When we say that this card is a reference designed card, we mean it. The layout of the PCB as well as the placement of components is identical to the reference design card that NVIDIA sent us a short month ago. In fact, the only difference between the card that NVIDIA sent us and the VisionTek card we received was that the VisionTek card lacked both the DVI and S-Video out jacks that were found on our NVIDIA test sample.
While we are still on the subject of the PCB, now would be a good time to note that not every cost cutting step was used in the production of the VisionTek GeForce2 MX. The instant we saw the MX's reference design, we suspected that manufacturers would alter the reference design a bit in order to get rid of all the extra (and costly) PCB material that resides on the top of the card. Apparently VisionTek did not want to mess with the reference design, thus the VisionTek GeForce2 MX comes with plenty of wasted PCB space on the top of the card. Quite a shame in such a budget card, where removing the unused space could result in even more cost cuts.
In addition, the card comes with headers for both a video-in and a video-out daughter card. We have seen some manufacturers eliminate these pin headers to further shrink the PCB size. While it is nice to know that perhaps one day a video-in or video-out daughter card may be available for the VisionTek GeForce2 MX, it seems highly unlikely that such a feature is something a user is looking for in a card this low priced. It is nice to think, however, that a cheap upgrade may one day be available.
Now, we mentioned that the VisionTek GeForce2 MX comes stripped in order to keep its price down, however you surely don't think that the extremely low price of the VisionTek card comes without a catch. Costs needed to be cut elsewhere in order to get the VisionTek off the line at such a budget price and VisionTek chose to make these cuts by using lower speed RAM.
Our board, as well as the other VisionTek GeForce2 MX cards that we have heard of, came outfitted with 32MB of Samsung 7ns SDRAM. This alone range alarm bells at the lab, as the GeForce2 MX is supposed to come with a memory speed of 166 MHz, requiring at least 6ns chips to reach this frequency without any overclocking. In order to keep with the GeForce2 MX product specs, the VisionTek card also comes with a memory speed of 166 MHz, however this speed is reached by overclocking the 143 MHz Samsung RAM up to the desired 166 MHz.
What does this overclocked memory mean for consumers? Well, if you don't plan on overclocking too much, it does not mean anything; our test sample performed perfectly with the 166 MHz memory clock, even with the memory already running out of spec. The problems begin when one wants to overclock the VisionTek GeForce2 MX, something that we think many GeForce2 MX owners will want to do.