The first GeForce2 MX 400 card we were able to get our hands on was the Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max which should be one of the first GeForce2 MX 400 based cards to hit the shelves. The Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max comes with a few extras that we imagine will be present on many GeForce2 MX 400 based cards.
First off, the card comes with a heatsink and fan to provide a source of active cooling to the 200 MHz GeForce2 MX 400 core. Whether this is part of NVIDIA's reference design or not is unclear, but we imagine so because hitting the 200 MHz mark in this chip without any form of cooling can not be possible in every case. The GeForce2 MX cores are most likely tested after production to see if they hit the 200 MHz mark and those that do not are likely binned as GeForce2 MX 200 parts while the higher performing ones designated MX 400 parts. Even so, we suspect some form of cooling is required in NVIDIA's reference design. Although you will probably not find any naked GeForce2 MX 400 cores out there, some manufacturers may be selling cards with only a heatsink cooling solution which may not be as inclined to overclock. On the Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max, the heatsink and fan are bonded to the GeForce2 MX 400 core with an appropriately applied amount of thermal grease.
The second luxury item that the Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max is outfitted with is 64MB of RAM. Recent months have seen the trickle down of 64MB of RAM to many video cards as a result of two things. First off, RAM prices on the 6ns (166 MHz) SDR RAM pieces that this card requires are falling as faster DDR memory becomes the norm, making it cheaper for manufacturers to use 64MB on a card. The second, and more lucrative reason that manufacturers are turning to 64MB configurations is that these parts simply sell better. When on a shelf next to 32MB cards, the 64MB distinction quickly wins the hearts of the uninformed consumer. Although we know from real world experience that 64MB of SDRAM provides little to no performance over 32MB configurations (see our NVIDIA GeForce 64 MB review), uninformed buyers associate "more" with "better," making the 64MB card seem more attractive. It is true that in the long run these cards will perform better (as games get more complex), but in the current generation of games 64MB of RAM on a video card is simply unnecessary thanks to texture compression.
The Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max featured eight, 8MB MIRA chips rated at 6ns or 166MHz.
Also found on our Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max was a TV-out port powered by the popular Conexant (Brooktree) BT869KRF chip. This is another item we would not be surprised seeing on quite a few boards in order to further distinguish these cards form the regular GeForce2 MX cards.
In addition to these luxury features on the Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max, the board also featured some items that are not likely to be found on other GeForce2 MX 400 based boards. The two that come to mind are the hardware monitoring capabilities of the card (provided by the Winbond W83783S chip) and the addition of 3 status LEDs that aid in troubleshooting. Look for more discussion of these features and more information about this specific card in coming weeks with a Leadtek GeForce2 MX SH Max review. For now, it is time to focus on the GeForce2 MX 400 core itself.