Matrox P750   
 

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Matrox Millennium P750

Most everyone in the DCC space-- from video editors to Photoshop gurus to CAD users know the benefits that having dual displays on the desktop are to getting the job done. Having twice the screen real estate for specific tasks helps to unclutter all the tool palettes that you open everyday in your applications. In the past, the downside to having a dual display desktop had been the price of entry, as the display card and a second display added up in cost.

As the march of technology rolls, as usual, the prices have come down, and, coupled with the popularity of LCD displays, all of a sudden more corporate environments have a lot of traditional CRTs sitting around. Matrox, which offers its Parhelia card with dual and triple head capabilities, has answered with a lower cost, yet fully featured Matrox Millennium P750. The P750 is targeted at that part of the market that doesn't need the 3D capabilities of the Parhelia or doesn't wish to spend the money. The Matrox P750 is the company's midrange 2D/entry-level 3D graphics card that enables you to attach a variety of monitor configurations to enhance and extend your workstation's desktop real estate. It sits between the very popular G450/G550 dual display cards at the entry level and the $399 Parhelia (128MB version) at the high end. The card fills a niche in the Matrox world that offers half the memory and bus of the Matrox Parhelia 128MB card at an attractive $235 price point.

The Specifications

The Matrox P750 ships with a 256-bit GPU, 64MB of memory and a 128-bit DDR memory bus. The AGP (supports from 1X up to 8X) bus-based card offers Triple head capabilities in the 2D workspace, as well as PrecisionCAD drivers for CAD application users. It is OpenGL 1.3 certified in single and dual monitor configurations for AutoCAD, MicroStation, SolidWorks, and Inventor, and is Microsoft DirectX 8.1 compliant. It offers 1600 x 1200 resolution in dual digital mode and 1920 x 1440 in dual analog mode. When in dual digital mode, each display's resolution can be adjusted independent of each other, enabling you to have different resolutions for each display. One of the biggest benefits of the P750 is its support for multiple monitor/display configurations. It supports a range of monitor setups, including one analog, one digital; two analog, two digital; combination analog and digital; analog plus TV; digital plus TV; three analog; two analog plus digital; two analog plus TV; and analog, digital and TV.

PowerDesk Utilities

While there are many multi-display cards on the market, what sets them apart, besides the physical hardware, are the set of utilities that ship with the card. These utilities are what give each card the functionality that makes them different from the rest. The P750 ships with the Matrox PowerDesk Utilities, which give you virtually limitless ways to adjust the properties of your displays. This is where you set up the card to power more than one display as well adjust monitor and TV settings. There are 10 icons from within PowerDesk; Multi-Display Setup, Monitor and TV adjustments, Quality and Performance Settings, Video Playback settings, Desktop Management, Matrox Zoom, Matrox Tools, Information, Help, and My Matrox. We’ll discuss some of the more interesting ones here.

Multi-Display Setup is where you set up more than one display. Here you can change the display settings to 2 displays, independent mode, which enables you to use two displays with separate resolutions, color palettes, and relative virtual position. Two displays, Stretched mode uses the same resolution and color palette. This causes the second display to act as an extension of the primary display. Two displays, clone mode takes your second display and makes it a clone, or mirror image of the primary display. This is an ideal setting if you were making a presentation or a demonstration and you need to project what you are doing on the computer to a wide audience. Everything that you do on your primary display is mimicked exactly on the second display. Two displays, independent mode makes your second display independent of the first display. This means that what appears on the second display is independent of what is on the first display. This is an ideal setting in a CAD environment where you can have your tool palettes on one display and the actual CAD models on the second display. From within the multi-display setup, you can access the Display Properties to adjust screen resolution, color quality, as well as the physical arrangement of your displays. The Monitor and TV adjustments enable you to adjust your displays visible area and refresh rates.


The Quality and Performance dialog box enables you to adjust your Game and 3D settings as well as Desktop Settings. Clicking on the Desktop Settings enables you to adjust Matrox Glyph antialiasing, adjust text gamma, change the maximum number of simultaneous colors, which are 16.8 million and 1 billion colors. Here you can also accelerate drawing of a color mouse pointer and make your mouse pointer and cursor larger. The Game and 3D settings let you adjust 3D antialiasing, texture filtering, and the maximum number of simultaneous colors. You can also choose to Flip Pages during vertical blanking intervals, and use HUD OpenGL mode or OpenGL Overlay mode. The P750 provides custom settings in this mode for the following applications: 3ds max, ArcGIS ArcCatalog, ArcGIS ArcMap, ArcGIS ArcScene, ArchiCAD, AutoCAD-based products, Autodesk Inventor, CATIA V5, Intergraph SmartPanel Review, LightWave 3D, Maya, MicroStation, Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire, Pro/ENGINEER, Revit, SOFTIMAGE|3D, SOFTIMAGE|XSI, Solid Edge, SolidWorks, Unigraphics, and Unigraphics NX. The P750 also supports a wide variety of games as well.
 


