NVIDIA GeForce 4 MX440 Roundup!

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NVIDIA GeForce 4 MX440 Roundup! - Page 1

NVIDIA GeForce 4 MX 440 Round-up
Abit, Chaintech, eVGA, Gainward, Leadtek,
 Visiontek and X-Micro Do Battle!

By - Marco Chiappetta
April 25, 2002

In early February '02 NVIDIA introduced their latest product line up at a large press even in San Francisco.  Not content with releasing a single GPU this time around, NVIDIA decided to unveil two entire families of chipsets, the GeForce 4 Titaniums (Ti) and the GeForce 4 MXs.  The GeForce 4 Titaniums, coming in Ti 4200, Ti 400 and Ti 4600 flavors, are their current flagship products, boasting Dual Vertex Shaders and a host of other performance enhancing features.  The GeForce 4 MX series is their new mainstream oriented product line, whose primary focus is on value.  The GeForce 4 MX series of GPUs are also available in three variants, the MX 420, MX 440 and MX 460.  Ever since their debut, the GeForce 4 Titaniums were universally praised for bringing new features and extreme performance to our desktops, but the GeForce 4 MX line was almost shunned by some members of the media.

Perhaps this disillusionment stemmed from the fact that, the GeForce 4 MX is not a DirectX 8.1 compliant part, and lacks any hardware pixel or vertex shaders.  It was with these "missing" features in mind, that the online media took issue with NVIDIA's decision to call the new MX line a "GeForce 4" at all.  Many journalists claimed that this naming convention would confuse less savvy customers and that because these cards are missing these key features, they would have a limited future.

However, let's keep in mind that the GeForce 4 MX is not completely without merit.  The NV17 core, which the entire GeForce 4 MX line of cards is based upon, brings a lot to the table considering it's relatively low price point.  Although NVIDIA has informed us the NV17 was a completely new core design, it basically builds upon the GeForce 2 MX.  NVIDIA incorporated a limited version of their Lightspeed Memory Architecture, their new Accuview AA engine and nView multi-monitor technology.  They've also got a new Video Processing engine for improved DVD playback and high quality HDTV capabilities.  For a much more detailed look into these new features, we recommend reading this article written when these new products launched.

Whether you agree with NVIDIA's naming decisions or not, the fact remains the GeForce 4 MX is a capable card for the money.   The seven products from Abit, Chaintech, eVGA, Gainward, Leadtek, Visiontek and X-Micro, we'll be looking at today are all based on the mid-range GeForce 4 MX 440.  Armed with 64MB of DDR RAM and double-digit price tags for most, these cards set out win us over from the get go...

Specifications and Features of the GeForce 4 MX 440
GeForce 4?
FEATURE OVERVIEW:
  • Integrated NVIDIA GeForce4 MX series high performance GPU. (270MHz.)
  • Supporting 64MB/128MB high-speed 128bit DDR RAM/SDRAM memory. (200MHz DDR)
  • NVIDIA nVIEW TM Display Technology
  • Lightspeed Memory TM Architecture (LMA) II
  • Accuview TM Antialiasing
  • Video Processing Engine (VPE) enables the highest-quality, full-frame rate, full-screen HDTV and DVD without requiring a high-performance CPU.
  • Integrated hardware transform and lighting engine.
  • Integrated 32-bit color and 32-bit Z/Stencil Buffer.
  • Integrated Cube environment mapping, and true reflective bump mapping.
  • Multibuffering (double, triple, quadruple) for smooth animation and video playback.
  • AGP 2X/4X supporting and Execute Mode.
  • Integrated Dual 350MHz DACs and Dual Channel TMDS Transmitters. Driving dual independent displays with crisp and clear image quality at 2048x1536 resolution at 75MHz and enabling two independent Digital Flat Panels (DFP) displays at resolutions up to 1280x1024.
  • Video-out support (NTSC/PAL) TV system. (Optional)
  • Fill Rate: 1.1 Billion Texels/Sec.
  • Triangles per Second: 34 Million
  • Memory Bandwidth: 6.4GB/Sec.
  • Maximum Memory: 64MB

nView Display Technology:

The nView hardware and software technology combination delivers maximum flexibility for multi-display options, and provides great end-user control of their desktop. nView allows end-users to select any combination of multiple displays, including digital flat panels, analog CRTs, and TVs, and to modify the display properties using an intuitive software interface.

