If you are like me, you can’t keep up with the younger guys in games like Quake, Half-Life, Unreal or any of the many other high speed action games out there. Frame rates aren’t as important. We just want awesome graphics at a somewhat decent speed. Enter the Matrox G400.
Matrox has always been known for their excellent 2D image quality and speed. The G400 keeps this tradition then some. I’m not going to bore you with terms like “Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping” or “256-bit DualBus Architecture” for these, you can go directly to the Matrox Website or check out one of the many other Hardware web sites that have or will review this card. All I will say is if you want something visually stunning, The matrox G400 definitely has the others beaten.
Cards like the Voodoo 3’s and the TNT2 Ultras are clearly the winners as far as frame rates. If, however, you seldom play Quake or one of the other games, and you want awesome 2D and 3D Image quality, the Matrox card may be your better choice. The other cards have improved their image quality a bunch this last go round and so has Matrox leaving it the winner again.
Then we learn a new term with the Matrox G400, Dual Head. Dual head is that the card supports 2 Monitors connected to one Video Card. With the release of Windows 98, we were introduced to using 2 Monitors to extend the Windows Desktop (So I have read, never tried it). This normally requires 2 Video Cards. With The Matrox G400 Dual Head version, you can connect 2 Monitors to one video card. I personally don’t know how useful this is. I sure there is a market for it but fortunately for us single Monitor guys and gals; they also make a single head version.
I recently received a Single head G400 32 Meg OEM card from PCNUT for another system I was building and was pleasantly surprised when I plugged this card in my test system to try it out. The 2D Image quality is superb and the graphics quality in Quake II and Unreal were awesome compared to the TNT2 card that was in that machine. The installation of the card and drivers went without a hitch.
My test system consists of a Celeron 366 clocked to 567 on an Abit BX6R2. 64 Megs Mushkin PC133 Ram and a WD 8.4 Gig HD. I ran 3D Mark 99 MAX at 800×600 32 bit color and the score was 4275 3D marks and 5045 CPU 3D Marks. This was just a quick card installation and the drivers from the CD included with the card. No tweaks at all, just default installation. I ran some Quake II Timedemo scores at the same resolution and color depth and scored 36.5 in Crusher and 48.2 in Massive 1.
As you can tell by the Quake scores, this is NOT by any means, the fastest card on the market. It is playable though and these scores will probably improve when (and if) ever releases a mature Open GL ICD (The current ICD is listed as beta). However, as I said, the visual experience from this card is just awesome. The 2D is crisp and clean and the graphics in the games I tried are superb.
If you mainly surf the Internet and play a few games and are concerned with image quality, this would definitely be the card to go with. If you are a die-hard game player and are concerned with frame rates only, unless the Open GL ICD or mature drivers improve them, you will be a little disappointed. The soon to be released G400 MAX will also have better performance I’m sure (I don’t get the chance at un-released cards). Also, if you don’t use or plan to use 2 Monitors, go with the single head version and save a few bucks. This is one time two heads may not be better than one.
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