NVIDIA's reference design is the basis for the Maxi Gamer Cougar PCB. In the case of the TNT2 M64, that means quite a small PCB, especially when compared with the full blown TNT2. Only four memory chips are necessary to fill the 64-bit memory bus, allowing the PCB to be smaller and cheaper. Even though the board is much smaller, there is still room on the board for TV-out and digital flat panel connectors and chips; however, it’s very unlikely that any manufacturers will be pursuing such options. A PCI version is also available.
The Cougar follows the NVIDIA recommended spec of 125/150 core/memory clock using a standard passive heatsink attached by spring clips and heatsink compound. SDRAM is of the 7ns variety from Mosel Vitalic on our sample.
The NVIDIA spec has merely served as a "recommendation" since the introduction of the TNT2. Guillemot was one of the first companies to push beyond that recommendation with their Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 that ran at 175/183, one of the fastest on the market. Since the Cougar isn't aimed at the hardcore gaming market, it's no surprise that Guillemot chose not to push things in the interests of keeping costs down.
Nevertheless, we pushed on and found that our Cougar evaluation sample would run at 155/170, offering quite a nice performance boost. This performance increase is without any additional cooling and it would be simple enough to add a fan atop that passive heatsink to possibly push things further. As always when overclocking, results will vary.
Generally, the 2D image quality of the TNT2 M64 is fine at resolutions up to 1280 x 1024, but at 1600 x 1200 the image quality makes a small, but noticeable drop.
The Cougar is also available in a "Video Edition" that, as the name implies, offers video in and out features in addition to the standard Cougar we have here. Since it's based on the same TNT2 M64 chip, expect the Cougar Video Edition to compete with the original ATI All-in-Wonder 128 from a 3D performance stand point, but fall behind the Marvel G400 and Voodoo3 3500 on that front. We won't comment on its video capture abilities until we're able to get a hold of an evaluation sample.
For full details on the TNT2 M64 chipset features, specifications, and performance see our NVIDIA TNT2 M64 Review.