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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [09.05.02]
Manufactured by: MSI
MSRP: $199 

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As you can see, this is a sharp-looking card, with MSI's trademark red PCB, topped by a silver heatsink and fan with fins designed to redirect air over the TSOP RAM chips and help in cooling them. And, just to make sure, the upper surface of the heatsink portion (not the fan, obviously) has a clear plastic cover to force air through the ENTIRE surface area of the fins before squirting out the side, whereas some other HSF units might end up pushing the air out through the top.

MSI includes 2 VGA outs on this card, which is incredibly useful when combined with NVIDIA's NVIEW technology, but it's not as flexible a configuration as a VGA out combined with a DVI-out with an included DVI-to-VGA adapter (they include one with all cards that have a DVI connector on board). But the small jack in the middle (the one that looks like an S-video port) is of particular interest.

It attaches to the included dongle that contains 2 RCA and 2 S-Video jacks...1 each in and out, giving the card full video-in and video-out, or VIVO capability (as ATI originally named it). Hmm...for a budget GeForce4TI, this card is seeming pretty sweet.

MSI didn't stop there...they decided to fill the box up with a few more "odds and ends." There's an S-Video cable (1.8 meters, or about 5.91 feet), the aforementioned VIVO dongle (no need for RCA/S-Video adapters) and software.

A LOT of software. There are demos of Ballistics, Ghost Recon, Rogue Spear, Commanche4, Fallout Tactics, and SWAT 3. Plus full versions of Serious Sam: The First Encounter, Aquanox, Sacrifice, and No One Lives Forever. Plus the MSI software bundle, including their LiveUpdate BIOS and driver online utility for automatic updates, MSI DVD, which is an MSI-branded version of Intervideo WinDVD, and 3D Turbo Experience!

And the InterVideo relationship continues with WinProducer 2.0 and WinCoder2.0, including the Professional User's Pack. This is a full video editing and encoding suite, rather than a limited or special "dumbed-down" edition that is bundled with some video hardware. A complete review of this software is a bit beyond the scope of this review, but it's a very complete solution for real-time capture of video, and will handle modification and editing, encoding into AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, and MPEG4, and burning to Video CD through the SONIC CD recording engine. That's a WHOLE LOT for bundled software.

The Drivers

MSI simply re-labels the NVIDIA Detonator drivers, and distributes them with the card. They're the typical NVIDIA fare, with a lot of options contained in a lot of dialog boxes. Using them with a geForce4 doesn't seem to add much as opposed to using them under a GeForce3 card. NVIDIA's drivers are pretty common, but getting a bit hard to handle. After all, the manual for their drivers is over 100 pages (The PDF manual is available on

But MSI also adds in 2 of their own custom-designed dialogs in addition to the Detonator dialogs. One contains complete information on the card, and the other is an overclocking utility. Since these tabs are right in the Display Properties dialog, instead of buried under Advanced Properties under Settings, general information and overclocking is much more accessible.

It also saves you from having to install PowerStrip if you want to overclock the video card. These additional dialogs will remain accessible, even if you run the Detonator executable to upgrade the drivers at a later date, which is a virtue available only when adding on to reference drivers rather than modifying or replacing them; the MSI dialogs are simply plug-in modules to the Detonators.

There's a driver issue, but it's general to all NVIDIA cards. It's also the reason why MSI has 4 different versions of their drivers available on their site. With most VIA-chipset-based Athlon boards (KT-133, KT266 and 266A, and KM-266) they will not function properly, corrupting polygons and textures, and basically making everything look REALLY weird. This issue affects MSI's 28.90 drivers, as well as NVIDIA's 29.42 Detonators (which appear to perform identically). MSI provides the 28.90 drivers in the box with the video card, so if you're using one of these chipsets, you have to go to MSI's support section and download the 27.20 or 30.00 drivers instead.

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