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  Background Information

For those of you who haven't read our previous ELSA reviews or have never heard of them before, here is quick synopsis for you. ELSA is becoming a bigger and bigger name when it comes to 3D consumer graphics cards.  Just over a year ago, most of you would have been puzzled if I asked you who ELSA was and what products they offered.  That's because they were primarily in the Workstation class graphics business and have established quite a name for themselves in that market.  Then just over a year ago, they decided to jump into the consumer 3D graphics board market and primarily based their cards on NVIDIA chips. Now, if you're a person interested in 3D graphics boards and follow the news, you'll be pretty familiar with ELSA.  This is a perfect testament of how well the Internet works to the word out there.

Today, we are going to take a look at ELSA's top of the line consumer graphics card, the ELSA ERAZOR X2.  As you may already know, this board is based on NVIDIA's extremely powerful 23 million transistor 0.22 chip, the GeForce 256.  The X2 board also has the luxury of carrying 150MHz DDR Infineon 6ns SGRAM whereas the regular ERAZOR X has 166MHz SDR SDRAM.  The difference between DDR (Double Data Rate) and SDR (Single Data Rate) is that DDR RAM operates on the rising and falling edge of a clock pulse whereas SDR RAM only does operations on the falling edge of a clock pulse.  Don't let the 150MHz of DDR RAM fool you.  Since it transfers on the rising and falling edge of a clock pulse, to compare it to SDRAM we would have to multiply that clock speed by two and we would effectively have 300MHz SDR RAM.

We're going to tell you straight out, this card rocks and performance wise you can't get much better than this.  This statement applies to just about all other GeForce DDR cards on the market as well.  The performance difference between two GeForce DDR cards will be very minimal.  

Let's take a closer look at the GeForce 256 before diving into the review, feel free to skip this part if you've already read about the GeForce 256. 

First and foremost, the main difference between the GeForce and previous NVIDIA chips as well as all other chips currently on the market (other than then Savage2000) is that the GeForce is the first "GPU" Graphics Processing Unit as NVIDIA calls it.  What this means is that the GeForce is a single-chip with integrated transform, lighting, triangle setup/clipping and rendering engines that is capable of processing a minimum of 10 million polygons/s.  To give you a visual example of what the GeForce is capable of, here are some screenshots of one of NVIDIA tech demos:


Without GPU

With GPU

As you can see, the image on the right is much more detailed because the GeForce can handle a lot more polygons because of its built-in transform and lighting engine.  In essence a GPU offloads much of the work from the system processor so that it can work on other things like AI and physics.

The other major improvement over previous generations that the GeForce offers is the 256-bit architecture.  This does not mean it's memory bus is 256-bits wide, in fact the memory bus is still 128-bits. Instead, the 256 refers to its quad rendering pipeline which renders for 64-bit pipelines at the same time (4 x 64 = 256).   Therefore, the GeForce can pump out four 32-bit pixels per clock cycle compared to the two pixels per clock of the TNT and TNT2. 

This brings us to next point of clock speeds.  All GeForce cards available as of this moment come preset at a core speed of 120MHz.  Since the chip renders four pixels per clock, a clock speed of those greater than the TNT2 Ultra's is not needed.  For example, a TNT2 Ultra at 175MHz has a fillrate of 350 MPixels/s where the GeForce has a fillrate of 480M Pixels/s at 120MHz.  Furthermore, when you increase the clock speed of the GeForce, you increasing the performance 2 times more than you would with the TNT2 with the same clock speed increase.  For instance, if you increase the GeForce's clock speed to 135MHz, you'll have a theoretical fillrate of 540M Pixels/s.  If you increase the TNT2 Ultra from 175 to 190MHz (same 15MHz increase), you'll only increase the theoretical fillrate to 380M Pixels/s.  Keep in mind that these values are only theoretical and you won't even get close to them with SDR ram because of the limited memory bandwidth, which is why NVIDIA developed the chip to work with DDR RAM as well.  DDR RAM will allow the card to reach those maximum fillrates.

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