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GeForce2 MX - Asus 7100 vs. VisionTek





Author: Spot
Posted on: 3/15/2001
Discuss: In the forums




Introduction
GeForce2 MX cards have been out for some time now and they are the video card solution for many gamers due to their price/performance ratio (and due to the fact that many video cards are more expensive than some motherboard/processor combos). Not everyone that loves fragging can afford to go out and spend 350-500 dollars for one of the top of the line cards. Because of this, we are going to check out just how well a couple of these cards perform. Today we will be comparing the Asus 7100 GeForce2 MX with the VisionTek GeForce2 MX. Does one perform any better than the other? Let's find out.

A Little MX Background
The GeForce2 MX chipset is based on the more expensive and better performing GeForce2 GTS. There are several similarities AND differences between these chipsets. The biggest similarity is both chipsets use the .18 micron process as opposed to the .25 micron process which was used with the GeForce 256. This .18 micron process allows for less power consumption than the older .25 micron process. Another important similarity is both the GTS and the MX chipsets use 2 texels per pipeline whereas the GeForce 256 only used one. The biggest difference between the GTS and the MX chipset is the number of rendering pipelines. The GTS has four rendering pipelines running at 200MHz each, while the MX only has two running at a toned down 175MHz. That means the maximum theoretical fill rate of the GTS chipset is 800 Mpixels per second (200MHz x 4 pipelines) or 1.6 Gtexels per second. On the other hand, the MX chipset has a maximum theoretical fill rate of 350 Mpixels per second (175MHz x 2 pipelines) or 700 Mtexels per second. Now that we have a little understanding of the major differences between the MX, the GTS, and the GeForce 256 chipsets, let's get on to the cards that will be on the table today.

The Cards
As I mentioned earlier, we are going to take a look at the Asus 7100 GeForce2 MX, and the VisionTek GeForce2 MX. We are even going to throw in a GeForce 256 reference card into the mix to see the difference between it and the MX cards, since both of the MX cards and the GeForce 256 card have 32 MB of 166MHz SDR memory. The obvious noticeable difference between the two MX cards is the VisionTek does NOT come with a HSF unit on the chipset while the Asus 7100 does. I didn't run into any lockups or other heat related problems with either of the MX cards during testing, but you might want to slap a Blue Orb or a similar cooling solutiuon on the VisionTek card if you're going to be overclocking it for long periods of time. Here are the two MX cards in all their glory:

VisionTek GeForce2 MX Asus 7100 GeForce2 MX


I'm not going to bore you by covering the installation details for either of these cards. If you can't RTFM, then you probably own a pre-fabbed machine and you DEFINITELY wouldn't be here reading this article to find out which card performs better. Nor am I going to waste time covering which software/drivers came bundled with either card. It's rare when I even look at the software that comes as part of the package, because it's never anything good. (Is it?) I exclusively use reference drivers and often beta drivers for all my Nvidia needs. With that being said, let's move onto the testing.

System Setup
You gotta know the system specs for the benchmarks right? Here they are!
  • Motherboard - Asus A7V Bios 1005D
  • CPU - AMD T-Bird 1.2GHz (12 x 100)
  • OS - Windows ME 4.90.3000
  • DirectX - 7.1 (4.07.01.3000)
  • Memory - (1) 128MB PC 133 CAS 3
  • Storage - 20GB Western Digital 7200RPM ATA/100
  • NIC - D-Link DFE-530 TX+ 10/100
  • Detonator Drivers - 10.50 Beta
  • Via 4-in-1 Drivers - 4.28
3D Mark 2000 Benchmark
MadOnion's 3DMark 2000 was used for the DirectX test since 3DMark 2001 hasn't been released yet. The default benchmark was run at the default core and memory speeds of 175MHz / 166MHz respectively and again at the maximum core and memory speeds of 220MHz / 210MHz for the MX cards. The GeForce 256 card defaults to 120MHz core and 166MHz memory speeds and max's out at 150MHz Core / 210MHz memory.

