Review of the Matrox G400 MAX

G400 MAX Overview

During these days of higher end consumer graphics cards, there are few cards that offer innovative graphical features. Matrox, a successful player in the graphics scene for many years now, has finally decided to break this mold of "me too product" and design something new and exciting. On top of the features we find standard in most high end consumer 3D cards these days (2/4X AGP, 32 MB frame buffer, 32 bit color with 8 bit Stencil, DVD hardware acceleration, high speed RAMDAC), Matrox will be including environmental Bump Mapping (by means of DirectX 6) and Dual video output (with one video card). You might be asking yourself at this point, "Are these features even worth getting the G400 MAX for?" Let us elaborate on these new features and help you decide.

Bump mapping is not exactly a new concept but the fact that the G400 MAX will do it in hardware, is. Currently, bump mapping is done in software that has inferior visual and it often costs a considerable amount of performance. There are debatable ways to implement hardware bump mapping and the method Matrox chose seems to be a winner. The performance and visual quality of the G400 MAX while using hardware bump mapping is excellent. Various effects can be generated with this hardware feature that allows developers to create a more life-like environment. Things like smoldering armor, ultra-realistic pools of water and finely detailed walls are taken to the next level. Currently the only examples offered of this feature are the games Drakan (Psygnosis), Slave Zero (Accolade), Descent III (interplay/Outrage) and Expendable but it's just the start because 53 titles are to be released in the near future with bump mapping support for the G400 MAX. Game titles like Messiah (Shiny), Max Payne (Remedy) LithTech II engine based games (Monolith) and Dark Reign (Activision/Pandemic) are just a few of the many noteworthy games to soon have support.

Have you ever wanted to watch DVD movies on one screen while finishing up that paper due tomorrow morning or had the need to see what was behind you before you got fragged in the last clan match? All these things might be possible very soon if not already. With the Dual video output feature you're offered a variety of options ranging from dual desktops to simultaneously having DVD movies playing while you work. The feature that seems to draw the most interest is the ability to have games utilize two screens simultaneously. Star Trek: Armada from Activision will be the first game to take advantage of this feature. You can have your main window running on the first screen while your second screen displays real time combat in 3D. Imagine all the things you'll be able to do with Ultima Online: The Second Age (one of nine games that are planned to support DualHead) when it comes out. I don't think this will be a far-fetched idea for the average gamer since monitor prices are getting so low (like $175-200 for a 17" monitor).