature. Let's hope more manufacturers follow their example in the future.
As you all know, GR has the lowdown for all comers. And for the pocket-protector crowd among you, here are, yet again, a few mind-numbing benchmark results showing off the raw speed of the Annihilator 2 Ultra.
Toting the same helpful and very simple-to-use software as the original Annihilator 2, this new Ultra offers incredible speed and diversity. Overclocking, adjusting D3D and OpenGL settings (such as antialiasing, dithering and anisotropic filtering configurations) are now a snap. However, you may prefer the NVIDIA Detonator 3 drivers, which work just as well. Using these drivers, unfortunately, removes the colorful and intuitive Creative utilities and replaces them with their own. These utilities seem to be less flashy, but just as efficient.
Rune rules. Click to enlarge!
There is one big problem with this video card - the price tag, which clocks in at about 500 bucks. We're talking serious bread here, not any cheap old Roman Meal loaf. How long will companies continue to convince gamers that this is okay? I hope the manufacturing of these cards is on financial par with the cost of a nice waterfront mansion. This may help that small spongy thing I call a brain rationalize the $500 price tag.
Now don't get me wrong - this card makes games like Rune (ahhhhh, Rune. Hold on while I get a towel to soak up the drool.), Sacrifice and Unreal Tournament look absolutely incredible. But isn't $500 dollars a little, uh, steep? Keep in mind, in addition to the card you still need to purchase at least another $900 dollars worth of computer components to use the card's full potential. Ouch!
My question is: If these cards are getting increasingly more expensive, how do these companies plan on competing with console systems like the upcoming Xbox? I hear the Xbox is supposed to ship with a $300 price tag and the GPU in this new little Microsoft treat should be relatively as robust as the Ultras.
If you own a video card based on the original GeForce 2 GTS chipset, then you're golden. You really don't need to spend $200 more on marginal, barely noticed speed (not necessarily graphical) improvements. If you happen to be a die-hard PC gamer and you feel the need to pick up the latest and greatest, then by all means drop half a grand on the Annihilator 2 Ultra. Once you have rationalized the selling of your first born to afford this card, I think you will be quite pleased with how good Quake III Arena looks and plays under the guidance of this small fortune.