  • Windows® Integration: Seamless integration within the familiar Windows environment
  • Setup Wizard: Enables quick and easy installation of nView multi-display
  • Transparency Effects: Quickly view hidden applications on cluttered desktops
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer® Extension: Enables more efficient web searches
  • Hot keys: Bind every nView action to a keyboard hot key
  • Advanced zoom features: Quickly enlarge portions of the screen to view information easier and to do precision editing
  • Desktop management: Create up to 32 different Windows desktop workspaces to control information flow
  • Window and application management: Gives users full control over repositioning dialog boxes and application windows
Accuview Antialiasing (AA):

The Accuview Antialiasing subsystem with advanced multisampling hardware delivers full-scene antialiased quality at high performance levels.

Lightspeed Memory Architecture (LMA) II:

LMA II boosts effective memory bandwidth by up to 300%. New technologies―including Z-occlusion culling, fast Z-clear, and auto pre-charge―effectively multiply the memory bandwidth to ensure fluid frame rates for the latest 3D and 2D games and applications.
  • A crossbar-based memory controller: Ensures that every aspect of the memory system is balanced and that all memory requests by the graphics processor are handled properly. Under complex loads, LMA II?s memory crossbar architecture delivers 2-4 times the memory bandwidth of other standard architectures.
  • A Quad Cache memory caching subsystem: High-speed access buffers that store small amounts of data and operate at tremendously high bandwidth, ensuring that data is queued and ready to be written to the memory. These caches are individually optimized for the specific information they deal with, resulting in almost instantaneous retrieval of key data.
     
  • Lossless Z-buffer compression: Reduces Z-buffer traffic?one of the largest consumers of memory bandwidth in a graphics subsystem?by a factor of four, without any reduction in image quality or precision.
  • A visibility subsystem: Determines whether or a not a pixel will be visible in a scene. If it determines a pixel will not be visible, the pixel is not rendered, saving valuable frame buffer bandwidth.
  • Fast Z-clear technology: Minimizes the time it takes to clear the old data in the Z-buffer, boosting frame rates up to 10% without compromising image quality.
  • Auto pre-charge: Warns the memory device of areas of the memory likely to be used in the very near future, allowing the GPU to spend less time waiting for memory and more time rendering pixels.

API SUPPORT

  • DirectDraw
  • Direct3D
  • DirectVideo
  • DirectX 8.1
  • Open GL ICD for Windows 95/98/2000/XP/NT

OS SUPPORT

  • Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP/NT
     
Installation, Drivers and Image Quality
Anyone can do this...

Thankfully, we did not run into any technical difficulties when installing the cards or drivers, for any of the seven products we'll be looking at today.  We always test on systems that have a clean installation of Windows, which eliminates the possibility of left over drivers interfering with any product we're reviewing.

The GeForce 4 MX 440 uses NVIDIA's unified Detonator XP drivers, that we've covered in quite a few previous articles before, so we won't be delving into their quality or functionality today.  If you're interested in taking a refresher course, check out this link.  Dave spent a little time covering them there.


CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW...

Although the GeForce 4 MX has gotten a significant amount of negative press, we have to admit, gaming with any of these cards was just fine.  Obviously, running benchmarks side by side with a more powerful product, shows the GeForce 4 MX's shortcomings, but it handled every game we threw at it adequately.  Above you'll see a few screen shot's of Lucas Art's hit, Jedi Knight II.  We took all of these screen shots at 1024x768 with 4X antialiasing enabled.  As you can see, the colors are vibrant and the AA quality is top notch.

2D Image quality and DVD playback were also very good.  NVIDIA's 2D has been criticized in the past, but with their latest products, their troubles seem to be over.  On a Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2040U, at desktop resolutions up to 1600x1200x32, text remained crisp and colors remained smooth and uniform from edge to edge.  We used PowerDVD 4 to playback a few action scenes from the movie "Independence Day" and were pleased with the results as well.  There was minimal tearing and no noticeable dropped frames at all.

The Cards... 

Tags:  Nvidia, GeForce, X4, force, Up!, id

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