Visiontek Xtasy GeForce4 MX440 review

The GeForce4 MX GPU is probably one of the most controversial chips NVIDIA has released so far, while its name clearly indicates that forms part of NVIDIA’s next-generation GPU line, in reality MX chips only share part of the complete feature set of GeForce4 Titanium chips, hence the considerably lower price tag.

Visiontek, a name brand we have all come to know, has been distributing their MX videocards for quite some time now. This time we are putting their GeForce4 MX440 videocard to the test. While both of the more mainstream MX460 and Ti4200 products have been just recently released to the stores, there is still going on a fierce competition between the MX440 and the older (and soon to become unavailable) GeForce3 Ti200.

After a quick comparison between GF4 Titanium and MX chips, we noticed the most important feature missing on the MX is what NVIDIA likes to call the “nfiniteFX II” engine. Originally introduced on GeForce3 chips, the pixel and vertex shaders that compose this on-hardware feature were designed for games and other graphics-intensive applications so that developers could specify personalized combinations of graphics operations to create their own custom effects instead of choosing from the same hard-coded palette of effects and ending up with a generic look and feel.

Obviously the GeForce4 MX is lacking these features, making its architecture inferior to the older GeForce 3 chip. Of course, we all know that, however think about a regular guy looking for low priced gaming card, what do you think he will choose?

NVIDIA’s naming has gone a little tricky this time, however like Thomas pointed out on his eVGA MX440 review a couple of weeks ago, what could have they named it? GeForce2 MX 2? Don’t think so…

Looking at the other side of the coin we have that the GeForce4 MX is big step forward from the older GeForce2 MX chip. I’d expect to see GF4 MX boards retailing for very little money in a couple of months (currently being sold for ~$100); until a few months the best thing we could get for that kind of money would be a vanilla Radeon, a Kyro or an old GeForce2. See? It’s not really that bad.

If you ask me, I would say manufacturers are the ones to blame for MX440s’ bad reputation. Looking at NVIDIA’s chip market planning for the beginning of the present year, we have the entire MX family being targeted to the ‘mainstream’ market, while the Ti4600 is slated to the Enthusiast, and the Ti4400, Ti4200 and GeForce3 Ti200 cards are aimed to the Performance consumer. I could draw two interesting conclusions after looking at this document (available on NVIDIA’s site), the first is that manufacturers are obviously taking advantage of the GeForce4 name and selling these new MX cards as gaming-performance cards, when they actually aren’t. They are budget oriented cards and IMHO they do a wonderful job at it because they are quite fast (more details on the rest of the review), unfortunately MX card prices haven’t seen it’s bottom yet as Ti4200s are becoming available as we speak.

My other conclusion was: why didn’t NVIDIA relaunch the GeForce3 Ti200 chip with a new name that could make a smoother transition between MX and Ti boards? Something like GeForce4 Ti 3200 could have probably made it. Hmmm… wait, now I remember they are in for the money, so, there you go ;).

On the next page we are getting into detail on the Xtasy MX440 board itself, some pics and other stuff next. Also later in the article we will be doing head to head comparison between this board and a GeForce3 Ti200.

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