early February '02
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.
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.
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.
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
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
- Integrated NVIDIA
GeForce4 MX series high performance GPU. (270MHz.)
64MB/128MB high-speed 128bit DDR RAM/SDRAM memory.
- NVIDIA nVIEW TM
- Lightspeed Memory
TM Architecture (LMA) II
- Accuview TM
- Video Processing
Engine (VPE) enables the highest-quality,
full-frame rate, full-screen HDTV and DVD without
requiring a high-performance CPU.
hardware transform and lighting engine.
- Integrated 32-bit
color and 32-bit Z/Stencil Buffer.
- Integrated Cube
environment mapping, and true reflective bump
(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
- Video-out support
(NTSC/PAL) TV system. (Optional)
- Fill Rate: 1.1
- Triangles per
Second: 34 Million
- Memory Bandwidth:
- Maximum Memory:
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.
Integration: Seamless integration within the
familiar Windows environment
- Setup Wizard:
Enables quick and easy installation of nView
Effects: Quickly view hidden applications on
- Microsoft Internet
Explorer® Extension: Enables more efficient web
- 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
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
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 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
- 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.
- DirectX 8.1
- Open GL ICD for
Installation, Drivers and Image Quality
Anyone can do
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
check out this link. Dave spent a little time
covering them there.
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN
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.
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.