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Prolink GeForce4 MX440 Video Card Review

We've all been hearing about them, and now we can see what the truth really is. With all the rumors flying around about the new GeForce4 MX cards being overpumped GeForce2's, it was time to do a little digging to see what the scoop REALLY was. So come join Mike "Darthtanion" Wright as he does a little midnight testing on the Prolink GeForce4 MX440 Video Card.
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Published Wed, Feb 13 2002 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Rating: 85%Manufacturer: Prolink
IntroductionWe've been hearing more and more out of the Prolink company lately. They are gaining a solid reputation of being a manufacturer that makes usable graphics products and sells them for a reasonable price. They are also expanding their distribution channels and should be coming to a store near everyone very soon.Of course, past history is a nice attribute, but our task today is to look at their new line of video boards to determine whether or not they can maintain that reputation. So let's get on with the latest and the greatest, shall we?Today's contestant is their brand new GeForce4 MX440 card. This is one of the new beauties that has been talked about in nearly every circle, so let's kick this thing into gear and find out what it can do...
SpecificationsYep...the White Paper section of the write-up. While I can sympathize with those who don't really care much about the internal workings of the board, it is important that we have a solid idea as to the overall capabilities of the card. So here's what this baby is all about:Graphics Engine: nVidia GeForce4 MX440 GPUGPU Clock: 275MHzMemory: 64MB DDR (6.4GB/sec Bandwidth)Memory Speed: 400MHz (200MHz DDR)Fill Rate: 1.1 Billion texels/secTriangle/sec: 34 MillionRAMDAC: 350MHzMaximum Resolution: 2048x1536 (16-bit color @ 75Hz)Bus Standard: AGP 2x/4xTV-Out: 1024x768Special Features:- nView Display Technology- Lightspeed Memory Architecture II- Advanced AccuView Antialiasing- Video Processing EngineThe GeForce4 MX line of video boards are a design that is aiming at the budget conscious among us. I found it to be a board of compromises, so you'll have to decide whether or not it fits within your personal requirements for a performance board.While testing this board, I was rather concerned when I discovered that it had no hardware support for DirectX 8. While this isn't a huge issue right now, there are some games getting ready to hit the streets that will require this feature to get the best performance in the game (can you say Doom III?). It also doesn't support per-pixel shading either, so again, some of the newer games getting ready to come to market won't play at their best on this board.It did, however, manage to have a much cleaner graphics output than any video card that I've seen. The lines were crisper, and the flow of the content was always consistently smooth. It also did very well with high-polygon scenes.So there are strong points to this board as well as a couple of weaknesses, but with an entry fee that is pretty affordable for a brand new technology (approx. US$130), we'll see if it is a fair trade-off towards the end of the review.
The Card
Though the card measures in at about the same dimensions as previous versions, there just doesn't seem to be as much filled areas on the PCB. This is a testament to advances in the manufacture of chipsets and component processes more than anything else. But open real estate or not, the video board has everything necessary to make for some killer fragfests.
One thing that was rather odd is the placement of memory modules on the back of the board. While it makes sense to use areas available and reduce the amount of pipelines required to port the memory, it will make it a bit more difficult to keep it all cool. RAM sinks can be placed on it, but in the past, it was also customary to have a larger than normal fan on the GPU to have excess air blowing over the RAM sinks on the memory. This won't be possible with the chips on the backside of the PCB.
The memory itself is made by the Samsung Corporation and is rated at 4.0ns. There are four modules on the board; two on the front and two on the back. The modules hold 32MB of DDR memory each, and this fact alone helps you to realize why the board is no longer so crowded. 8MB and 16MB modules have been so common that the board just looks naked when only four chips are required.
Prolink has decided to stick with their gold coloring. Hiding under the heatsink is the new GeForce4 MX440 GPU. The heatsink does an ample job of keeping the chipset within tolerable temperature ranges, and I never had any problems with overheating. Even when I was running the Quake III timedemo tests back-to-back I never had any heating issues.
Since this particular board is designed for those on a budget, there aren't a lot of bells and whistles included; but who really needs them anyway? The ports on this standard version include a 15-pin connector for the monitor, and an S-Video port that allows for TV-Out. This should take care of the needs for most of us, but if you require a DVI output, then rest assured that the Prolink folks have a version that allows for that as well.
Software Bundle
Included with this package will be three disks. Prolink doesn't make it a habit of providing a bunch of worthless demos because a majority of those looking for a card like this already have the games that they're wanting to play. The demo disks that are supposed to show off all the bells and whistles end up being used as a coaster more times than not. Let's see what we have...
