Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 MXReview date: 2 August 2000.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
If you're shopping for a 3D PC graphics card these days, you rapidly realise that some video card "chipsets" are available on cards made by various different manufacturers. The cards may have different feature sets - TV outputs and inputs, fancy game bundles and so on - but the basic video hardware's the same.
This makes comparison shopping rather easy, if all you're really interested in is the straight 3D performance, and the other features aren't a big deal for you. NVIDIA, the current big name in widely-used high-performance video chipsets, makes standard "reference" drivers that suit cards based on all of their current products, and so it doesn't even matter whether the card manufacturer's own driver set's buggy. You just download the drivers from NVIDIA, and away you go.
NVIDIA's best product at the moment for the performance-hunter who doesn't have a giant wad of money burning through his or her pants is the GeForce2 MX chipset. When I checked out a pre-release version of the ASUS AGP-V7100/T GeForce2 MX graphics card a couple of weeks ago (check out the review here), I was highly enthusiastic about it. It's faster than a plain, non-DDR original GeForce board (the fastest PC video card you could buy, nine months ago), it has both composite and S-Video TV output (so you can plug it into any kind of TV or VCR for big screen game playing or DVD playback), and it was only going to cost around $AU300, to judge by US pre-release pricing.
The V7100/T actually turns out to have an Australian price around the $AU375 mark. And it's still not quite locally available, though it really should be out very soon now.
Sorry about that, folks.
But fortunately, GeForce2 MX fans don't have to wait, or pay the extra. Because Leadtek beat ASUS to the local market.
The cheaper contender
The inventively named Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 MX has the same chipset as every other MX board, and the same amount of memory (32Mb) as every MX I've seen so far. And it's got TV out, though it's only S-Video. And it costs $AU330, delivered. Nice one.
Leadtek's not a particularly renowned brand, but their recent NVIDIA-based offerings have been excellent. Perfectly good build quality, excellent drivers, keen pricing. These are not second-class boards - indeed, sometimes they're quite impressive, as anyone who's seen the giant lump of aluminium that adorns the flagship Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 GTS board (reviewed here) will tell you.
Those who enjoy running their hardware faster than stock speed will be pleased to note that Leadtek cards are generally perfectly OK for overclocking, too, though to be honest there's not a whole lot of speed improvement to be had from overclocking any GeForce2 MX card. 10% better frame rates in 3D games are possible with excellent reliability; 15% isn't out of the question; trying for much more will probably give you annoying instability.
What you get
The WinFast MX package is in line with other current Leadtek products. You get the card, an OK manual, and a well done fold-out Quick Installation Guide, which should let anybody who knows which way to turn a screwdriver install the card into any Windows box without too much trouble.
The card itself comes with a conventional heatsink-and-fan chip cooler, against the fanless large heatsink on the V7100/T I checked out earlier. MX boards don't need a ton of cooling, so either option should be fine in a case with a bit of air flow.
The software bundle's best categorised as "a DVD player, and some filler". The DVD playback package is Leadtek's own WinFast DVD, which works perfectly well, but of course requires a DVD-ROM drive in your computer. The filler is the True Internet Color and Colorific colour calibration packages and 3Deep gamma correction software, from E-Color, which seem to be perfectly good packages but which are also unlikely to be of any interest to most people.
And there's Cult3D, whose purpose in life is to let you put 3D objects in Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat documents. If you think that's a good idea, I hope they don't trust you with sharp things.
More usefully, you also get a short but OK looking S-Video lead. Many cheap video cards with TV out don't give you a cable; this one does. The thing's short enough that you really need your S-Video-equipped display device to be right next to the computer, but for the money, I wouldn't complain.
Well, it's an MX card. Which means it's very pleasingly fast indeed. It's not a super-high-resolution screamer like the "full" GeForce2 GTS, but then again, it's about half the price. In most people's computers, with 19 inch or smaller monitors, a lot of the expensive RAM bandwidth of a GTS card goes to waste, anyway. In 1024 by 768, this card keeps up with a GeForce DDR, and doesn't lose to a GeForce2 GTS by a mile.
In higher resolutions it doesn't perform so well in comparison, but you can't clearly display better than 1280 by 960 or so on a 19 inch monitor, so there's not a lot of point in spending big bucks on a video card whose extra performance you'll have a hard time detecting.
I explain where the MX stands relative to the other NVIDIA chipsets in more detail in the V7100 review, here. Suffice to say that this card is quite close enough to the cutting edge for most people, thank you very much.
According to Leadtek's page for this card, it features "Blazing speed that makes you go soft at the knees".
The management takes no responsibility for any rubbery bones caused by the use of this product.
Apart from that, the only thing not to like about the WinFast MX board is the lack of a composite video output. If you've got a common-or-garden TV and video with no fancy-pants Y/C connectors, you can't use this TV out. Unless, that is, you shell out some bucks for a separate converter, the image quality from which may or may not excite you.
If you've got video gear with S-Video input, though - either a plain connector, or a European-style SCART connector, for which you'll need an adaptor lead - then there's no reason to bother with a composite connector, and the Leadtek card should suit you down to the ground.
If you want to save the maximum amount of money and don't care at all about TV out, then you could hang around until MX cards with no TV connectors at all show up on the local market. Or just hang around until cards with TV out are cheap enough to be attractive, of course.
But if you want a replacement for your tired old video card right now, Leadtek's option's a good one. Good performance, no expensive extras you don't want, and available right now. Recommended.
Readers from Australia or New Zealand can purchase all kinds of video cards from Aus PC Market.
(if you're NOT from Australia or New Zealand, Aus PC Market won't deliver to you. If you're in the USA, try a price search at DealTime!)