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2D Quality- GeForce and Radeon Graphics AGP Cards

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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November 16, 2006 5:39:46 AM

In my experience Matrox has always produced superior 2D - very crisp text and great color (even the G450, 16MB, Sony G500 CRT.) I know 'gaming cards' have a different aim but are there Radeon and NVidia cards in 2006 - or 2005, 2004 - which equal the 2D clarity of Matrox? One limitation - AGP 8x. I've an MSI K7N2 Delta2 mobo and would like to jump up the graphics for Vista Aero (DirectX9 and Shader2) over the next 18 months while I watch the issues with this OS unroll. I'm not a gamer but won't mind the 3D power one of these cards should bring, except I don't want lose that 'business app' clarity.
I'm not sure, at this point, where any card officially stands with Vista Premium/Ultimate though I've read several posts stating that, e.g. the Radeon 9550 will at least do the (Aero) job. However, I've no idea whether this level
of card will equal the Matrox at 2D.
Appreciate your help.

P.S. It would be great if TH would cover this post's queries. It's confusing :?
November 16, 2006 12:47:24 PM

I don't know if any Geforce or Radeons would match a Matrox, but a Radeon would probably come is second best... at least they used to a couple years ago when I saw the last 2d test I looked at. :) 

Grapeape is the guy to talk to about this... Grape?
a b U Graphics card
November 16, 2006 5:42:25 PM

First things first, Matrox is supposed to coming out with a new card next year specifically to address the VISTA gap they currently have, but from my discussions with them (just checked again to be sure) it's at least 6 months out, and likely a summer product IMO. So if you need it at the start of VISTA then you should look to other providers. IMO the ATi X1300/X1600 (depending on needs) would be a good starting point until the new generation of cards from ATi, Matrox, nVidia and SIS hit the marketplace and make better starting points.

As for the alternatives, it's adifficult question to answer because there's not enough good 2D comparisons out there. I was kinda hoping I could find a more recent review with 2D quality comparos and was waiting until I found something to confirm my thoughts with regards to the new generation cards befor replying to you, but they are truely few and far between and I have seen none with regards to the GF7 and X1K series cards.

The Matrox cards likely still do enjoy superior filtering on the analogue out as I doubt any other company has dedicated the ciruitry and effort to ensure quality similar to that of Matrox. The quality of the RAMDACs betweem ATi and Matrox are now the same (and nV with their G80s) and they are also now all the same speed so that part of the equation has been removed, but for colour fidelity in applications that can exploitit I'd stick with ATi for the entry level stuff, and then either ATi or nV for the high end since all three are now the same in that respect. But for digital/DVI out I doubt that there is much of a difference in quality, and if anything the addition of at least 1 dual link TMDS into each new VPU has tip the LCD advantage to ATi & nV. This of course doesn't seem to be your focus as like me you're running a good CRT.

I have found that the quality of the output from my ATi MobilityX700 , GFGO5200, the S3 Savage, Matrox G200 and Intel Extreme, ExtremeII and now GMA950 have all been solid on my P260 here at work (my only frame of reference for HQ 2D across lines [at home I switched to ATi and nV long ago because they wer also used for gaming]). I did experience one hiccup with the first of the previous Intel ExtremeIIs I received where no amount of convergence tweaking could focus the image, I had to send it back (thinking initially DAMN how did Intel F it up going to this generation?). Turned out to be deffective at some point (never did get a response from DELL about the cause, could've been board generated noise, or bad pins or something), the replacement was fine (and of course all my tweking to make it work meant it took me about 2 weeks to get me back to my baseline. I have used this P260 on the DVI-A and VGA connector for many of these cards as I swap systems often even using 2 computer hooked up at the same time and fliping back and forth between my desktop and laptop (kinda like a KVM).

IMO if you're looking for something immediately I would say that a good option is the X1300 series, which gives you full 10bit per channel support for geared apps plus at least 1 dual-link DVI. You may miss out on some features you may have come to enjoy like Glyph AA, but it's an unfortunate situation where the options are restricted and Matrox is taking a slightly slower developement path to ensure the consitancy of their products. I can't say I agree with this position as it means anyone wanting to move to the new OS loses out one way or the other, but I understand it, since for them driver development is an expensive proposition, whereas for ATi and nV the cost is spread out amongst thousands of times more cards.

I'd love to see a new Matrox card, and to me they're still tops in analogue 2D, but I wish I had something more concrete like a good review to back up that position, and unfortunately regardless of that, the option for Matrox+Vista doesn't exist until sometime well into next year. Unless you have to move to Vista, you might want to wait and see what is on offer next year, otherwise youmay have to move on to someone new.
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November 17, 2006 12:30:13 AM

Cheers Grape, and thanks. A comprehensive reply..and something on the horizon, it seems, for Matrox users. You've pretty much convinced me (and reconfirmed my own thoughts) that I might as well wait until whenever next year. Vista is only a curiosity (eye candy & (more seriously) security improvements) for me and doesn't warrant, at this stage, a major AGP expense without any guarantee of Matrox clarity. As you say, comparative reviews are scarce - including, alas, TH. :(  I'd rather upgrade the whole rig, including, perhaps, a change to dual digital/DVI LCDs - which will be due about the time, from what you say, Matrox (and others) release new cards.
Meanwhile, there's always Linux. :D 
a b U Graphics card
November 17, 2006 12:46:51 AM

You're welcome, check back into it around Vista home launch time, there will likely be more info (plus the new entry level cards from ATi and nV should be launching then, [SIS is also a summer lauch so likely as long a wait as Matrox]).
When I was on the phone today I got the impression that the new Matrox cards are more focused on being rock-solid than being 'just-in time for early Vista adopters', so I suspect you'll get an anouncement near Vista launch time in order to keep the faithful in the fold until the cards actually arrive in the summer. In my experience many of the Matrox card owners in a business capacity are running on Win2K like ours, so I think they believe that they have a bit of breathing room as long as we don't feel abandoned. Makes it annoying for people like myself who participate in advisory comittees though as we are planning out hardware strategies months in advance.

Happy hunting and hope whatever you get is up to the task.
I know how finicky I am about image quality, so I apreciate your concerns.
!