The Video Playback settings is where you adjust the card's settings for video playback. The PureVideo/DVDMax setting enables you to play video in a window on your main display and watch it full screen on another. This can come in handy if you are viewing say, an AutoCAD training DVD on one display while having the actual application open on the second display, following the tutorials of the training DVD with the actual application. From within the Video Playback settings you can adjust the PureVideo/DVDMax settings aspect ratio. You can preserve aspect ratio, scale to full screen, and detect video aspect ratio based on either the video window or the video source. If an NTSC monitor is attached, the TV aspect ratio can adjusted here as well. You can also preserve source cropping, scale only on page flip, and reverse field order with a TV using the advanced settings box.

The Matrox Zoom has two functions; Multi-Display Zoom and PixelTouch. Multi-Display Zoom let's you select any area or region of the display, and once you select it, it appears on the second display as a zoomed image. So if you have a small CAD file that you wish to show a larger audience on a second display, you can use Multi-Display Zoom to highlight that portion of the file you wish to emphasize, and display it on the second display. PixelTouch let's you zoom into your display at up to 4X. This is a good feature for those who have issues with their eyesight, as it helps those to see a larger desktop. The Matrox Tools window enables you to choose how you want to access the PowerDesk tools. You can specify an icon to remain on the Windows taskbar, automatically show the Matrox QuickBar toolbar, assign keyboard shortcuts, as well as access the display properties. You can even save a Zoomed image as an image file on your hard drive or to the clipboard.
 


The Information icon details the graphics hardware model and serial number, as well as the graphics memory type and amount, the display driver package and the graphics BIOS. Clicking on the display icon brings up all the information about the displays that are attached to the Millennium P750. It accounts for the position and resolution, the type of display as well as the supported interfaces, the brand and model number, the connector capabilities, the maximum analog frequency, if video overlay and feature display is supported. if you have two displays attached to the card, clicking on each display will give you the information that is unique to that display. The Help section offers all the features that are associated with getting help online, including such necessities as direct access to driver downloads, the technical support forum, the technical support home page, the Matrox web site, and an FAQ section. You also have access to specific information that is already on your computer with the installation of the PowerDesk Guide, PowerDesk Notes, and Troubleshooting settings.

Performance

I installed the Millennium P750 on a Dell Precision 360 workstation. It outputs very bright and crisp images on the dual Gateway FPD1830 LCD displays. Text was clean with no signs of degradation. Matrox has very astutely filled a niche in its product line with the Millennium P750. I have a G550 on my Compaq Evo W4000 in the home office and was really pleased with its image quality, but the P750 is even better, offering more tweakability as well as certification of the major CAD and DCC applications. The real factor with regard to the Millennium P750 is the price. It is more than $100 less than the Parhelia, yet retains most of the same specifications that the Parhelia offers.

With the exception of the 10-bit GigaColor Plug-in for Photoshop (which gives you 10-bit display and 10-bit processing, and one billion colors) and the WYSIWYG plugins, a higher 2048 x 1536 RGB resolution, four vertex shader units versus 2, and the 256-bit DDR memory bus (the P750 has a 128-bit DDR bus), and more memory, the P750 is a great value, especially for CAD users where these features are not really that important. The card is not specific either to the CAD market. Even though the Millennium P750 is certified for the major CAD applications, it will do well in any environment that benefits from a multiple display solution--digital video editing, DVD creation, animation, digital imaging. At around $235, you can really enhance your desktop real estate with your choice of CRT or digital displays, and can go with up to three displays if you so choose. For more information, visit www.matrox.com


Matrox's Millennium P750 graphics card
TripleHead with a two-by-four


Date:
14.08.2003

A LONG, LONG TIME ago, Matrox's G400 Max was arguably the best graphics card on the market. The G400 Max was the card to have for 3D gaming. The card had impeccable video signal quality, and was ideal for multimonitor configurations. Much has changed, however, in the four years since the G400 Max's release. Today, ATI and NVIDIA dominate the consumer-level 3D graphics, relegating Matrox to something of a niche player.

Fourteen months ago, it looked like Matrox might have found an edge with the high-end Parhelia. At first glance, Parhelia's technology was impressive, but the card's actual performance left something to be desired, especially considering its $400 price tag. With ATI and NVIDIA offering dual monitor support and strong video signal quality—traditionally sources of strength for Matrox—the pricey Parhelia wasn't exactly a hit with enthusiasts.

To give more budget-conscious consumers and businesses a taste of Parhelia's features at a lower price, Matrox is rolling out the Millennium P750. With only half of Parhelia's 3D graphics power, the P750 definitely isn't targeted at high-end 3D workstations or gaming machines. However, the prospect of getting Parhelia's features at a more reasonable price should be quite tempting for businesses and multimonitor enthusiasts. Can the Millennium P750 carve out space for itself in the crowded graphics market, or will it go the way of HeadCasting? Read on to find out.

Considering the targets

Before I get into too much detail on the Millennium P750, I should take a moment to highlight Matrox's target markets for the card. We don't always buy into clever market segmentation arguments, but we are aware that they sometimes make good sense. Considering the P750's target markets will help us evaluate the relative worth of each of the card's unique features. Matrox's stated target markets for the P750 essentially break down into four distinct areas.

