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NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 440 Video Cards Roundup

March 11, 2002



Part 2

March 11, 2002



March 2002:

March 11, 2002



Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample

By Andrew Worobyew

Spring... It's time to awake from the winter hibernation... And NVIDIA, like a she-bear with its bear-cubs, goes out with its GeForce babies...

But why MX440? Why not the junior MX420? First of all, the MX440 is quite cheap in production and its price is already lower than that of GeForce2 Ti cards. Secondly, the MX420 has a strict upper limit, that is why it won't be possible to skim the cream off in the beginning by making the prices high. You know the MX440 is selling now at $100-110, and in the nearest time the price will fall down below $100, and the MX420 will have to be priced at, at most, $70 (retail!). As you remember, the GeForce2 MX cost $150-170 in the very beginning when the GeForce2 GTS had unbelievably high prices; that is why the MX420 won't be popular with manufacturers. I think the MX420 will be mainly produced by noname companies using the base from the MX400, the memory is the same, it is only the chip which is different. Thirdly, production of MX460 cards will be expensive because of 3.6ns memory (in a BGA package), and the price of GeForce3 Ti200 have dropped to $150-180 being very close to the MX440. You see that it's quite a problem for a new product to get into such a narrow price range. Besides, MX460 is not a good substitute for the GeForce3 Ti200 cards. You can find out here why.

That is why the MX440 cards are first to come out into the market: they got a definite niche to occupy and they got what to replace - GeForce2 GTS/Pro/Ti. The MX420 is meant to replace the MX400, but it seems that the manufacturers do not want to set such low prices as $50-70. But it's only what I think.

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards which concern functional properties of the NVIDIA GeForce4 MX GPU

In our first part we examined 4 video cards which were first to appear on the market. Today we are going to take a look at 4 more cards on the GeForce4 MX 440 which are also production models.

Cards

All cards have an AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 4 chips on both sides of the PCB.

Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample

Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
Samsung 4ns memory chips. The card operates at 270/200 (400) MHz.
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
Samsung 4ns memory chips. The card operates at 270/200 (400) MHz.
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
Samsung 5ns memory chips. The card operates at 270/200 (400) MHz.
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample
Samsung 4ns memory chips. The card operates at 290/200 (400) MHz in a usual mode and at 290/220 (440) MHz in the extreme one.
Comparison with the reference design, front view Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 440
Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample

Comparison with the reference design, back view Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 440
Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample

All card except the Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX 440 come with 4ns memory which means that the memory is potentially able to work at 250 (500) MHz.

Besides, all cards follow the reference design. They differ only in color and coolers. Keep in mind that the GeForce4 MX 440 doesn't need much cooling (for example, ASUSTeK equip its cards only with a passive pin heatsink).

Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
A very simple cooler - an aluminum plate with turned up "petals" which serve as fins.
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
This is the most original construction. Its effectiveness is also high as it is an all-metal heatsink.
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
A traditional construction of the heatsink with not many fins plus a fan. Palit uses such construction on almost all its cards for several years already.
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample
Usually Gainward produces cylindrical coolers similar to that of the Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440. This one looks like a flower and is not very effective, though such cards don't need to be cooled much.

The developers don't place the second VGA connector, though there is a seat for it. It's strange because there is everything to active the dual-head support. I have two ideas: either there are problems in the GeForce4 MX440 chip or it's the marketing step (probably, they are going to release the second revision with the second head but at a higher price).

All the cards have TV-out (realized by the GPU), and almost all have an S-Video-to-RCA adapter.

Now about what accessories the cards have:

Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
CDs with drivers and PhotoImpact, user manual, S-Video-to-RCA and DVI-to-VGA adapters, mouse pad.
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
CD with drivers, user manual, S-Video-to-RCA adapter, S-Video extender.
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
CD with drivers.
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample
CD with drivers, user manual, CD with a WinDVD player, S-Video-to-RCA adapter, S-Video extender.

All cards ship in the retail package (apart from the Palit, which is available both in the retail package and in the OEM one, though the set of accessories is the same).

Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440
Look at the box's design.
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440
As you can see, 2 boxes of 4 are similar. The Prolink PixelView GeForce4 MX440 also has the same.
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440
The card arrived in a white package, and this picture is from the site
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample
On the front side of the package there is a little label below which indicates that the box contains the GeForce4 MX440. And the back side displays... GeForce4 Ti 4600. Although it's written that not all mentioned functions are supported, the package looks like common for the whole GeForce4 series. It's an unfair way to save on the package. There are a lot of users who won't notice a little sticker below.

As far as TV-out is concerned, see the previous material.

