Something for Everyone!
How many of us have friends that would like to game on their PC but just can't afford the processor, motherboard and graphic card upgrades? I was one of those "friends" for a long time, until I cashed in my fortune of crushed RC cans and purchased my current super rig.
However, for those of you without the strength and might to crush an empty RC can, those who are still trying to play Unreal Tournament on your PII 333MHz with that 8MB ATI card, and those who just want to add a little more speed and power to your setup, NVIDIA may have everyone's answer in their new GeForce 2 MX series. Continuing our foray into this new line of cards, GR takes a look at ASUS's AGP-V7100 GeForce 2 MX board.
Let's deal with the nerdy jargon first. The ASUS AGP-V7100 GeForce 2 MX is a 2D/3D graphic processing unit. This version runs on 32 MB of video memory (a 16MB version is also available). More memory is always good for higher resolution and color depth.
The NVIDIA GeForce 2 MX graphics engine sports similar but muted features to the GTS engine. The dual pipeline architecture (2 pipelines down from GTS models) prevents the card from taking full advantage of the boasted 700 million texels per second. It will process all 700 million just fine; the result is just a little bottlenecking. Frankly, you just can't beat the 4-pipeline architecture of the GTS.
However, textures look fabulous with this card. I ran our early copy of Hitman: Codename 47 and the final version of Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 (both are OpenGL heavyweights). The NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer and a 2nd generation transforming and lighting engine help produce the most amazing textures on the MX chipset.
One of the more notable features unique to the MX series of boards is NVIDIA's TwinView functionality. This feature is very similar to Matrox's Dual Head capable G400 series of boards. Both allow you to have simultaneous and independent dual display control. You should be able to view a DVD on one monitor and surf the Internet on another. Both monitors could display the same content or you could split your monitor's content over two displays. This has long been a prized feature for Matrox that NVIDIA hopes to cash in on.
The model we received came equipped with TV-Out, one of my personal favorites. I'm pleased to report that the TV-Out quality is very much on par with that of the Matrox G400 Dual Head. However, I was unable to utilize the TwinView. When switching from VGA monitor to TV, my monitor would go black. I saw no option for twin viewing. The vaunted Detonator 3 drivers are supposed to offer TwinView options, but as of yet I have been unable to successfully load the Detonator 3 drivers with this card. Not a big problem, since the ASUS utilities so far are fine.
Tweaking these features is handled very well via an icon on your taskbar. This allows easy access to all your display adapter-tweaking needs. Everything from simple resolution changes to full-scene anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering options (anisotropic filtering is the blending of different objects in different directions) are easy to reach. ASUS has even included an option to set hot keys that permit one-key access to the D3D and OpenGL options. Nice and simple!
I don't know how many times I've heard the phrase "Don't buy any piece of hardware based on the merits of its software bundle." For the most part, these are words to live by. Yet thankfully, ASUS has put together a better than average software bundle.
You get, of course, drivers for Windows 98, NT and 2000 (still no Linux and Redhat. Muahah!). ASUS also supplies the great FPS game Soldier of Fortune and 3Deep, a lighting and shading software utility for 3D games. But so far this card has not needed any help in the visual arena.
Quite frankly, this card is for those who are not hardcore, die-hard gaming enthusiasts. This is for those of you who want more out of a card than hours of mindless fragging. With a quality DVD player, TV-Out and a possible TwinView, all chaperoned by NVIDIA and their GeForce 2 architecture, this card just has hell of a lot to offer.
Plus, this semi-heavy-weight weighs in at about $175 dollars - nearly half the price of a GeForce 2 GTS for a little more than half the performance and a lot more functionality. It's just one more option for your video stimuli.