Guillemot Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 TNT2 Ultraby Anand Lal Shimpi on May 30, 1999 9:46 PM EST
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|The Guillemot Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 isn't an intimidating card at all, unlike the first Voodoo2 cards that hit the streets with their full length PCI stature, the standard sized AGP card is outfitted with a full 32MB of EliteMT manufactured SDRAM. The 5.5ns EliteMT SDRAM is clocked at 183MHz, which is a definite drop from the original 200MHz goal, which was then lowered to 195MHz, and finally bumped down to 183MHz. It seems like Guillemot was trying too hard to compete directly with Hercules' 175/200MHz Dynamite TNT2 Ultra, in doing so they almost released a card that would end up flaking out on quite a few users.|
|Rather than compete with Hercules, Guillemot decided to rely on different factors to hopefully persuade potential buyers to ditch Hercules and drop their cash on the Xentor 32. The core clock speed of the Xentor 32 is still 175MHz, over 16% faster than what NVIDIA specs the TNT2 Ultra parts at.|
Although the card is available in a non-Ultra version, Guillemot purposefully made only the Ultra version available in a 32MB flavor. By offering a non-Ultra version in a 32MB flavor Guillemot would have lost some sales of the Xentor 32 cards courtesy of the smarter than the average tweakers that would pursue the non-Ultra card and attempt to overclock it. Unfortunately Guillemot won't allow that, as the 32MB configuration is only available on the Ultra based Xentor 32. Does the extra 16MB of RAM on the Xentor 32 really help? Simply put, when running in 32-bit color, and using the 24-bit Z + 8-bit stencil buffer, yes it does. If you're not going to even touch 32-bit color rendering, then the 16MB version is probably just fine for you.
Like all other TNT2 Ultra based cards, the Xentor 32 makes use of an active cooling device, more specifically, your standard heatsink/fan combo. The unit used on the Xentor 32 is a generic heatsink/fan combo that gets the job done, no more, no less. It's not an expensive unit, and won't let you bump the frequency up to 200MHz+, however it's good enough to keep the chip cool and that's what Guillemot was aiming for. The use of this heatsink/fan unit most likely helped keep the price of the Xentor 32 below the $200 mark that tends to scare potential buyers away. The actual price of the Xentor 32 is $229.99 with a $30 mail-in rebate, bringing the final cost down to $199.99, definitely intended to compete with the Hercules Dynamite TNT2 Ultra priced, interestingly enough, at $229.99 with no mail-in rebate. Don't you just love competition? ;)
The TV-output on the Xentor 32 is driven by the same Brooktree 869 controller that is present on most competing TNT2 boards based on the NVIDIA reference design as well as all Voodoo3 boards that feature TV-out support. The quality is decent, however it isn't as great as the output on the Matrox G400. Other than that, the Xentor 32 is a fairly run-of-the-mill TNT2 Ultra board. In order to keep costs down, Guillemot, like Hercules, opted to remove the digital flat panel output from the board, a wise decision since digital flat panels probably won't become too mainstream until much later this year.
The installation of the Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 went by the book in AnandTech's test systems, Guillemot bundled their own software installation utility with the Xentor 32, unfortunately that did not include a driver installation utility. Upon popping in the driver/utility CD the autorun feature of the CD-ROM allowed AnandTech to install any or all of the bundled game demos and utilities included with the software bundle, including a handy copy of DirectX and DXMedia (it's always good to have a copy on CD just in case). After installing the demos and everything else however, the utility didn't bother to install the Maxi Gamer Xentor 32's bundled drivers. Not a big complaint, but one worth mentioning nevertheless. After proceeding to manually install the drivers, a quick reboot of Windows 98 brought AnandTech one step closer to testing the capabilities of the Xentor 32.
The Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 drivers themselves are nothing more than NVIDIA's reference drivers that bear the Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 name, no fancy tweaks/configuration utilities with these drivers. Closer inspection revealed that Guillemot bundled a very old build of the TNT2 drivers with their card, the exact revision on the CD reviewed was 0130. In AnandTech's first TNT2 review the drivers used were revision 0172 and the drivers AnandTech tested with are revision 0181. It's not uncommon for a TNT2 manufacturer to release their products with an earlier build of the TNT2 drivers as it's better to release a card with tried and true stable drivers rather than release the latest in bleeding edge driver releases from NVIDIA without first testing them thoroughly. Although the performance tests were conducted with the 0181 drivers in order to compare the Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 to the competition, the card's bundled drivers were used as well to make sure no performance anomalies could be attributed to the 0181 drivers.
AnandTech's first experience with the Xentor wasn't too pleasant when it came time to test performance and stability. Fortunately, Guillemot sent us another card that resolved all our problems. Apparently our first Xentor just happened to be one of the occasional bad cards that inevitably happen with any product. This time, everything was completely stable. We went ahead and pushed the limits of this card and were able to obtain 175/200 operation, just like the default of the Hercules Dynamite TNT2 Ultra. Unfortunately, the core was stuck at the default 175. This didn't appear to be due to heat issues as the Xentor actually stayed a few degrees cooler than the Hercules in our recent July 1999 TNT2 Roundup. Thus, it must have been the yield of our particular chip. As always with overclocking, results will vary from card to card.
Guillemot did manage to outfit the Xentor 32 with a nice software bundle, including Xing DVD, a software DVD player, as well as OEM copies of Interplay's Kingpin(tm): Life of Crime(tm) - On the Street (an awesome game) and Ubi Soft's Speed Busters. Keep in mind though, game bundles don't sell cards.