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Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX - Page 1

The Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX
Worth every cent...and then some...

By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
10/10/00

nVidia has been on a roll as of late.  They are seemingly starting to dominate the performance gamer market with their powerful GeForce 2 GTS.  As if that wasn?t good enough, they will soon be releasing an ?Ultra? model that will further establish their position.  Being a dominant force in a single market segment isn?t enough for nVidia though.  Their design win with the Microsoft X-Box should establish nVidia as a major player in the console market.  They have an integrated chipset on the way which will surely be popular in the sub $1000 PC market and the chipset used on the Leadtek card we?re taking a look at today, the GeForce 2 MX, is squarely targeted at the budget gamer / office PC arena.  nVidia shows no mercy. 

I know many of you see the words ?budget gamer? and cringe but let me assure you the GeForce 2 MX is no performance slouch.  The MX should really be called a ?low cost performance solution??its ?Bang-for-the-Buck? is unrivaled. 

The Leadtek GeForce 2 MX that we?ve got here in the lab is basically a reference design but with a few extra features.  Baseline MX cards will offer a simple analog monitor-out connector, while the ?high? end will have dual monitor outputs and be able to power 2 monitors (2 analog CRTs, or 1 analog and 1 digital) using nVidia?s TWINView technology.  The Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX  has a standard analog output and TV-Out.  This card has a few other features to differentiate it from other reference boards but we?ll get to those a little later.

                         

Specifications Of Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX
Yes...another reference board!

  • nVidia GeForce2 MX GPU:

  • Hypertexel architecture ( 4 texels per clock )

  • 32MB on-board memory

  • 20M Triangles/sec through T&L and Set-up , 700-Megatexel fill rate

  • Full acceleration for Microsoft DirectX 7 and OpenGL 1.2 ICD

  • 2.8 GB/s memory bandwidth

  • 20 million triangles/sec

  • Digital Vibrance control

  • NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer (NSR)

  • High-Definition Video Processor (HDVP)

  • 32-bit color

  • 32-bit Z/stencil buffer

  • Cube environment mapping

  • DirectX Texture Compression & S3TC support

  • Comprehensive AGP 4X support with fast writes and execute mode

  • Integrated 350MHz RAMDAC, resolution up to 2048x1536, True Color @ 60Hz

  • High Definition Video Processor for fast DVD, 2D and video processing (with enhanced motion compensation)

  • NTSC/PAL TV-Output with flicker filter TV output (w/ flicker filter) 

  • Digital dual display architecture, supporting dual CRTC/simultaneous dual display

  • User Manual

  • Leadtek WinFast Software Pack (Contains Software Driver)

  • DVD Magic CD(Contains WinDVD program & bundled utilities)

  • WinFast DVD

  • Colorific from E-color

  • 3Deep from E-color

  • Cult3D form Cycore

The Leadtek GeForce 2 MX has 32MB of 6ns Samsung SDRAM on board set to run at a default memory clock of 166MHz (FYI, the default core clock is 175MHz).  The memory on this board, worked perfectly at its default speed but we?re unhappy to report that there was very little margin for overclocking.

Since memory bandwidth is such an issue with the GeForce series of cards, we were a little bit disappointed.  It?s tough to hold anything against a product because it doesn?t perform as you?d like when you?re running it out of spec but we?re talking about the MX here!  If there was ever a chip made that perfectly fits the criteria for overclocking, this is it!

Installation and Drivers

 
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Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX - Page 2

The Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX
Worth every cent...and then some...

By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
10/10/00

 

Quality and Installation Of The Winfast GeForce 2 MX
Let's get to it...

