eVGA GeForce4 MX440 review

For the first time ever, NVIDIA has come out at once with a product solution for every segment of the market, with three GeForce4 MX models, three high-end GeForce 4 Ti models and a new Quadro, rather than the staggered releases of previous series. While some of the more mainstream products have seen a delay as NVIDIA expects to sell out their now older GeForce3 cards, the majority of chips have already been adopted by manufacturers to use on their early 2002 line ups. The GeForce4 MX440 represents one of NVIDIA’s latest middle range budget oriented Graphics cards. This particular card I’ll be testing today (in case it wasn’t too painfully obvious) will be eVGA’s take on the GeForce 4 MX 440.

(thanks to the guys at Tech Report who permitted us to use their card shots from their MX440 review posted here).

As you can see on the picture above, this MX model sports eVGA’s unique asymmetric cooling system, which for some reason reminded me of a Tuna can when I first saw the card. Not all manufacturers have been including custom cooling on the lower end MX models so this is a nice plus for eVGA’s card.

(another shot taken from TR ;)).

GeForce2 MX2 ?

The GeForce 4 MX despite of its name is more of what I would call a “GeForce2 MX 2”, which after all is what it’s intended to replace, but you know, marketing doesn’t work that way. As you’re probably aware, there has been some concern raised over the cards’ naming. While the GeForce 2 MX was a cut-down GeForce 2, the GeForce 4 MX is not a simple cut-down GeForce 4 Ti. The main feature that it has compared with the Titanium models is Lightspeed Memory Architecture II.

Personally I’m not too annoyed about all this, to be fair what else could they have named it? GeForce 3 MX would suggest it’s based on the GeForce 3, which it wouldn’t be, so again a similar problem (It would also suggest that it’s much older than it really is). That said, this will be more of a problem to the less well educated consumer (After all if the box says GeForce 4 on it…). It’s also worth noting NVIDIA doesn’t particularly market this as a gamers graphics card either.

At the time of posting eVGA’s GeForce4 MX440 was available for a less than $100, showing that the card will certainly have an appeal to buyers on a budget, after all, the only cards you could get for a similar price before was the GeForce2 Ti and the Radeon 7500, I think.

Here’s what John Carmack (id Software) had to say about the name confusion thing:

NVIDIA has really made a mess of the naming conventions here. I always thought it was bad enough that GF2 was just a speed bumped GF1, while GF3 had significant architectural improvements over GF2. I expected GF4 to be the speed bumped GF3, but calling the NV17 GF4-MX really sucks.

GF4-MX will still run Doom properly, but it will be using the NV10 codepath with only 2 texture units & no vertex shaders. A GF3 or Radeon 8500 will be much better performers. The GF4-MX may still be the card of choice for many people depending on pricing, especially considering that many games won't use 4 textures & vertex programs, but damn, I wish they had named it something else.

In the box

The software bundle was exceptionally weird. I say this because several of the items on the CD don’t work properly with the GeForce 4 MX (e.g. 3 of the Tech demos provided require the nfiniteFX engine or other DirectX 8 T&L unit either I’d assume). Meanwhile one of the game demos provided, Comanche 4, is a DirectX 8 Game which supports Pixel & Vertex Shaders, neither of which the GeForce 4 MX support in Hardware (You also get a Voucher that will let you get this Game at a discount).

In something of a marketing mix-up the actual box for the Graphics card itself features shots from 3 demos, all 3 of which use the aforementioned DirectX 8 features which the GeForce 4 MX doesn’t support. Also, the bundled PowerDVD doesn’t support the MPEG decoding features of the GeForce 4 MX 440 until patched (Currently I'm unaware if this affects other new Graphics cards which are similarly shipping with PowerDVD XP bundled). If this was the Eurovision, eVGA would be getting “Nil point” on the Software bundle. Then again this is a low budget graphics card so much of this can be forgiven & it’s likely the only thing of use here for you will be PowerDVD XP.


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