Once your new graphics card is fitted inside your PC thereâ€™s a good chance that youâ€™ll rarely see it again. On the one hand that means that the crude looks of the Galaxy may not really matter, and on the other hand it could also mean that the slick packaging of the Asus and of the Leadtek WinFast A400 TDH are also a bit irrelevant, but we disagree. After all youâ€™ve just spent Â£200 on your new acquisition so it must be a good thing if the card looks as though someone has taken some care in its design.
Well, the Leadtek passes this test with flying colours. The copper heatsink on the GPU side is actually very similar to the unit on the Galaxy, however the shroud that carries the fan is far smarter and exhausts inside the case. This is absolutely fine as the 6800 runs about twenty degrees Celsius above ambient so it doesnâ€™t place much of a demand on the cooling package, but it does make you wonder why Leadtek has added a great big slab of copper to the card, when the result is a graphics card that weighs 550g, which has to put a strain on your motherboard. The obvious answer is that Leadtek uses the same design for 6800GT models which put a greater demand on cooling, but itâ€™s unnecessary for the basic 6800.
When the A400 initially starts up the fan runs fast and noisy, but as soon as the drivers load the fan slows down and itâ€™s a fairly quiet card in operation.
So the Leadtek looks the part, but how does it perform? Well it has the same slow clock settings as the MSI, with a core speed of 325MHz and memory that runs at 700MHz. The result is a set of test scores that are nearly identical to the MSI, which uses the same clock speeds, and both of these cards are hot on the heels of the XFX with its slightly faster memory.
Turning to the software that Leadtek supplies, we were quite happy with the games package of Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, Big Mutha Truckers, Gun Metal and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. No problems there, but overclocking is poorly handled as the Winfox overclocking tool requires manual adjustment and the graphics are a bit clunky and awkward. After some trial and error we ended up with a core speed of 360MHz, which is on the low side, and a memory speed of 800MHz. The resulting Doom3 score was quite predictable at 66.5fps, but the 3DMark05 score leapt up from 2,004 to 2,844 marks. When we ran Coolbits the memory speed dropped by 40MHz, and although the 3DMark05 score dropped to 2,413 marks, the Doom3 score actually rose by a couple of frames per second.
Moving swiftly on we installed the 65.73 drivers which again gave very similar scores to the MSI, but when we ran Coolbits on the Beta drivers the scores rose significantly, but by a smaller amount than the MSI. At every turn the Leadtek performed satisfactorily, but it was consistently bested by the MSI and often by the Galaxy too. As these three cards are priced very similarly, the Leadtek loses out even though it offers a decent software package.
The Leadtek is a good looking card with a generous software bundle considering the price. However, the MSI just edges ahead, offering a better all round package.