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Speed First, Last, and Always
Leadtek has earned a reputation for delivering competent and reliable products in plain brown wrappers, and the WinFast GeForce 256 DDR runs true to form. The no-frills card layout seems straight from Nvidia's reference board design, and the manual looks like it was copied on the office Xerox machine. But the WinFast does what it promises: It speeds graphics performance. In fact, in the 2D graphics realm, the board scored an impressive 183 on CNET Labs' tests, faster than any GeForce 256-based board we've examined. Nearly as impressive, 3D performance pushed out 76.6 frames per second in Quake III Arena at 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution.
Granted, you'll pay a price for this performance. At $275, the WinFast GeForce 256 DDR is about $75 more expensive than similar boards based on the same chip and slower SDR SDRAM. While the board does include a video-out port for piping PC graphics output to a TV or VCR, you won't find any free game titles. There is, however, DVD player software, which taps into the video-acceleration features of the GeForce 256 chip to enable playback of DVD video, including feature-length movies.
Like many other boards, the WinFast GeForce 256 DDR includes useful utilities, such as a Windows Taskbar-based applet for switching resolutions, tweaking graphics settings, and optimizing performance. Users install the card drivers and software from a simple HTML interface that launches when the card's CD-ROM is loaded. The software ranges from the truly useful (two-click resolution switching, and SpeedRunner, an applet for overclocking chips and memory) to the downright silly (an eye-protection utility that tells you when to stop looking at the screen).
Leadtek is not a terribly well-known name in the general marketplace, but the company has won a following among hard-core gamers who value performance and reliability over luxuries. If you need a card to make quick work of next-generation 3D games, the reasonably priced WinFast GeForce 256 DDR will do the job darn well.