And you thought you couldn't afford a new video card.
Fact: Speaking solely in terms of system resources, games are becoming more and more demanding. Fact: Meeting the raised system requirements for these demanding games is more expensive than it has ever been. And chances are a lot of you are still using your old Voodoo 2 boards. What's a young (or old) shallow pocketed gamer suppose to do?
It certainly doesn't help that GeForce 2s are still pretty expensive, costing approximately $200 at most retailers. Young lemonade stand entrepreneurs and SOHO car washers everwhere will need to put in some serious overtime to meet that goal. Is there an easy and inexpensive alternative waiting in the following paragraphs? Read on.
Allow me to introduce the 3Dpower/Absolute Nemesis GeForce 2 MX-400 (manufactured by 3DPower/Published by Absolute Multimedia). Hopefully you'll remember our coverage of the ASUS V7100 GF2 MX board. Well, since then Nvidia has greatly improved upon our favorite budget 3D accelerator with an extra 32 MB of SDRAM (totalling 64MB). And like its GTS, Pro, and Ultra siblings, the MX-400 comes with a burly fan to cool down those heated gaming sessions and prevent lock-ups and crashes attributed to overheating. Smart move.
The installation is, as always, short and sweet. Out comes the Gladiac 920 (*sob*) and in pops the Nemesis MX-400. Boot up my machine, install the software from the provided CD and it's a done deal.
Tweaking the Nemesis' features is a very simple and familiar experience thanks to 3DPower's adherence to Nvidia's own Detonator drivers. Direct 3D, OpenGL and anti-aliasing adjustments are just a mouse click away. (Note: You'll want to download the most recent version of these drivers from the Nvidia website. These utilities are really comprehensive.)
And that fan I mentioned earlier enables gamers to turn up the juice, as features like anisotropic filtering and bump mapping with 2X anti-aliasing are no longer held at arm's length due to heat issues. Now you can crank up those graphical extras with much less framerate loss than the original MX boards.
2X anti-aliasing was enough realism for me - thank the tech gods for that, because I experienced some serious slowdown and crashes when I switched on the full 4X anti-aliasing. Also, the Nemesis was never able to run one of the tests in our 3Dmark 2001 benchmarking software. While one failed test isn't enough to mar the card's reputation as an impressive budget buy, it is enough for 3DMark 2001 to not give an overall score (not enough test runs). So I ran a few tests at 1024x768 with no anti-aliasing and stood it next to the Gladiac 920 and other cards so you can see the differences. Numbers don't lie, unless of course you're a bookie named Back-Alley Brutus. In any case, click here for your geeky benchmark fix.
Indeed, the Nemesis performs very well. The MX-400 series of boards just totally smokes the competition. You'll notice how our last budget card, the Hercules 3D Prophet 4500, is left in the dust by a sizeable margin. It even sports a more attractive price tag (4500 = $150 / Nemesis = $119), making your decision a little easier.
Plus, games look damn good with this board.
Like the recent crop of hardware coming out of Hercules, the Nemesis is absent of any included game bundle. But unlike Hercules, 3DPower gives the consumer the option to choose 1 free game from a list of titles including MDK 2, Icewind Dale, Soldier of Fortune, Vampires, Half-Life, Heretic 2 and more. Not a bad choice, though it's a bummer having to order a free game, then sit and wait a few days for it to show up. A software DVD decoder and DirectX 8 complete the software bundle.
Here's a hint for you 3D accelerator manufactures out there: If you want to get in our good graces, throw in a TV-Out option to allow some lovely big screen action. 3DPower has taken the hint and delivered. Plus, the quality isn't bad at all. As usual, text is a bit distorted and hard to read but the 3D image quality is great.
Frankly, if you're looking for incredible speed and power, then look somewhere else. But if efficiency, a little extra functionality and keeping pace with current technology without surpassing it is what you seek, then your search is over. The Nemesis GeForce 2 MX-400 is the supreme budget buy for the lightweight gamer - or the penny conscious hardcore gamer looking to save a few hundred bucks.