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Matrox Millennium G200 Box

MATROX MILLENNIUM G200 AGP
Reviewed by Vijay Anand (25 August 98)

Video Card Specifications

Interface AGP 2x
Chipset MGA-G200
Ram 8 MB 100 Mhz Samsung SGRAM 7ns
Data Path 128 bit DualBus (2 64-bit buses)
RAMDAC 250 Mhz
TV-Output NA
Video Playback MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DVD, Indeo, & Cinepak
Supported Resolutions 640 x 480 - 1920 x 1200
Supported Refresh Rates 60 - 200 Hz

< Introduction > < The Good > < The Bad >
< Test System Configuration > < Conclusion > < Rating >
< Viewers' Contributions >


Introduction

From the makers of the famous MGA-Millennium & Millennium-2 professional series of video cards that have garnered numerous awards over the years (e.g. Cadalyst Editor's Choice to PC-Computing's MVP winner) comes the highly hyped Matrox Millennium G200. It combines a powerful chipset & fast memory to do intensive CAD/CAM/DTP in extremely high resolutions & colour depths as well as to excel in 3D games. Previous Millennium(s) could only offer great 2D & hardly any 3D but now you get 2D, 3D, MPEG-2 decoding, more memory all at a very attractive price tag of $230.

This card comes in the above-shown packaged box, which somewhat resembles the Millennium-2 box. On opening the box, you can see that the small video card is safely packaged in a huge transparent-moulded-plastic.

These are the contents of the box:

The card is accompanied by a simple but detailed manual with illustrations that lists all the info you need & gets straight to the point. Within the first few pages, you will find a nice 'Powered by Matrox' decal (in fact there are 10!) to paste it on your CPU or monitor. Overall this is one of the best manuals to date.

Matrox Millennium G200

Here are the softwares that are given on the installation CD (web-publishers would like it!):

  • Matrox Millennium G200 Drivers ver: 4.10.01.4100

  • Netscape Communicator

  • Micrografx Picture Publisher-8

  • PointCast

  • Micrografx Simply3D-3

  • DirectX 5 (Still DX5! Hope it ships with DX6 soon!)

  • Imagination Software

  • Kodak-Colorific

The high-quality PCB is of the same size of the Riva-128 cards. The MGA-G200 chipset is completely hidden by the heatsink which is twice the size of the chip & is attached my means of 2 plastic stubs + thermal compound. There are 4 pieces of 2Mb Samsung SGRAM chips at the end of the board, 2 in front & 2 directly behind. There is high quality ram slot to expand the current 8mb to 16mb SGRAM. There are also 3 feature connectors, mostly to be used with the Matrox add-on(s). Oddly the 15-pin d-sub connector is placed very high up the face plate.

Installation of the card is a no-brainer. Installation is similar to most Video cards. Driver installation is guided by the simple Matrox setup program. If one does need aid in installing the drivers, the manual explains the process.

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The Good

The Matrox Millennium G200 Experience

When you first hook up the card & fire up windows, you'll be able to notice a small difference in that the display is sharper & clearer thanks to it's 250MHz RAMDAC. That small difference could be quite important to some. Combining it's high speed RAMDAC,SGRAM & the MGA-G200, the card can deliver up to 1920x1200 @ 16.7-million colours (60-76Hz refresh rates) in 2D! (try finding a monitor to max the card!)

In 3D the resolution can be as impressive: 1920x1080 @ 65K-colour & 1152x864 @ 16.7-million colours. All this means it's very suitable for DTP/CAD users to work with large monitors + large work loads at high resolutions & refresh rates comfortably. I doubt we would ever use such high resolutions in 3D but it is there when needed.

Data within the card can travel at very high speeds thanks to a 128-bit DualBus data-path. It's essentially combining 2 buses which are 64-bit wide each, but each bus transfers data in the opposite direction, e.g. data can be sent in parallel to & from the graphics engine. This can elevate performance because current video card can make use of the whole bus to either receive or send data on a particular cycle.

Matrox Powerdesk Utilities

The Matrox Powerdesk utilities are some of the best video-card utilities in the market. You can change resolutions & colour-depth on the fly, assign hot keys for frequent tasks, change monitor colour through individual RGB colours & many other correction features. It even has a utility to check the status of your video-card. In ACPI configured systems, you can suspend & resume very much faster. Matrox drivers are unique in the sense that they have implemented a Unified Driver system for all Matrox video card models & OS. The usage of the same driver & same method of installation for operating systems results in less headaches in large oraganisations & is easier to manage.

