VOGONS


First post, by Dracolich

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Hi guys, I found a couple of Matrox cards in one of my boxes and looking for some information. I've searched here and in Google and so far not finding much.

First card is a 32MB G550 low profile PCI (G55MDDAP32DBF). In Matrox's archived drivers list the G400 drivers for Windows 98 lists G550 as supported. But when I look up specs for this particular card I see references to a unified Win2K/XP/Vista driver but cannot find any references to 98. Would this card work in Win98 with the archived driver? The other is a 64MB EpicA TC2 PCI (?). I am not finding much information about this one other than its Win2K/XP/Vista requirements.

I understand Matrox cards were not focused on gaming, especially after the G550, but I would be curious how these two perform and compare in 2K/XP with late 90's OpenGL games such as Quake and Half-Life 1.

Reply 3 of 13, by SteveC

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The G550 is worse than the G400 yet it's years younger - it is die shrunk to save money with 64 bit memory bus.

Technically it has a T&L engine but it only worked in their Headcasting thing - a crude 3d model of your head used when doing "video" conferencing. It was just awful.

It is only any good in a cheap office PC. In the early days of DVI though you didn't have a lot of choice if you wanted a dual head DVI graphics card.

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Reply 4 of 13, by Dracolich

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Thanks for the replies so far. No experiences with an EpicA ? 😀

I decided to take a shot at installing mine using driver versions 6.82 and 6.83. The driver setup program is not finding the card so it will not install the driver. Using the Add/Remove Hardware tool from Control Panel and directing it to G550.inf appears to copy the files but still does not enable the card.

Thinking about the card's bios I got the latest version and ran the setup file. It found the card and successfully updated it from 1.4 to 1.5. Then I ran Everest to get some more details.

Video Adapter: Matrox Millennium G550 Low-profile PCI
GPU Code Name: MGA-G550
PCI Device: 102B/2527
Bus Type: AGP 1x @ 1x

AGP bus type? Could that be confusing the driver setup? From the driver files I opened G550.inf in notepad to look at the supported devices. Five devices are listed, all are VEN_102B/DEV_2527 but have different SUBSYS numbers. I don't know the subsys number of mine, but the ones in the inf file are

0F83102B
0F84102B
1E41102B
00121705
00111705

Reply 5 of 13, by Error 0x7CF

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EpicA sounds like it might be a P690, so a plainclothes Parhelia, possibly with DDR2. If you could send pictures then that would be easier to confirm.

That should perform more than well enough for GLQuake or Quake 2, Q3 and HL1 should be okay. Certainly better than the G550.

As far as the AGP bus thing with the G550 that might be a matter of the bridge chip that's on the card converting the PCI to AGP for the chip. The bridge could be turning the PCI interface into AGP 1x.

Old precedes antique.

Reply 6 of 13, by Dracolich

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Thanks, Error. Before shutting down last night I did find the SUBSYS number of the G550, after searching the registry. Mine is 0F42102B. I added it to the list in the inf file, and that allowed it to be detected by the setup program. However, the PowerDesk utility prevents Windows from loading the desktop. I disabled that from Safe Mode, then the desktop appeared but within a few seconds the screen went corrupt.

I should have thought of photos sooner. Both are low-profile and both are dual-head using LFH-60 connector. The EpicA has a shorter PCB (Lite version?) and larger heat sink. I have one Matrox brand LFH-60 DVI Y-cable and a HP brand DMS-59 VGA Y-cable.

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Reply 7 of 13, by Dracolich

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Error, you might be right about EpicA being related to the P690. A predecessor maybe? According to a wiki about Parhelia, the P690 was released in 2007. Both my G550 and EpicA cards has copyright 2004 stamped on the PCB.
I came across a datasheet for P690 and they all have 128MB DDR2. So I searched on matrox website for P690 drivers and software, and the search results does include a 2009 driver that lists only EpicA cards. P690 datasheet indicates they are supported by Windows 2000 - 8.1

Reply 8 of 13, by etomcat

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Hello,
You should show us backside photos of the cards because Matrox put the card type info sticker on the solder side of the PCB.
(BTW, any PCI-bus video cards are worth preserving nowadays, except maybe the most common S3Trio cards.)
Best Regards: Tamas Feher, Hungary.

