Because Matrox's Mystique video card was such a poor performer, I had low expectations for the company's Millennium G200. To my surprise, the G200 chipset lives up to Matrox's claims. The single 128-bit dual-bus chip delivers reference-standard 2-D performance with awe-inspiring 3-D support. The dual-bus architecture has two 64-bit memory buses that can operate independently, resulting in excellent performance.
The G200 is a bit slower than 3Dfx Voodoo 2-based video cards, but its image quality far surpasses the Voodoo 2. Rather than dividing the memory into texture RAM and frame buffer RAM, the G200 uses a unified memory architecture that lets you run 3-D programs at 1024 X 768 resolution with only 8MB onboard. With advanced features such as 32-bit rendering (which even the forthcoming Voodoo 3 won't have), the Millennium G200 is as powerful as any video card on the market.
This video card is an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) 2x part that ships with 8MB of Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM), which is faster than the standard Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) that ships on most video cards. This combination gives you high resolution (an 8MB card can take you to 1600 X 1200 resolution; 16MB nets 1920 X 1200 resolution) and excellent performance at even the highest color depth. Coupled with a 250MHz Random Access Memory Digital-to-Analog Converter (RAMDAC), the Millennium won't disappoint you.
The card doesn't have novelty features such as TV outs (although the Mystique G200 includes composite and S-Video outputs), but I do all my work on a monitor anyway. The faster RAMDAC and SGRAM give you a slight performance boost, which is important if you stare all day at a high-resolution Windows desktop.
Best of all, the Millennium G200 includes an expansion interface for daughterboards, so you can add new features such as hardware Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) decoding without having to swap video cards. You can even increase the memory from the default 8MB to a Herculean 16MB by snapping in a RAM expansion. Some users may favor the all-in-one solutions other vendors offer, but I prefer purchasing only the components I need as upgrades. And with the Millennium G200, I can.
The only downside is that Matrox still hasn't shipped the anticipated OpenGL Installable Client Driver (ICD) for the Millennium G200. Matrox had made a beta version of the ICD available at press time, so G200 users should soon see full OpenGL support.
All these features, plus a generous software bundle that includes Micrografx Picture Publisher, make the Millennium G200 the first killer video card for Windows NT users—especially because NT support isn't an afterthought for Matrox. Unlike some drivers from other vendors, Matrox's NT drivers are stable without exception, and they even boast feature parity with Windows 98. By adding excellent 3-D capabilities without sacrificing the 2-D speed and image quality, Matrox is once again on top of the video card world with the Millennium G200.
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