What retail package would be complete without a driver disk? This one includes the nVidia Detonator v27.20 drivers, DirectX, and an online manual for the card.One thing that I have always enjoyed about the Prolink drivers is the fact that they include an overclocking feature that is accessed right through the Display Properties screens. While it isn't difficult to add in a small registry hack to handle this function, it becomes unnecessary since it is already there for us. Also, for those who don't have any knowledge of overclocking the video card, they even provide step-by-step instructions in the manual! Talk about a company that has the Power User in mind.
Every video board that I have received from Prolink so far always has a quality software DVD player. The GeForce4 MX440 is no exception to this rule. Included is a copy of WinDVD, which is consistently being rated within the top two software players. It is also the newer version that is compatible with Windows XP.
Just when I said that Prolink doesn't include games, they changed their ways. Included with this card is the OEM version of Serious Sam: The First Encounter. While I tried it out, I probably won't do much with it. Like I stated earlier, most of us have the games that we need, so this one won't get a lot of use here.
TestingAll right... let's find out what this little gem can do now, shall we? We know what we can expect to find in the box, we know what features that it supports, all that's left is to see some hard numbers to compare against. But first, let's take a look at what kind of system it will be running on.Test SystemEPoX 8KHA+AMD Thunderbird 1000 @ 1400MHz (AVIA)512MB Crucial PC2100 DDR SDRAMIBM 60GXP 40GB Hard DriveSound Blaster:LiveHitachi CM814 21" MonitorWindows XP ProfessionalVIA 4-in-1 drivers v4.37nVidia Detonator v27.20DirectX 8.1Benchmarking Utilities/Programs3dMark2000 - Default settings- All tests run3dMark2001 - Default settings- All tests runQuake III Arena - v1.11 with Demo001Quake III Arena testing was done with these settings:- GL Extensions: On- Full Screen: On- Lighting: Lightmap- Geometric Detail: Slider bar set to MAX- Texture Quality: 32 bit- Texture Filter: Tri-Linear- All "Eye Candy" enabled- 3dMark2000
Though the MX440 card beat out the GeForce3 Ti200, it wasn't by a large margin. The original GeForce3 board tested completely blew the newer card away. Though the 3dMark programs aren't exactly "Real World", it does provide a consistent base when running comparison tests. The new GeForce4MX chipset seems to be overwhelmed here.- 3dMark2001
Again, the newer chipset was soundly beaten by the older GeForce3 GPU. In this case, it was the lack of hardware DirectX support that created the glaring gap in performance levels. As stated above, this testing isn't the programs you'll use every day, but it serves as a consistent base for comparison's sake.- Quake III Arena
The newer technology is beginning to show its stuff in this series of tests. The GeForce4MX chipset beat out the older GPU in every resolution and color depth tested. So while the MX chipset doesn't offer support for all modern functions, it still has what it takes to bring your 3d gaming to life.Something of note is the fact that there doesn't seem to be as much difference in results when comparing the 16-bit depths to the 32-bit color depths. This is just another way that shows that the GeForce4MX chipset has some nice power behind it.
OverclockingOverclocking capabilities of the MX440 board were respectable, but not spectacular. The 4ns DDR memory helps out here a good bit. From the stock settings of 275/400, I was able to get it running smoothly at 300/450. Anything higher started creating graphical artifacts on the screen. This was mostly a breakdown of the colors around lighting features (numerous white spots being seen). 300/450 ran perfectly with no visual glitches at all. So while the memory is set to a slower speed than the GeForce3 cards, the core is faster.ConclusionAs I stated earlier, this chipset represents nVidia's attempt at making a solid budget graphics adapter. It is a GPU that is full of compromises. The overall quality is better than any past nVidia based card, but there is no hardware support for DirectX 8. It handles high-polygon scenes better than previous chipsets, but it can't do per-pixel shading. 3d animations flows wonderfully, but it can't do a number of other tasks that were capable of being accomplished with a GeForce3 based board.It really makes you have to ask: "Is this just a hyped-up GeForce2?" Kudos go out to Prolink for making the best of a mediocre GPU, but you can still only do what the chipset will allow you to.So, does this card represent a fair trade-off between performance and capabilities? The answer is a resounding YES. While the chipset doesn't allow for some of the newer technologies to run, the low entry fee does a very respectable job at offsetting this. When was the last time that a brand new GPU came out for just over US$100?Bottom line...If you're looking for a quality video card while on a budget (approx. US$130), and don't have a need for the hardware DirectX 8 support, then take a good look at this board. It is faster in 3d applications than the GeForce3, and has better visual quality as well. But if your wanting a card that can handle both today's and tomorrow's gaming engines, then you may want to save up your dollars for the high-end GeForce4 Ti series boards.- ProsVery good general 3d capabilitiesInexpensiveImpressive visual qualityAdded TV-Out- ConsNo hardware support for DirectX 8Unable to meet the demands of upcoming gaming titlesRating - 8.5/10

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