3D Quality & Features

In Quake-2 the whole scene looks sharper & runs smooth & fast, better than the Riva-128 condsiderably.
In another game, Ultimate-Race Pro, the whole scene is more defined & is slightly clearer than the Riva-128. The rain & wind are very much more realastic than the Riva too!(You can't even see the wind on the Riva boards!). Car decals are easy to decipher too.

The 3D Features are :

Quite a lot of 3D-video cards out there only have a standard 16-bit rendering engine while the G200 is equipped with a 32-bit rendering engine. What this means is if the games have 32-bit bitmaps, then the whole scene on the monitor would sharper, brighter& realastic than a 16-bit bitmapped game, but not by a lot. If a 16-bit bitmapped game is passed through the G200's 32-bit rendering engine, the quality would be equal to other video cards.

Extras

This card like the new ATI products support software DVD acceleration. A definite Bonus! but if you do run a DVD title by software & multi-task between other software, you'll definitely see a slow-down. If this is the case, you can upgrade the G-200 to include hardware DVD or include the Rainbow-Runner-G series to gain TV and video capture cum editing facilities that are very good.

One last item, the Kodak Colorific program helps users in WYSIWYG printing. Extremely useful for more professional work. It is to be used with the Kodak Colorific Reference Card.

The Benchmarks

I have benchmarked the G-200 in Windows98 with DirectX-6 update. OpenGL-3D Wrapper is also installed.

So here they are :

Matrox Millennium G200 AGP 8MB 100MHz SGRAM

Benchmarking Softwares K6-300 (3.0 x 100MHz) K6-350 (3.5 x 100Mhz)
Wintune98 Video (2D) / Mps 59.19 72.97
Wintune98 Direct3D / Mps 50.14 52.15
Wintune98 OpenGL* / Mps 6.2 7.98
Quake 2 Timedemo1 / fps 30.4 28.8
Quake 2 Timedemo2 / fps 28.8 29.7
Ultimate Race Pro** (DirectX) /fps 19 20
Ultimate Race Pro** (Video) MB/s 74 75

Done @ 640 x 480 with OpenGL for Quake II V3.14 & Ultimate Race Pro tests and @ 1024 x 768 for the rest of the other tests.

* Note: No OpenGL-ICD yet, therefore low scores.
**Note: In Ultimate Race Pro, the GFX options set are: Skid marks-On, Smoke-On, Sparks-On, Reflection Map-On.

Overall the results look good and can be expected to improve in performance & appearance when the G200's OpenGL ICD is released. Some odd results are the video speed in Wintune 98 @ K6-2-300, Quake2 Timedemo1 test @ K6-2-350 & the Wintune 98 score for Direct3D is low. There is a major flaw when operating the G200 with a MVP3 m/board, that could be affecting the results (See the BAD section).

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The Bad

Unfortunatly, there is a major flaw. The G200 thrashes your system, freezes, restarts the system or after restarting the PC, you'll get a dialog box saying the display card is not configured well, when used only with a VIA-MVP3 motherboard auch as this AOpen board I'm using. Now this is a major setback. It is not clear whether is it the G200's fault or the VIA-MVP3 CE chipset that should have supposedly fixed up most problems (with the latter being more of a culprit). There is a work-around for this but it did not make my system stable. Here's the location of the work-around + some other issues regarding the G200 & I hope it'll work for others : http://www.matroxusers.com

Because of this problem, you would have some difficulty in getting the card to be installed properly before you can try this work-around.

Another concern for stability is that the Matrox Millennium G200 has very high heat output. Even with the provided extra-large heat-sink & thermal compound attached to the small G200 chipset, it is quite hot. I'm not sure if this could also be a culprit in the above mentioned restarts & freezes. To be safe, you can have a slot-fan next to the G200.

Here are the minor bad-points: 1st, the software bundle is rather narrowly selected to highlighting more on the web-publishing side. It would be nicer if Matrox could provide wider professional software & throw at least some demo games optimized for this card. No TV-output; Matrox decided to leave out this feature in this professional card & is saving some cost. It's sibling,the Mystique G200 using the 230MHz RAMDAC & 8Mb SDRAM, has TV-output as it is a SOHO card. No OpenGL ICD yet(only 3D wrapper available so far). Should be released soon.

