The $229.99 base price of the card isn't all profit, in fact quite a bit of it goes back into the production costs of the board. Case in point would be the high quality AAVID fan that cools the TNT2 Ultra chip when running at 175MHz. The AAVID fan is the same one found on the Matrox G400MAX, which is kept cool while operating at a beefy 166MHz frequency. At the time of questioning Hercules would not disclose the other memory manufacturer that would be supplying the 5.5ns parts for the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra boards, however AnandTech's test sample made use of Hyundai's 5.5ns SDRAM. fan.jpg (14840 bytes)
The SDRAM is organized in two groups of eight 2MB (8 on each side) SDRAM chips placed on the front and back of the PCB. The front of the PCB is shared with the Brooktree 869 TV-out controller chip, the same chip used on all reference design TNT2's with TV-out support.

The back panel of the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra is home to the VGA output connector as well as the S-Video connector. Interestingly enough Hercules made a last minute change to remove the LCD output port from the rear of the board, most likely to keep the costs of the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra from rising much higher than the already pricey $229.99 mark.

Hercules' didn't supply AnandTech with the driver/utility CD that comes bundled with every Dynamite TNT2 Ultra, however we will be taking a look at and evaluating their bundled utilities shortly. Included with the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra is the much talked about Hercumeter overclocking utility that provides the ability to overclock the core/memory frequencies of the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra using two slider bars. How far can the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra be pushed? In AnandTech's tests, the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra made it up to 195MHz core, and 230MHz memory. After a few hours the 195/230 settings eventually crashed, however dropping the core down to 190MHz seemed to stabilize things by a noticeable margin. The sweet spot will most likely be 190/220 on most boards, however the success of your overclocking attempts will vary depending on the yield of the TNT2, memory parts, and the PCB itself.

Although there is no guarantee when overclocking, honestly speaking from one computer user to another, Hercules guarantees their cards at 175/200, that means that regardless of what card you get, it'll work at a core clock speed 16% faster than what NVIDIA states the TNT2 Ultra should be clocked at. There is a very good chance that you'll be able to hit at least 190/200, and since the memory generally doesn't vary as much from chip to chip, 190/220 and maybe even 190/230 won't be too far out of your reach. Hercules doesn't have the luxury of simply releasing a product and having the world see it on their shelves, they need to offer potential customers something that will tempt them away from the oh-so-familiar Diamond and Creative boxes, a very difficult task at that. Hopefully, for Hercules' sake, the sheer performance of the Dynamite TNT2 Ultra will do just that.

The 2D image quality of the Dynamite TNT2 is fine at resolutions up to 1280 x 1024, unfortunately at 1600 x 1200 the image quality takes a noticeable dive. Although it is noticeably better than the best of TNT cards in terms of 2D image quality, the Dynamite TNT2, as well as most TNT2 based cards aren't too friendly on your eyes at 1600 x 1200 and above. If you're really looking for a combination of a professional/gaming card then Matrox's G400/G400MAX is probably what you should be setting your sights on, unfortunately getting one of those hot items is easier said than done.

The Test

The card was compared to the 3dfx Voodoo3 2000/3000, Leadtek Winfast 3D S320-II 16MB TNT2, and the Diamond Stealth III S540 32MB Savage4 cards. AnandTech's Slot-1/Socket-370 test configuration was as follows:

  • Intel Pentium III 500 (high-end), Intel Pentium II 266 (low-end) on an ABIT BX6 Revision 2.0
  • 64MB of Memman/Mushkin SEC Original SDRAM was used in each test system
  • Western Digital 5.1GB Ultra ATA/33 HDD
  • Microsoft Windows 98 w/ DirectX 6.1

AnandTech's Super7 test configuration differed only in the processor/motherboard used

  • AMD K6-3 400
  • FIC PA-2013 (1MB) w/ VIA AGP Drivers v3.3

The benchmark software used was as follows:

  • id Software's Quake 2 Version 3.20 using demo1.dm2 and 3Finger's crusher.dm2 & the AMD 3DNow! patch where applicable
  • 3DMark99 was used to compare performance between cards based on the same chipset

Each benchmark was run a total of three times and the average frame rates taken. Vsync was disabled

All scores were taken at a 16-bit color depth and 16-bit Z-buffer unless otherwise stated

AnandTech used Matrox Millennium G400 DualHead driver revision; AnandTech used NVIDIA Riva TNT2 Ultra driver revision 0181 with 3DNow! support for all of the TNT2 tests.

For more TNT2 benchmarks, visit AnandTech's full NVIDIA Riva TNT2 Review

The Card OpenGL Performance

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