Default Core and
Mem. Speeds
Max. Core and
Mem. Speeds


The GeForce 256 and the MX cards scored very competitively when running at default speeds, but the 256 failed miserably when overclocked to the maximum. As soon as the default benchmark was launched it locked the whole machine up and I was forced to reboot. Both MX cards had an increase in score of nearly 1000 points when overclocking them to 220/210. You must look at the numbers and not just the pictures because the visual aspect of the graphs are a little misleading making the VisionTek appear as if it completely owned the other two cards when there was only 35 3D marks separating it from the Asus 7100. If you have ever run 3DMark 2000, you know that minor variances will occur from test to test. In both cases (default and overclocked) it was less than a 1% lead by VisionTek, so for all practical purposes these cards can be considered even in this benchmark.

Quake 3 Benchmarks
Quake 3 benchmarks were completed using Point Release 1.17 with the settings found in the image to the right. "Color Depth" and "Texture Quality" were changed from 16 bit to 32 bit in each of the tested resolutions. Demo 1 was run twice in each benchmark and averaged to get the score listed below. You should also know that sound was turned ON. We feel the best way to benchmark a video card is to test the card as it would be used in a real life situation. Who the hell wants to see it perform at 140 FPS with no sound? Do you play with no sound? I've seen people get pissed off because they went out and bought a card based on the kick-ass FPS it was getting in a review only to realize too late that there was no sound during the tests. Anyway, on with the results.

Default Core and
Mem. Speeds - 16 Bit
Max. Core and
Mem. Speeds - 16 Bit


The three cards are very close at all resolutions using default speeds in 16 bit mode and the GeForce 256 actually leads by a few FPS at lower resolutions. The testing so far shows there is no significant difference between the performance of the two MX cards. In all tests above, overclocked or not, there was never more than 1 FPS between the two of them. They both had about the same performance increase from stock speed to max speed and again, the GeForce 256 did not like to be OC'ed to the hilt. Let's move on to 32 bit mode:

Default Core and
Mem. Speeds - 32 Bit
Max. Core and
Mem. Speeds - 32 Bit


Just like in the 16 bit tests, there was no significant difference between the scores of the Asus 7100 and the VisionTek. There was only one occasion where the VisionTek broke that 1 FPS difference barrier between the two. The GeForce2 MX cards are still right on track with the 256 card, even in 32 bit mode. As far as the overclocked 256? ....I think you can figure that one out by now.

Conclusion
One of the things that I have found from reading other reviews of MX cards is that everybody seems to love them no matter what brand it is. Everybody says "it is a great budget card". If you look at all of the tests above, it is clear to see that both MX cards AND the GeForce 256 card perform very similar at default core and memory settings. Now that GeForce 256 SDR cards have dropped to very reasonable prices, the money is not as much of a factor as it was 4 months ago. I have seen people with SDR cards looking to upgrade to an MX card because it is "newer" and therefore "better". This is not the case unless you are simply trying to overclock the card to gain a few more FPS. The MX card was produced at the time when GeForce 256 cards were over $200 and Nvidia was looking produce a lower priced performance card. They have very successfully accomplished this with the GeForce2 MX.

I do believe that IF you are building a new machine from scratch or upgrading from some antique video card then the GeForce2 MX card will be a very good solution. But, if you have a GeForce 256 card and are thinking about an MX card because it is "newer" and "better", don't go out and blow your money. Keep saving and get a card that will make a major difference in your frame rates like the GTS or Ultra. If you're really feeling rich, you can get yourself a GeForce3 in the very near future.

Now let's take a look at which MX card is better between the Asus 7100, and the VisionTek. The results from the benchmarks are WAY too close to say that one performs better than the other. For all practical purposes, these cards are a complete draw. But if they were sitting on a shelf next to each other at the exact same price, I think I would take the VisionTek. "Why?", you ask? There was never more than 1 FPS between the two in Quake 3, and less than 1% difference in 3D Mark scores, but you may have noticed (or maybe not) that the Asus 7100 never beat the VisionTek in any of the tests that were run.









Copyright © by LWD All Rights Reserved.

Published on: 2004-09-07 (17844 reads)

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