Reply 9 of 13, by dionb

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Matrox cards had an important niche in the day, but unfortunately it's not one of much relevance at present.

Up to ~2000 they tried (and generally succeeded) to remain competititve in terms of gaming performance, with the G400Max being the fastest single card out there in D3D games (at least, when paired with a high-end system) for a few months after release in 1999. However sales remained low due to very high price compared to competing 3dfx and nVidia cards, as well as issues with dodgy drivers and poor OpenGL support. Afterwards they tried it once more with the Parhelia, but that was too little too late too expensive too dodgy drivers and got utterly run over by Radeon 8500 and Gf4.

In the meantime though they had gained and sustained a reputation for very high quality RAMDACs and analog filters, allowing sharp output at (very) high resolutions. This was the VGA era and there were big difference between cards, even between ones with high-spec RAMDACs on paper. If you had a monitor displaying over 1280x960, it would look awful on most cheap cards and any recent Matrox would be a perfectly safe bet. I used one (a G450) with my Sony w900 (24" CRT monstrosity) and the difference with my el-cheapo Gf2MX and later even my decent Leadtek Gf4Ti was very noticeable, although I still switched to the Gf4Ti due to massive performance difference.

So if you have a big analog VGA screen, Matrox were - and are - the go-to cards for crisp, sharp (2D) picture quality. At lower resolutions the added value is minimal and the bad performance is a handicap. Oh, and DOS VESA support is also lacking, worse even than on the ATi Rage cards.

Reply 10 of 13, by Dracolich

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Thanks, guys, this is good information. dionb, that explains a lot, and fits other descriptions I've read about Matrox in general.
My Millennium II has been a great 2D card in my MMX233 box, so I was hoping for something as good or better for a Win98 box. I had gotten the G550 to a stable desktop by tweaking the driver, and it was working pretty good in 2D; but anything using D3D or OpenGL would not work. The screen was just blank and I could blindly Alt-F4 to close it and return to the desktop. I haven't been able to try the EpicA because I don't have a Win2K/XP box.
I guess I'll put these back in the closet.

Reply 11 of 13, by dionb

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Sounds like driver problem more than anything else. OpenGL was non-functional in early drivers, but later it sort of worked, and D3D was solid. Maybe also no/not compatible DirectX? DX7 would be recommended iirc.

A G550 is slow, but should be good enough for most Win98 stuff, about on par with a TNT2-M64. The G400Max would be comparable to a TNT2-Ultra, at least in D3D, and its EMBM would give nicer textures in all four games that supported it.

Reply 12 of 13, by LunarG

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Matrox started out as a company delivering niche products for professional use, rather than as a consumer brand. It was simply due to the fact that with the release of the Millennium, they suddenly had a card that was great for all-round use (their older cards had a very slow VGA core) and so a lot of consumers started buying their products. They are still around as a company, but they are back to making niche products for professional use (video walls, medial imaging etc.) rather than spending lots and lots of R&D money trying to stay competitive in the gaming segment. I can't say I blame them really.

WinXP : PIII 1.4GHz, 512MB RAM, 73GB SCSI HDD, Matrox Parhelia, SB Audigy 2.
Win98se : K6-3+ 500MHz, 256MB RAM, 80GB HDD, Matrox Millennium G400 MAX, Voodoo 2, SW1000XG.
DOS6.22 : Intel DX4, 64MB RAM, 1.6GB HDD, Diamond Stealth64 DRAM, GUS 1MB, SB16.

Reply 13 of 13, by Dracolich

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Thanks, dionb. That kind of comparison to a TNT2 was one of my curiosities. Driver problems is my guess, too. Could this G550 be an OEM variant, which is why it has a subsys ID that's not in Matrox's official driver package? The mobo in my Win98 box is a Biostar M7VIG400, in case there are known compatibility issues with certain chipsets.

Interestingly, a few days ago I tried a 16MB PCI TNT2-M64, which I know is a Dell OEM, in my MMX233. I tried in Win3.x with the beta driver, then Win95c and Win98fe with several detonator driver versions. In Win95 and 98 the best I got was similar to this experience - good 2D but blank screens with OpenGL and D3D.