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Reviewed By: Carl 'lowlight' Nelson [09.23.00]
Manufactured by: MSI
Suggested Price: $150 Find a MUCH lower price on IBuyer


Bargain Hunters Rejoice!

By now, you know that there are about 3 million companies making their own card based on Nvidia's GeForce 2 MX chip.  And why not? We know that the GF2MX is an easy contender for the ultimate "wallet friendly" gaming video card! The problem with having so many manufacturers making the same card, is you will see a lot that are basically the same thing.  I don't think many companies have strayed from the reference design of ANY graphics chipset since Canopus with its Pure 3d II Voodoo2 card.  That may have been the best (albeit most expensive) Voodoo2 card ever available! I had one myself though, so I know the problems Canopus had with getting drivers out... They blamed 3dfx (then 3Dfx) for not helping them with the drivers, and 3dfx, well, I don't recall ever hearing a response from them at all!

Either way, you can see why video card manufacturers want to stick to reference design... It makes them infinitely easier to support and create drivers for.  More often than not, the drivers from the manufacturer are nothing more than the reference NVidia drivers with a new logo and an overclocking utility!

This is the first GF2MX that has hit the hardCOREware labs, so I can't personally attest, but from what I've seen, most of the GF2MX cards, no matter which company manufactures them, perform pretty much identical to one another.  None of them offer much of a software bundle, and the only thing that ever really sets them apart is a TV-Out port.  Some may offer VIVO (Video In Video Out) in the future, and the GF2MX chipset does support "TwinView" (similar to Matrox's DualHead - allowing two monitors on one video card), but so far I haven't seen any offering that. 

The only thing really setting them apart seems to be the speed of the SDRAM used on the card (GeForce2 MX's use SDR ram by the way).

Reference Ram - or - I Really Need a New Camera

First of all, let me sincerely apologize for the crappy quality of the pictures used in this review (and others, if you look around).  My 2 year-old-model sub-1-megapixel Olympus Digital Camera just isn't cutting it... I think from now on, I'll head down to Moto's office and use his $1000 Olympus camera... Well, at least until I get my own :) 

Until then, though, I guess we'll have to put up with this for now... Check out the ram on the StarForce 816:

If you look really carefully, you can see that MSI is using 6 ns. ram.  This is just right for the specified 166 Mhz clock speed.  Why bother mentioning it then? Some manufacturers are using 7 ns. ram, which will run just fine at 166 Mhz, but who knows how much further it will go if it is already overclocked? As you'll see, the MSI did quite well in that department :)

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