About a year ago now, the nVidia TNT2 M64 graphics card was released for low end budget users; as most of us know this card struggled at high resolutions such as 1024x768 and higher colors, mainly because of the poor 64bit memory bus. Many users were pulled in by the sub $150 AUD price thinking they couldn't go wrong. Budget users have only really had the TNT2 M64 card to choose from, unless they wanted to opt for the more expensive TNT2 Ultra or GeForce 256. Since the advent of the GeForce2 GTS chipset by nVidia, users have seen a wicked price drop in the price of the TNT2 Ultra based cards, many have opted to go with the TNT2 Ultra instead of the GeForce 256 or GeForce2 GTS. That was until nVidia announced the GeForce2 MX chip back in July of this year. Users can now have the performance of a original nVidia GeForce 256 plus some with (some) features of the GeForce2 at much lower price. While the Visiontek GeForce2 MX isn't packed full of features like it's big brother GeForce2 GTS chipset, it certainly, for the price will make any budget user happy. For $108 USD from Universal Computer Distributing you can have your own Visiontek GeForce2 MX. Luckily many OEM manufactures have taken to the low cost, high performance GeForce2 MX chipset and have their own MX cards out, in this review we'll be focusing on Visiontek model in particular...
Specifications and Features
- 0.18 micron manufacturing process
- approximately 4 watts active power consumption
- 175MHz core clock and 166MHz memory clock (overclocked)
- 2 pixels per clock cycle, 4 texels per clock cycle
- 350 Mpixels/s fill rate, 700 Mtexels/s fill rate
- 20 million triangles/sec
- 8-64MB frame buffer
- 128-bit Single Data Rate (SDR) or 64-bit Double Data Rate (DDR) memory
- Integrated Dual-Link TMDS transmitters
- NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer (NSR)
- High-Definition Video Processor (HDVP)
- AGP 4X with Fast Writes
- 32-bit color
- 32-bit Z/stencil buffer
- Cube environment mapping
- DirectX and S3 texture compression
- 350MHz RAMDAC
- Doubles your desktop workspace using two space saving displays. You can extend one application across two displays or run separate applications on each screen.
Digital Vibrance ControlTM
- Provides crisp, bright visuals.
Second Generation Integrated Transform and Lighting (T&L) Engines
- Provides a more powerful and balanced PC platform by offloading graphics-intensive workload from the CPU.
Integrated Dual-Link TMDS Transmitters
- Connect two digital displays independently without additional cost.
NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer (NSR)
- Brings natural material properties to life with advanced per-pixel shading capabilities.
High-Definition Video Processor (HDVP)
- Turns your PC into a full-quality DVD player and HDTV receiver/player.
AGP 4X/2X, AGP Texturing, and Fast Writes Support
- Takes advantage of new methods of transferring information more efficiently, and allows content developers to use high-quality, 32-bit color textures and high-polygon-count scenes.
Microsoft DirectX and OpenGL Optimizations and Support
- Delivers the best performance and guarantees compatibility with all current and future applications and games.
Unified Driver Architecture
- Guarantees forward and backward compatibility. Simplifies upgrading to a new NVIDIA product, because all NVIDIA products work with the same driver software.
TV-Out and Video Modules
- Gives end users the option of big-screen gaming, digital timeshifting VCR, and video editing applications.
Now let's take a closer look at the Visiontek GeForce2 MX card...
The VisionTek GeForce2 MX Card
The PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is very bland; with a quick glance over the Visiontek MX card it's easy to see Visiontek have opted to stay with the exact same reference design by nVidia thus leaving a lot of extra PCB room as you can see in the image below...
Although, something had to be done to keep the Visiontek MX card at a responsible cost / performance ratio. What Visiontek have in fact done is include 32MB of Samsung 7ns 143MHz SDRAM, whereas the nVidia GeForce2 MX reference board comes fitted with 6ns 166MHz SDRAM. To make this card a performance competitor against other GeForce2 MX cards, Visiontek have shipped the 32MB (4x8mb chips) of Samsung 7ns 143MHz SDRAM overclocked at 166MHz (6ns). If you plan to buy this card to overclock, keep in mind that it is already out of spec and you'll be overclocking the SDRAM even more then it already is. While the Samsung 7ns 143MHz SDRAM was running at 166MHz we didn't notice any crashes or lockup's. With this being the case, I guess there's nothing really to worry about - unless you want to clock the memory core up even higher.
The GeForce2 MX chipset doesn't generate enough heat to warrant a small HSF to be applied. While we didn't experience any heat / crash problems, including a fan header on the PCB would have been handy for us overclockers. Instead of using the fan header on a GeForce2 board you would have to use a fan header on the motherboard instead. While the core was running at the default 175MHz, the core was warm. Visiontek (like the nVidia reference board) have included the 4 holes around the core for those who would like to hook up some active cooling using the fan header on their motherboard or for those who would like to hook up a heatsink. you'll see what I mean in the image below...
The Visiontek MX card we were shipped by Universal Computer Distributing did not come with DVI and S-Video out jacks like we saw on the nVidia GeForce2 MX reference board. No biggie for me as I don't use these jacks, for those of you who like TV Out you'll be at a loss. But, remember this card is a low end budget card, we shouldn't expect features like this.
The Visiontek GeForce2 MX is also missing a hardware censoring monitor chip - I guess it's not really needed when you do have a fan to monitor it's RPM's. It makes it hard to measure the exact temperature of the card, that is unless you want to rig a thermal probe to the chipset.
I feel the PCB of the Visiontek GeForce2 MX could have been used more effectively, making the card overall cheaper for us all. The PCB of this card is great if you want to hook up a huge HSF like the "big one" on the Leadtek GeForce2 GTS card. Roughly speaking, at least 15% of the PCB could have been "cut off" or removed lowering the total cost of the card, slightly. PCB material is not overly expensive but a save in this production stage of the card would have seen the card being sold cheaper.
Our Visiontek GeForce2 MX card didn't come with any manuals or drivers. This is really saying "We have a budget card" but with the latest Detonator 3 drivers are out now, all we need to do is download a 2mb file and install the drivers and your all set. It could have been that Universal Computer Distributingdidn't include a manual and drivers because they thought we are intelligent enough not to need one - hehe! As for no manual, installing a graphics card is not a hard task, simple identify the AGP slot and pop the card in and turn your computer on, and oh it would be a good idea turning your computer off first, unless you want to experience some wicked electrocution effects. Heh, uhh ok maybe not - that's your choice.
The next item on the agenda is, overclocking...