Abit Siluro GeForce2 64 MB GTS Review

When it comes to motherboards, Abit is a name most everyone has heard. Abit has long been one of the true innovators of the motherboard industry, often being the first to offer features never before seen. However, there’s much, much more to a computer than just motherboards, and Abit, like many other companies, has recently sought to expand its product offerings beyond just mobos.

As Abit MBs most often cater to a small performance/enthusiast market, it’s logical for Abit to begin offering other products into that market as well. Among the first of these expanded offerings was Abit’s Siluro series of graphics cards based on nVidia’s TNT2, TNT2 Ultra, and Geforce graphics processors. The Siluro line was followed shortly by a series of multimedia and 5.1-channel speaker systems, and even by Abit’s very own edition of the popular Linux operating system!

However, our focus today is back on Abit’s Siluro line of graphics cards. With the release of nVidia’s second-generation Geforce, the Geforce 2 GTS, came a new addition to the Siluro lineup, the Siluro GF256 GTS. Just like every other card in the Siluro line, and even Abit’s own motherboards, the Siluro GF256 GTS caters to the high-performance market, offering a whopping 64 MB of memory. So is the Siluro GF256 GTS everything the performance enthusiast needs in a graphics card? Read on, as we find out.

 

Specs, Box Contents & Installation

nVidia Geforce 2 GTS Graphics Processor (GPU)
800 Mpixels/s, 1600 Mtexels/s
64 MB of 333 MHz (166 MHz DDR) SDRAM
DB-15 and S-Video output
The retail box includes a User’s Manual, Driver CD, and the card itself, as well as a few extras, such as two full version Game CDs (Test Drive 5 and Shogo), and an S-Video cable. Admittedly, Test Drive 5 and Shogo aren’t two of the newest games on the market, but that’s still two full-version games, nonetheless.
The User’s Manual is quite thorough, and includes a step-by-step walkthrough of driver installation, complete with screenshots of each step. Technical support must be obtained via email, or by calling an Abit branch office. No toll-free number is available.

As is expected from any high-performance product, there were no installation anomalies to report whatsoever.

 

The Card

For the most part, Geforce 2 GTS cards won’t vary greatly in terms of layout. Abit has opted to use the round-style heatsink and fan assembly, which does seem to be the most effective cooling option. Unfortunately, instead of proper thermal paste, Abit has used only an ineffective thermal pad between the heatsink and graphics processor. We would have liked to see thermal paste used, especially on a high-end product.

That said, the difference thermal paste would have made is likely zero. Even when overclocked, the Geforce 2 GTS, built on nVidia’s 0.18 µm process, doesn’t get very hot at all. Furthermore, while thermal paste may have allowed us to overclock the core a bit further, as we’ve seen time and time again core overclocking yields very little result, as the Geforce 2 GTS is bottlenecked by memory bandwidth, not core speed.

The card is adorned with eight 8 MB Hyundai Double Data Rate SDRAM chips, each rated at 6 ns (166 MHz DDR). The memory is clocked at 333 MHz (166 MHz DDR) by default, so the memory is already clocked at its rated maximum, meaning we may not see as much overclockability as a card equipped with faster 5.5 ns memory, for example. On the other hand, faster 5.5 ns memory would surely increase the retail cost of the card, especially 64 MB of it.

Apart from the standard DB-15 monitor interface, the Siluro GF256 GTS comes standard with an S-Video out connector, as well as an S-Video cable. We’re glad to see options like this starting to become standard on high-end cards, especially considering their price tags.

Curiously, the PCB is deep-green in color, a departure from Abit’s usual gold-colored PCBs, as seen on its motherboards and older graphics cards.

 

Overclocking

Of course, what would a review on any Abit product be without a little overclocking discussion?! A couple of pages ago, we speculated that the memory overclocking prospects may not be too great, as the card’s memory was already performing at its maximum. Boy, were we wrong! So how far were we actually able to push the memory?

How does 400 MHz sound? That’s right, we were able to push the GF256 GTS up to a whopping 400 MHz (200 MHz DDR) memory clock without any instability or visual artifacts at all. As if that wasn’t enough, the memory ran completely stable at 410 MHz for over four hours, at which point some very minor artifacts began to appear. Since our tests demand absolute stability, we dropped the memory back to 400 MHz for the benchmarking process. Nevertheless, a 20% overclock is nothing to scoff at, and before even looking at the benchmarks we knew 64 MB of 400 MHz memory is FAST!

As for the core, we were able to push our sample up to a core clock of 230 MHz, yielding 920 Mpixels/s, and a massive 1.84 Gtexels/s! In all likelihood, with the addition of proper thermal paste, we could have pushed the core a big higher; however, as we said, the minimal returns really don’t justify all the trouble.

At an overclocked speed of 230/400, the Siluro GF256 GTS performs at nearly the same level as a Geforce 2 Ultra, for a much lower cost. So, without further delay, on to the benchmarks.

 

Abit definitely has a winner on its hands with the Siluro GF256 GTS. Simply put, there’s absolutely nothing faster than a 64 MB Geforce 2 GTS at the moment, and Abit’s offering is one of the best we’ve seen.

The User’s Manual and installation instructions are a nice touch, something we’d definitely like to see from more manufacturers. Further, the bundled games are a nice added bonus.

The standard S-Video out feature is another we’re very happy to see, as well as Abit’s inclusion of an S-Video cable. In general, we were very pleased with the features and completeness of the package, all the way from the User’s Manual, right down to the S-Video cable.

As if the performance at the default clockspeed wasn’t good enough, the Siluro GF256 GTS overclocked wonderfully as well, up to a core speed of 230 MHz, and a massive 400 MHz memory clock. Granted, not all boards are guaranteed to overclock to the same degree, but they’re generally not too far apart, either.

Ultimately, our only real concern is availability. As with their original Siluro graphics cards, Abit was a little later to the table than most other manufacturers with the Siluro GF256 GTS, and its biggest challenge now is getting availability up to par.

In summary, the Siluro GF256 GTS is a card to be reckoned with. With 64 MB of highly-overclockable memory, it’s amongst the absolute fastest cards on the market, and has the $350 price to prove it. Further, with standard S-Video output, and a very complete User’s Manual, the Siluro GF256 GTS comes with HardwareCentral’s full recommendation (assuming you can find one).

Pros:

  • Fast, fast, fast.
  • Highly overclockable–near GF2 Ultra performance levels.
  • S-Video output.
  • Very complete package.

Cons:

  • Can be a little difficult to find at present.
  • 64 MB cards are currently pretty expensve.

 

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