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Tweaking the Beast!!!

Installing the hardware itself is the simplest of tasks and easily accomplished in just a few minutes with nothing save a Phillips head screwdriver.  You'll want to be sure that the card is resting firmly in the AGP slot on your mainboard and unless you have need of the onboard video port, for say, a hardware DVD card, you can be up and running again in no time.  Being aware of the conflicts with non-Intel based chipsets I had already downloaded the latest drivers available from Creative's website and so skipped the driver installation CD to begin with.

Creative has included a software bundle which may seem on the surface somewhat light.   That is, until you look at the bundles accompanying other TNT based cards.   Forsaken™ by Acclaim Entertainment, the only game,  is a great first person shooter that most of you probably have in one form or another,  but it most certainly shows the card's D3D prowess most effectively.  The utility bundle on the other hand shows some promise including Colorific® by Sonnetech, Ltd. which provides quick-and-easy, set-and-forget color characterization, giving you accurate screen-to-printer and monitor-to-monitor color matching between your monitor, printer and browser.  You can use the Colorific Control Panel under Windows 95 or 98 for on-the-fly optimization of your display for Internet browsing, DVD video, games, business graphics, or desktop publishing.  Along with 3DEEP also by Sonnetech, Ltd.   3DEEP uses Colorific's technology to allow game developers to automatically set accurate gamma values for your monitor, which means games that look the way the designer intended.   With the drivers installed you also get 'Blaster Control'. a control panel display properties applet that provides relevant information regarding the card and also allows for a good deal of modification to the Blaster TNT's default registry settings.

dp1.gif (15399 bytes)

The 'Blaster Control' provides for fairly significant tweaking in D3D and OpenGL as well as allowing you the option to overclock the default 110MHz memory speed but not the 90MHz default frequency of the TNT chip itself.  Being an AGP card the utility also allows you to define the amount of system memory you want to use for texture memory.   With most of the games on the market today this may seem a bit useless, however, it is sure to become considerably more useful in the near future as developers are now more free than ever to incorporate huge textures improving gameland's overall appearances.   All of the benchmark results you will find in this review will be at the cards default settings, but with a little trial and error tweaking you can push as much as 7-10% better performance out of the card depending on the program you're running.

dp2.gif (13901 bytes)

Image Quality

Overall the image quality rendered by the Blaster TNT is more than acceptable.  It does seem to have a bit of trouble with consistent anti-aliasing at its default setting (which leans toward performance). Clicking on the thumbnail images below will pop up full 640x480 renderings of the images captured while using the Creative Graphics Blaster Riva TNT

3D Winbench 99

Unreal

3DMark 99 - Race

3DMark 99 - First Person

 

Graphics Blaster Riva TNT Performance

On super7 based systems it is wise to remember that the best performance for TNT based cards will always be at CPU frequencies of 350MHz or more running at 100MHz FSB.   Processors slower than that would most likely get better performance from a Banshee or Rage 128 based graphics card.  As the TNT is a TwiN Texel dual pipelined 32 bit graphics engine it is capable of single pass multi-texturing and texture blending on a per clock basis that requires a high speed feed from your CPU. 

Test Configuration for Graphics Blaster Riva TNT AGP x2

Mainboard EPoX EP-MVP3G-M
L2 Cache 1024KB
Processor(s) AMD K6-2 350, 380, 400MHz
Cyrix MII 333 (@ 2.5x100MHz)
Intel P233MMX (@ 2.5x100MHz)
Memory 64MB PC100 (CL2)
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar AC36400
6.4G Ultra ATA/33
Operating System Windows 98

Each benchmark score indicated is an average across three individual runs of each specified test.  Below you will find Winmark scores posted against ZDBOP's 3D Winbench 99 at a screen resolution of 1024x768 triple buffered with a color depth of 16bpp.

winbench991.gif (9866 bytes)

Next - More Blaster Performance

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