eVGA GeForce2 MX Video Card

URL: http://www.evga.com/

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Rating: Excellent!

Review:

The purchasing criteria here was improve the frame rate and get TNL support for the lowest cost without sacrificing visual quality. TV-out, dual-head connectors and DDR were not considerations. If these are more important considerations, then this is not your card. But if you want 80% of the power of a GeForce2 GTS card for 20 to 25% percent of the cost then the eVGA GeForce2 MX card is a video card that you should consider. With a GTS Ultra running at $499, as of this moment, that is an expensive card for gaming; I did not pay that much for my 20″ IBM (read Sony) monitor.

For those not familiar with the GeForce2 MX products, they are essentially a Geforce2 chip set with two less pipelines, as well as throttled back cores and memory speeds. In-depth reviews with all types of benchmarks on GeForce2 MX cards are easily found via your favorite search engine, so I won’t waste our time on that. Let’s get to why this card should be considered.

First, if you look at the aforementioned reviews you will readily see that all of the various cards perform within a predictable range given the limitations placed on MX. Essentially the limitation is the memory bandwidth that is slowing all GeForce2 cards down and the MX suffers only at the highest resolutions and at 32bit color above 800×600 when compare to a GTS card. How many apps do you have that absolutely need 32bit color support? The most significant product variable for the MX that you need to guide you to a decision is the speed of the video memory since they all have 32 Megs of SDR or SGRAM. That data combined with the product cost made my decision easier. While I have been accused of making the Eagle on a dollar grin by my frugality, this deal should make his eyes pop out.

The eVGA card is a 32 MB (5.5ns SDRAM) SDR card, not a DDR card, yet it delivers a whopping 71 FPS (frames per second) at 1024×768 when I played Valve’s Half Life Team Fortress (I prefer the map Dustbowl) in 16bit color. 32 bit color will reduce that frame rate about 30 frames per second, still 41 FPS is very playable. Keep in mind that the 71 FPS rate was obtained without overclocking either memory or core. That eye-pleasing frame rate is more than twice the rate of my previous card, a Vanta TNT2. Additionally, the card supports AGP 4X, so this was enabled on the ABIT VT6X4 mobo I use. I focused on this card after reviewing the other MX cards such as the Hercules and Asus who also touted the 5.5ns memory, but were ultimately found to be out of my budget allocation. However during the pricing of these cards via Pricewatch the results clearly showed that the eVGA card is the only 5.5ns card under 100 dollars. It is important to rigorously examine the details of the cards as some manufacturers have two offerings, one with 5.5 or 6ns memory and another with 7ns. Maybe a minor point to you, but if you overclock, then the difference is important in reaching high speeds with stability. Don’t count on the sales personnel knowing the differences in SDRM speeds, after all they are interested in the sale and technical details only get in the way. Hercules in particular has these 5.5ns and 7ns market offerings. This came to light as I first tried to find the lowest cost on a Hercules GeForce2 MX and found two price levels. Quick checking revealed the 5.5ns Hercules card’s lowest cost to be $145 with the 7ns card just over 110 dollars. Once I understood this, I looked closer at the possibility of a eVGA card and using the difference to get some Arctic Silver Paste, then pocketing the change. New to the market, this American company is providing excellent products at excellent prices. At the lowest cost vendor – http://www.mixpc.com – which was located in my hometown, the eVGA card was 97 dollars, plus tax and shipping. Although it does come with only a heatsink, I replaced the passive heat sink with the Tenn Max Lasagna cooler for active cooling and overclocking.

The 2d graphics are sharp and crisp, the colors vivid and accurate. While there is no means for measuring it, the 3d seemed brighter, colors were bold and the details sharper, revealing facial expressions on the characters I had not seen before. Installing the card was as simple as it gets, as was installing the drivers. The packaging was a plain brown box, which is adequate for me as I am not interested in the box, but the card. I removed the old drivers and set the PC for standard VGA, powered down, replaced the card, booted, changed the AGP to 4X and installed the accompanying drivers. After a few rounds of llama hunting, I switched to the Detonator3 Drivers ver 6.31 for overclocking and advanced geek tweaking.

The overclocking did not increase the frame rate, so that point is mute for anything, but perhaps an application manipulating photos or graphics, in which case you may want a full blown GTS card.

Summary

Unless you positively absolutely need the additional power of a full blown GTS card, this is the best choice you can make. It turns a mediocre PC into a respectable platform for gaming, DVD and just may extend the useful life of your PC.

Submitted by: Casca

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