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Product: Matrox Millennium G450
Company: Matrox
Estimated Street Price: $149
Review By: Julien JAY


Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Drivers & DualHead
3: Advanced Features & tests
4: Conclusion

As usual the Matrox Millennium G450 honors the Matrox reputation by providing great and sharp looking 2D graphics. This is thanks to a combination of numerous on card features such as the excellent chipset, a fast RAMDAC, and the 256-bit dual bus architecture. Everything on our monitor was coming out clear and vibrant, which is a lot more than I can say for a number of other Graphics cards. You can measure the high 2D quality and the speed of the video acceleration when using professional software like Adobe InDesign 1.5 or Adobe PhotoShop 5.5. When you use it you'll really notice a clear improvement comparing to any previous boards you may have.


Matrox's color rendering technique, called VCQ2, is one of the main reasons why Matrox has such high image quality. It is a technique created and used only by Matrox to display high-quality images. VCQ2 calculates the entire rendering with 32-bit precision internally. What this does is give much better image quality over 16-bit rendering, due largely to the much larger color palette. 32-bit color allows for better color blending, resulting in smoother color gradients and transition (Not without a slight performance hit mind you) Because all of the rendering is performed internally at 32-bit, all lighting and blending processes are also done with 32-bit precision, resulting in no color banding or annoying artifacts. So, if you are running your display in 32-bit, you get a great picture quality.

32-Bit Z-Buffering

Although a 3D scene is basically a 2D mockup of 3D, the 2D image that is eventually generated needs to know which object in the 3D scene is in front of another object. This information is stored by means of a Z (depth) buffer. People have noticed that games such as Half Life, Quake 2/3 show improvement when using a 32-bit Z-buffer as distant objects don't suddenly 'pop' into view (an artifact of a low resolution Z-buffer). Flight Simulations for example rely on depth of scene and really benefit from a 32-bit Z-buffer. Games such as those are where you would gain most benefit. But as usual, there is a slight performance loss with this feature but if you want the best quality image then I recommend that you try it, as the loss in performance is particularly small.

*32-bit z-buffer will only enhance a game that is programmed to take advantage of this effect. There are only a handful of titles out that currently take advantage of a 32-bit z-buffer.

The Matrox G450 series continues the G400 hardware support for Microsoft's DirectX - Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping. Environment Mapped Bump Mapping is a DirectX 7 quality feature, which will be used to substantially increase the visual realism of 3D scenes. In fact, 3D graphics hardware that supports this feature will be able to render 3D scenes with more realism than was ever before possible on the PC. Environment Mapped Bump Mapping is essentially a technique that allows a much higher level of detail to be added to a 3D world than could be possible with texture- mapped polygons alone. Fine details such as the pock- marked surface of bricks in a dungeon and scratches on robots and tanks can be added with ease. Special effects such as realistic water surfaces, heat shimmering off hot asphalt on a summer day and air turbulence in flight simulators can also be uniquely accomplished by using Environment Mapped Bump Mapping. This new feature will prove to be as revolutionary as alpha blending in terms of the creative effects that game developers will accomplish when given free rein. A lot of games now support this brand new technology. If the G450 card includes great 3D features it doesnít come with a Transform & Lighting engine like 3D gamers like. However as we said before this card isnít intended to be used by hard core gamers.

Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping

The Environment Bump Mapping feature that made the success of the G400 card is included into the G450 chip. There is no doubt that Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping is great to look at. But yet again there is a performance hit whenever you use it - but if you are into image quality instead of frame rates like I am, you'll love it.

DVD Playback

DVD is becoming a very important medium in the world of computers. The amount of space on one DVD is so large that it just can't be ignored. Most graphic cards offer some sort of DVD-Video playback, such as the ATI Radeon, which does a lot of the decoding in hardware. The Millennium G450 is no exception, but it doesn't use hardware decoding just software in the form of the Matrox DVD Player. This player is actually just the cinemaster software engine with a new skin. The cinemaster engine is excellent for DVD playback and combining it with the G450 you are in for a visual treat as it manages to offer some of the best software DVD playback I have ever seen. However the Matrox DVD player doesnít offer as much features as the top-notch PowerDVD software, from CyberLink. During our tests the DVD player worked great on an old Pentium II 400 and we didnít notice any slackening or artefacts during playing. When testing it with a PIII 800EB we didnít notice any difference. So the conclusion is that you can use the Matrox DVD player on slow computers.


Obviously as we said this 3D card isnít able to compete with GeForce II, GeForce II Ultra, 3DFX Voodoo 5500 and others. However we tested to see what is the performance difference comparing to its predecessor the G400. Here are the results:


As you can see both cards (G400 and G450) are very near in terms of performance especially when using Direct 3D. So Matrox G400 users won't get any performance benefits if they upgrade to the G450 but they'll enjoy new and unprecedented DualHead features.


 <-- Drivers & DualHead Conclusion -->


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