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Matrox Mystique G200

Matrox, a leading player in the performance graphics market is back from something of a hiatus with a killer -- the Mystique G200. A wonderful 2D/3D piece not lacking in performance nor features -- the G200 is impressive.

Following in the footsteps of previous offerings from Matrox, the G200 is a single chip solution with exceptional video capabilities and second - to - none 2D performance. However, the addition of an impressive 32-bit 3D pipeline is the prime feature of this new chip. With support for standard API's such as Direct3D, OpenGL (currently through a Direct3D wrapper) and DirectDraw and with optimized GDI drivers for Windows 95 / 98 and NT the G200 sets out to accelerate just about everything you need.

Packing either 8 or 16Mb of SDRAM the G200 offers incredible 2D and 3D resolutions and the high-performance 230Mhz RAMDAC ensures rock steady images at high refresh rates regardless of resolution. 2D performance is, as mentioned, superb -- moving windows, scrolling, resizing and all the other standard Windows actions are smooth as silk and leaves nothing more to desire. DirectDraw performance is also amazing, playing one of the more demanding DirectDraw titles available: platformer Jazz Jackrabbit 2 in 640 x 480 @ 16-bit was very smooth and noticeably better than on competing i740 and RIVA128 based boards. Even DOS performance is very good, offering full VESA 2.0 support and exceptional image clarity.

2D resolutions on the G200 ranges from standard VGA modes all the way up to 1800 x 1440 @ 24bpp or 1600 x 1200 @ 32bpp on both the 8 and 16Mb versions and will satisfy even the most demanding professional users. High-resolution 3D support is also a strong point, offering resolutions up to 1024 x 768 @ 32bpp on an 8Mb board with 32-bit Z-buffering or up to 1600 x 1200 @ 32bpp on a 16Mb board.

As the G200 is built from the ground up as an AGP 2X adapter it utilizes sideband addressing and AGP execute mode for optimal performance and offers full AGP texturing support -- no 2 or 4Mb limits here in other words. With high-resolution textures you can accomplish visuals far more stunning than on older boards (now let's just hope developers catch on the AGP trend). Image quality on the G200 is truly amazing, superb color saturation, 32-bit Z-buffering, support for 32-bit rendering at high-resolutions and a solid 3D feature set all come together to offer some of the best 3D images ever rendered on a PC monitor in real time.

Features like anti-aliasing, tri-linear filtering and full multi-texturing support for special effects like bump-mapping and advanced lighting effects coupled with a raw fillrate performance of 100Mpps and a triangle throughput of over 1 million triangles per second ensure not only crisp visuals but also high-performance. Benchmarking Forsaken at 1024 x 768 at a very playable 37.5 fps hints the exceptional performance of the G200 -- other titles such as G-police, Jedi Knight, RedLine Racer and bundled titles Incoming, Motorhead and Tonic Trouble really show off the hardware's capabilities, especially when running at resolutions in excess of 1024 x 768 without dropping frames. Synthetic benchmarks like Wizmark and ZDbops 3D Winbench also prove the G200's performance.

The one thing sadly missing from the boards' repetoire at the moment is a reliable ICD for OpenGL which is currently in development and expected in the coming month or so. Performance with the Direct3D wrapper is still not bad and should keep you relatively happy until the ICD is released. Windowed rendering is of course supported for more serious stuff like accelerated VRML and 3D modelling / CAD applications. This will be a strong feature once the ICD is out and the 32-bit Z-buffer will really make a difference in demanding 3D development applications.

The Mystique G200 also comes with an exceptional TV-out feature offering desktop / game resolutions all the way up to 1024 x 768 on your TV. Matrox's drivers makes configuring the board for best TV output a breeze and I must admit that 1024 x 768 on a big 29" TV really is something else.

In the retail pack Matrox includes a few titles to get you started, the mandatory and visually very pleasing Incoming (from Rage Software) is included as is Tonic Trouble (from UbiSoft) and Motorhead from Swedish developers Digital Illusions. All of these titles offer 24- or 32-bit rendering for enhanced visual quality on the G200 and they all play rather nicely at 1024 x 768 on the P2-400Mhz test system; even on a somewhat slower CPU like a P2-266 performance was very good. Tonic Trouble really show what Matrox's VCQ technology can mean for a title's appearence. I've never seen colors this good in a 3D title, it's far away from the somewhat washed out colors you get with some competing boards.

So, after all these raves you're probably wondering if there's nothing bad about the G200. Well, there really isn't. Sure, it doesn't offer the same performance as a Voodoo2 (but it's damn close) and it's not as cheap as some i740 boards out there (but these are too slow to be comparable to the G200) but priced at just $149 for the 8Mb version w/ TV-out and three very nice titles in the bundle, offering Millenium II class 2D and damn close to Voodoo2 class 3D, the G200 is a VERY attractive purchase and literally extinguishes all competing products in the 2D / 3D arena (If 8Mb won't cut it you can pick up another 8Mb for around $50).


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