Overclocking

Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX440 270/400 -> 305/460 MHz
Sparkle GeForce4 MX440 270/400 -> 305/470 MHz
Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX440 270/400 -> 290/460 MHz
Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX440 Golden Sample 290/440 -> 310/470 MHz

The 4ns memory doesn't help much the overclocking. Even at 250 (500) MHz (the rated frequency) some artifacts could be noticed. The overclocking of the GPU is not much beneficial either.

Note:

  • in course of overclocking you must provide additional cooling, in particular, for the card (first of all, for its memory):
  • overclocking depends on a definite sample, and you shouldn't generalize the results of one card to all video cards of this mark or series. The overclocking results are not the obligatory characteristics of a video card.

Test system and drivers

Testbed:

  • Pentium 4 based computer (Socket 478):
    • Intel Pentium 4 2200 (L2=512K);
    • ASUS P4T-E (i850) mainboard;
    • 512 MBytes RDRAM PC800;
    • Quantum FB AS HDD, 20 GBytes;
    • Windows XP.

The test system was coupled with ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors.

In the tests we used NVIDIA's drivers of v27.30. VSync was off, S3TC was off.

For the comparative analyses we used the following cards:

  • MSI GF4MX440 (GeForce4 MX 440, 270/200 (400) MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • Gainward GeForce2 Ti/500 (250/200 (400) MHz, 64 MBytes);
  • ATI RADEON 7500 (RADEON 7500, 290/230 (460) MHz, 64 MBytes, driver 6.043).

Test results

The 2D quality is very high of all cards, and you can work comfortably at 1600x1200x75 Hz and 1280x1024x100 Hz. But you must have a high-quality monitor and use connection via BNC. Besides, 2D quality much depends on a sample of the card and on its friendliness towards a monitor.

For estimation of 3D quality we used:

  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Grand Cathedral demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF, Trilinear
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, mulitexturing, Checkpoint-demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded from here

We use few tests because there is our 3Digest where we compare a lot of cards in a great deal of tests. And this time we just compare several production cards.

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

Grand Cathedral, quality mode

The tests were carried out in a 32-bit color mode.

Look how good the RADEON 7500 performs when three texture units for a pixel pipeline are activated. Although the graphics is complicated this card is a leader in high resolutions. The GeForce2 Ti is an outsider. We see again that the GeForce4 MX 440 is en excellent substitute for the aging GeForce2.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)

Checkpoint, High Quality Modes

The tests were carried out in 32-bit color mode at the highest detailing and quality level of textures.

Now the leader is the GeForce4 MX 440. And the RADEON 7500 falls behind.

DVD playback

The GeForce4 MX has a new engine of MPEG2 flow decoding. Unfortunately, there are no DVD players able to work with this engine. NVIDIA is going to release its NVDVD model soon:

We used its beta version to check operability of the new processor.

Example 1
NVIDIA GeForce2 Ti
NVIDIA GeForce3
NVIDIA GeForce4 MX
ATI RADEON 7500
Example 2
NVIDIA GeForce2 Ti
NVIDIA GeForce3
NVIDIA GeForce4 MX
ATI RADEON 7500
Example 3
NVIDIA GeForce2 Ti
NVIDIA GeForce3
NVIDIA GeForce4 MX
ATI RADEON 7500

The CPU utilization when the NVDVD worked on the GeForce4 MX 440 was jumping from 5% to 20%. Usual players (PowerDVD 4.0, WinDVD 3.2) are not able to work with the GeForce4 MX normally.

Conclusion

We examined today 4 production video cards based on the GeForce4 MX 440. On the whole, I must say that such an accelerator is a very strong competitor against the ATI RADEON 7500 and a killer of the GeForce2 Ti. The common drawback is lack of the DVI.

Besides, in some cards the BIOS is incompatible with some drivers of v27.* in the Windows 9x. The monitor displays just snow and strips. You can cure it by flashing the new BIOS.

  1. Inno3D Tornado GeForce4 MX 440 has a good set of accessories and a relatively low price (but remember that there are a lot of forged cards, that is why you should check the logo on the cards).
  2. Sparkle GeForce4 MX 440 has an interesting design and not a high price.
  3. Palit Daytona GeForce4 MX 440 has the lowest price, though the set of accessories is quite scarce.
  4. Gainward PowerPack GeForce4 MX 440 Golden Sample is the most interesting card, but the price is also almost the highest. Nevertheless, Gainward quality, increased and flawlessly operating frequencies can attract much attention to this card.

The complete characteristics of video cards of this and other classes can be found in our 3Digest.

Highs:

  • Excellent performance in 3D graphics (higher than of the GeForce2 Ti cards);
  • High quality of the cards;
  • A good set of accessories of the Retail package of the InnoVision and Gainward cards;
  • Increased frequencies of the Gainward;
  • Relatively low prices for the Palit and Sparkle (lower than $110-115 at the beginning of March);
  • Faster 4ns memory.

Lows:

  • Scarce sets of accessories of the Palit and Sparkle.

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