Physical inspection of the card yields some good and bad aspects.  All traces and solder points were clean and intact.  The problems found certainly are not problems with the workmanship of the product.  The quality is very high but some rather dubious design decisions were made... 

nVidia's reference MX board does not require any sort of heatsink or cooling solution because the power requirements for the MX chipset are very low.  Low power requirements equate to low temperatures but in an effort to insure cool operation (and be sure provide some leeway for the overclocking crowd) Leadtek opted to mount an active heatsink / fan combo to their card.  This in general is good news but there are some flaws in their implementation.  First of all, if you look at this picture, you'll notice that power leads for the fan are soldered to the board.

If you check out Davo?s review of an nVidia reference board, you?ll see that the default layout doesn?t have any fan headers.  So, instead of requiring a user to connect the Winfast GeForce 2 MX to their power supply, Leadtek soldered the fan leads right to the board. 

In practice, solder does make for a better connection, but this makes replacing the stock cooler a much harder task and any tampering with this setup will surely void your warranty.  Another problem is that there was way too much thermal paste used.  Not only that but it seemed to be very thin and oily.   We normally would applaud the use of thermal paste over the more popular thermal epoxy but feel Leadtek should have been a little less "sloppy" here and used a higher quality paste.  In all fairness though, nVidia doesn't call for any cooling at all, so Leadtek did at least take some initiative to improve over the reference design.

Looking at the front and back pictures of the card, you probably also noticed the amount of real estate that is not used on the board.  Looking at the front of the card you'll see that almost 20% (look at the upper right) of the board is free from any traces or connections.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, modifying their manufacturing process the cut down on the size of the boards probably would have raised the prices considerably but making the overall size of the card smaller would make for some improved airflow in your case, which I'm sure overclockers would appreciate.  On the flipside, having all that space could make for some interesting cooling solutions.  I can already see someone mounting a huge heatsink on the RAM with a down-firing fan stuck to the blank space with some double-sided tape.  (The first one to send me a pic of a setup like this get's some recognition on the main page!) :)

The drivers that came in the box offered some nice options, but were based of an earlier revision of the nVidia reference drivers...

                   

These are shots of the tabs available under Display Properties, but you'll probably want to go with the nVidia Detonator 3's.  The performance, features and compatibility of the Detonators is much better.  Leadtek will surely release a set of drivers based on the newer Detonators, but for now, reference drivers it is.

Overclocking and Gaming Performance

 
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Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX - Page 3

The Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX
Worth every cent...and then some...

By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
10/10/00

 

H.H. Test System
Speedy...

InWin Full Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, Pentium III 733EB., Tyan S1854 (Via 133A) Motherboard and Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX 32MB  AGP Card, 256MB of PC133 True CAS2 SDRAM from Mushkin, IBM 22Gig 7200 RPM ATA66 Hard Drive, Plextor UltraPlex 40max CDROM, Win 98SE, DirectX 7.0a, nVidia reference drivers (Detonator 3 6.18)

Benchmarks With The Winfast GeForce 2 MX
OpenGL...

Now it's time to see how the Winfast GeForce 2 MX handles Quake 3...the "defacto" standard OpenGL benchmark...

Quake 3 Demo001

As you can see, at the fastest setting, this Leadtek board burns right through Quake 3.  Let's move onto the normal setting.

Once again, all the way up to 1024x768, the Winfast GeForce 2 MX simply rocks...over 90FPS is awesome for a card in this price range.  But how does it hold up at the High Quality 32Bit settings?

Ok, here, at least in my opinion, 1024x768 is slightly lacking.  For the most part, 50FPS is acceptable, but for a high-speed first person shooter, you really should want a sustained 60+FPS.  All in all, these are still very respectable.

The Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX is a great product for the money.  We're a little spoiled here on H.H. because we get to play with the cutting edge hardware, but to be honest, even though the MX chipset isn't the top-of-the-line, it impressed me.  For the casual user looking for a capable gaming card, I would definitely recommend the Leadtek GeForce 2 MX.  The overclocking crowd may be left wishing for more, but nonetheless, this board is still worth a look.  We give the Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX a score of...

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Leadtek Winfast GeForce 2 MX - Page 4
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