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Test System Configuration

Processor(s) AMD K6-2-333 0.25 micron Chip
Underclocked/Overclocked Configuration 300MHz (3.0 x 100.0 MHz)
350Mhz (3.5 x 100.0 Mhz)
Ram 64MB 100MHz LGS SDRAM Dimm
Motherboard AOpen AX59pro with 1MB L2 cache
HardDrive(s) IBM Deskstar-3 3.2GB
Operating System MS Windows 98 Build 4.10.1998
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 6
Other software used Matrox Millennium G200 OpenGL 3D-wrapper
Video Card(s) Matrox Millennium G200
Video Card Bios Ver 1.2
Video Card Drivers Ver 4.10.01.4100

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Conclusion

If you can live without the TV-Output, this is one of the best all-round video cards around, and priced below $230, it speaks for itself. Those still using video cards based on the Riva-128, please do not go dump it yet as it still has plenty of life. Although many reviews including this one compares the reviewed board with a Riva-128 board most of the time, it is because the Riva-128 has fast become a kind of standard. It still does very fast 2D & 3D (although not up to the brand new ones) & the image quality is nothing to complain of. It's just that the brand new cards are a bit better here & there which makes them stand-out.

And for those using a super-7 motherboard based on the VIA-MVP3, I suggest it is safer to stay clear from this card until a fix is ready, either by VIA or Matrox. Another suggestion is to borrow your friend's G200 & try it on your system with the above mentioned work-around. If it succeeds in working for a long period, then I think it's safe to buy the G200 (If you opt to do this, make sure you run the all your favourite games & apps for a while to make sure it's stable).


VIDEO CARD RATING

Overall Rating (Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

Installation ****
Performance ****
Price ****
Software Bundle ****
Material Quality ****
Overall Rating ****

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Viewers' Contributions

Vincent Tay - "Your review of the Matrox Millennium G200 is informative. However, there's one small 'error' .. regarding the VIA MVP3 on the AOpen motherboard. I've the same setup as your test rig but using the DFI P5bV3 instead. There's no such problem as reported by your reviewer. I've been using this card for the past few days and I really enjoys the performance. However, there seems to be a problem on Final Fantasy 7. The display on the screen where you select your materia, members etc looks funny. This is not true on the main game's screen."

Reply from Vijay Anand - "Thank you, Mr.Vincent! Well I recommended people to stay away from using this G200 board with the MVP3 chipset because most of those boards have the problem that I stated. The DFI BV3+ board (I am fan of DFi boards & will review this soon!), is a bit late in to the market but still it manged to make it's very first board using the new CE chipset, while boards like the AOpen used released their at boards on the CD chipset then migrated to CE. Conclusion is that the DFI board is generally a newer board & is better engineered, therfore less problems (this explains why it's late!). About the Final Fantasy-7 game, there is conflict with the G200 & there is a work-around detailed at the web-site: http://www.matroxusers.com


Eric Tay - "Hi Jackie, it's ET again. 8P I've just read the reviews for the G200. Have u tried the fellow on a BX board? I'm pretty sure it'll run very well there.  The VIA & ALi m/b are using proprietary technology to implement the AGPset and it's not 100% compatible with AGP 2x yet. I've seen many pple having problems with the ATI Rage Pro cards coz of this same problem. The AGP support is just not stable enuff! I estimate it'll take another 1 1/2 months for it to stabilise.  The Rage Pro card is the first card to fully implement the AGP 2x protocol with sideband addressing etc., but otherwise the 3D engine is not particularly fast. I've tried it on a BX board and it runs without a problem. 8) I've also tried the G100 and it too run well on a BX."

Reply from Vijay Anand -  "My exact thoughts, Mr.Tay! The G200 receieved 4-stars all around becuase it will work without problems on a P2 system. If it had not been for the super-7 problems, the rating would be 4.5 stars!"


Keng Leong - "Hi ! I have just tested this G200 together with MSI 5169 ALI Chipset...!!system reboot, freezes, and lots more funny stuff... What could be wrong ? Should we install the AGP drivers provided by the mainbaord manufacturers? I don't think it got anything to do with the VIA chip then...!!"

Reply from Vijay Anand - "I'm sorry but I did not have time to mention about the ALI chipset! It too has problems as well as the VIA-MVP3 & SIS 5591. There is a work-around for your ALI-5 board at http://www.matroxusers.com.   Mainly you have to set the card to run at the AGP 1X instead of 2X. This will make the board stable but you lose performance.(This board is 2X AFP board!)"


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