October 13, 2000

ABIT Siluro GF2 MX review

Author: JT Smith

By Jeff Field
NewsForge Columnist

ABIT Siluro GF2 MX Review

Results Updated 10/14 02:25 EST

The ABIT Siluro GF2 MX is the latest in ABIT's line of NVidia-based video cards. This card is based on the latest chipset from NVidia, the 175MHz GeForce2 MX, and is targetted towards both gamers and business users. Sporting 32 megabyte of RAM and a TV Out, the GF2MX has all around great performance for all users. Taking advantage of the features made available in XFree 4.0.1, the makers of GF2MX try to offer the best of everything to Linux users. Read on to see if they have accomplished their goal.

The Specs

CPU 256-bit GigaTexel GeForce2 MX CPU at 175MHz
Memory 32 Megs 166MHz SDRAM
RAMDAC 350MHz
Resolution Resolution up to 2048x1536, True Color @ 60Hz
Triangles 20M Triangles/sec through T&L
Fill Rate 700-Mtexel fill rate
Texturing 2 dual-texturing pipelines, mapping 4 texels/clock cycle
AGP 4X AGP with Fast Writes/AGP 2X compatible

Documentation and Software
95% of the documentation pertains to the Windows software installation. The rest is about the installation of the card itself, which is pretty basic (unscrew old card, remove, insert new card, screw in new card). However, the Linux drivers aren't even included on the CD. You'll have to download them. Not only that, but Linux is not even mentioned in the packaging.

Board Design
The board is a reference GeForce2 MX design. The only difference is the method of connecting the TV out (which can be removed, this is how they sell two versions of the card). I discovered quickly that the heatsink on this board is not well adhered to the chip - apparently, it had fallen off during shipment, and without thermal paste you can't really put it back on. I was fortunate enough to have a tube handy, but should you ever find yourself in a situation like this, you can pick one some thermal paste at your local Radio Shack-type store for a couple dollars.

Performance
System Specifications
Pentium III 933EB MHz CPU provided by Intel.
128 Megs PC133 Memory
Western Digital 7200RPM 10.2 gig IDE Hard Drive
Sound Blaster Live! Value Sound
3Com 3C905TX-C PCI 10/100 NIC
300 Watt AMD-Approved ATX Power Supply
The above components were purchased from Specialty Tech.
ABIT BX133-RAID Motherboard
Operating System: Mandrake 7.2B3 with 2.2.17 Kernel.
XFree 4.0.1 with Detonator 3 NVidia Linux Drivers
Quake 3 Demo 1.11-Linux & Windows
x11perf 1.3/Xmark

Quake III Timedemos
Quake III Timedemos are done by going into Quake III, entering the console, disabling sound and enabling the timedemo function. The commands are as follows:
s_initsound 0 - disables sound
snd_restart - resets sound
timedemo 1 - enables timedemos
demo demo001 - runs the demo demo001

Timedemos are an excellent estimate of how a product will perform in similar games. It is not a good reflection of professional 3D program scores.

Quake III Results

ABIT Siluro GF2 MX
Resolutions Windows Frames/Second Linux Frames/Second
640 * 480 * 16-bit 99.8 FPS
800 * 600 * 16-bit 95.8 FPS 97.1 FPS
1024 * 768 * 16-bit 80.2 FPS 70.9 FPS
1280 * 1024 * 16-bit 52.3 FPS 43.5 FPS
1600 * 1200 * 16-bit 36.1 FPS 30.0 FPS

As you can see, the Linux driver for the GF2 MX doesn't perform bad at all, even in comparison to the Windows drivers. As the resolution gets higher, the Linux driver performance edge over Windows disappears and reverses after 1024 * 768. I am interested in why this would happen on Linux and not Windows, since both sets of drivers share most of the same code. The card seems to have the best resolutions/frame rate combination at 1024 * 768 running at a nice 70.9 FPS, plenty for even the avid Quake III player. It is also interesting to note that the human eye can't percieve over 60 FPS.

Xmark 2D Benchmarks
XMark is a program which gathers the results from x11perf (in this case, 'x11perf -all -repeat 2 -time 3') in order to give accurate 2D benchmarks under X. At present, this is the best X benchmark, and is a quite thorough one which puts a driver through it's paces, repeating and using every X graphics function you could think of.

XMark 2D Results

ABIT Siluro GF2 MX
XMark
XMark 79

The GF2 MX performs well in this test. In my next review, it will be interesting to see if the Matrox G450, which is focused on business users, will be as good or better than the GF2MX, which seems to be a top of the line performer in both 2D and 3D applications under Linux.

About ABIT
ABIT's Website
ABIT Corporation was established in 1989 as manufacturer of computer mainboards. Since then, it has been a leader in the industry, producing some of the most popular boards to date. Their BX6 and BH6 line of boards were the most widely praised BX boards, thanks to their jumperless operation and their ability to control the voltage going to the CPU, something that can be a huge bonus to overclockers. Now they have a full line of graphics cards as well, and seem to be ready to expand into other areas as well.

Conclusion
The Siluro GF2MX is an excellent performer under Linux, and is great for 2D work or for 3D gaming. This card has everything a Linux user could want - great 2D and 3D speed and up to date XFree drivers (through the NVidia reference drivers) which would give the Windows drivers a run for their money. Also, the price is right, as I found a GF2 MX on PriceWatch for $130! An excellent deal, considering the lowest price you'll find a Voodoo5 5500 is $233. This card packs a lot of punch for a small price, and I can safely recommend it. Just watch the heatsink, because as I mentioned above, mine became dislodged, though that could have been a result of rough shipping. All in all, an excellent board.

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