Okay, so I wasn’t too excited about this card before I got my grimy little hands on it. Matrox cards are always solid, but rarely inspiring, and my expectation was for this to be an also-ran in a race dominated by 3dfx and NVIDIA.
The first thing you’ll notice when you take a look at the card is that it has two VGA ports. The G400 MAX features built-in dual monitor support, which is one of Windows 98’s most underrated features. You can expand your desktop over two displays, display the same image on two monitors, or watch a DVD movie with the included software on one display and use your desktop on the other. To that end, the G400 acts like two separate video cards: It handles refresh rates and resolutions discreetly so you can throw an old 15-inch monitor on one side and your spiffy 19-inch monster on the other. How does that affect gaming? Rumors abound of flight sims that will support multiple monitors, and if one takes off (no pun intended) other genres won’t be far behind.
The G400 supports every 3D checkmark and buzzword you’ll find in game developers’ plan files, including 32-bit color and z-buffering. It’s also the only card that includes hardware support for bump mapping, which, if you’ve never seen it, is a nifty effect. D3D performance is on par with most current cards, and though it doesn’t match the TNT2 Ultra crop, it’s not far off.
A refreshing alternative to the TNT2 vs. 3dfx battle, the G400 MAX proves that Matrox is still in the game. If/when the company gets its OpenGL support up to par, it may create a hands-down winner. As it is, the G400 holds its own as a gamer’s 3D solution.