At the top of Matrox's hit list for the P750 are 2D workstations that will benefit from the card's TripleHead support. The P750's 3D performance shouldn't matter much at all for 2D workstations, but the P750 does bring TripleHead down to a more affordable price point.

Because Matrox has traditionally targeted business users, I was a little surprised to see that the P750 is also positioned in home entertainment market. The P750 probably won't offer much in the way of gaming performance, but a high-quality TV output could make the card attractive for those looking to put together media-centric PCs.

Digital video editing workstations are another target for the P750. Video quality and multimonitor features will be particularly important for this market

Matrox's final target for the P750 is entry level 3D rendering and CAD workstations. Image quality and multimonitor features should be important to all workstation users, but 3D performance will also come into play for the 3D workstation crowd.

With clear targets defined, we can judge the Millennium P750 against the competition it's likely to face. Of course, that's not going to stop us from throwing a few games at the card, but before we get into that, let's look over some of the P750's features.

Parhelia lite

The Millennium P750 GPU is basically a cut-down version of Matrox's high-end Parhelia chip, which we've covered in the past. The two chips are nearly identical feature-wise, but the Millennium P750 has fewer functional units. Here's a quick cheat sheet on the P750 GPU:

  • Parhelia divided by two — Chop a Parhelia in half, and you've pretty much got a Millennium P750. The P750 has the same pixel pipelines with quad texturing units per pipe, five-stage pixel shaders, and DirectX 9-class vertex shaders as Parhelia, but only half as many of each. In total, Parhelia has four pixel pipelines, four pixel shaders, and four vertex shaders. The P750 has two pixel pipes, two pixel shaders, and two vertex shaders.

    The one-half rule also applies in the memory department. The Millennium P750 comes with a 128-bit memory bus and 64MB of memory. Parhelia has a 256-bit memory bus and is available with 128MB or 256MB of memory.

    Clock for clock, the Millennium P750 should be roughly half as fast as Parhelia, whose core and memory clock speeds are 200MHz and 500MHz, respectively. However, Matrox won't divulge the Millennium P750's core or memory clock speeds, which makes handicapping the card's real-world performance more difficult. Matrox's marketing materials claim the Millennium P750 is a little less than half as fast as Parhelia in 3D applications, which suggests the Millennium P750's clock speeds are at least a little lower than Parhelia's.

     

  • AGP 8X — The Millennium P750 might be half as endowed as Parhelia in most categories, but with AGP 8X, P750 offers twice as much AGP bandwidth as Parhelia, which is limited to AGP 4X.

     

  • DirectX 8.1 with a dash of 9 — The Millennium P750's five-stage pixel shaders meet the DirectX 8 pixel shader 1.3 spec, but the card's DirectX 9-class vertex shaders meet the same vertex shader 2.0 standard as those in ATI's R3x0 chips. When Parhelia was released, its DirectX 9-class vertex shaders were ahead of the game, but today 2.0 vertex shaders are common.

     

  • Fragment antialiasing — Parhelia's 16X fragment antialiasing is available on the P750 and remains a unique antialiasing technique among mainstream graphics cards. The P750's edge-only fragment antialiasing works at a 16X sample size that all but eliminates jaggies. For CAD applications that use untextured or wireframe 3D models, fragment antialiasing should look gorgeous and be very efficient.

     

  • GigaColor — Like Parhelia, the Millennium P750 supports 10 bits of precision in its red, green, and blue color channels throughout the rendering pipeline and right on through the RAMDACs. In 32-bit GigaColor mode, Matrox scales back alpha channel precision from eight to two bits. That's generally an acceptable tradeoff, because 2D desktop applications don't use the alpha channel.

    GigaColor's 10 bits of precision per color channel yields 1024 shades of red, green, and blue each that can be mixed and matched to produce over one billion colors. Standard 32-bit color, which has 8 bits of precision per color channel, yields a comparatively unimpressive 256 shades of red, green, and blue for only 16.7 million colors.

    Windows doesn't natively support 10-bits per color channel on the desktop; the sexy high-precision floating-point data types in the new ATI and NVIDIA cards require DirectX 9's 3D graphics API. Matrox's drivers enable GigaColor mode in Windows, but (non-3D) applications also have to be patched in order to support GigaColor. Thus far, Matrox has released a GigaColor viewer for Photoshop, but I'm not aware of any other applications that support the technology.

    Before you get too excited about GigaColor, there are a couple of things to note. First, GigaColor doesn't work with stretched desktops across multiple monitors. Since TripleHead only supports three monitors via a stretched desktop, it's completely incompatible with GigaColor. GigaColor is also available on the Millennium P650, which runs about $70 cheaper than the P750, but lacks the P750's TripleHead support.

     

  • Glyph Antialiasing — Text quality snobs will no doubt appreciate the P750's Glyph Antialiasing feature, which handles font antialiasing in hardware. Glyph Antialiasing is gamma corrected, and users can even set their own gamma preference levels for text. I've been using Glyph Antialiasing for a while now, and it's definitely a nice feature for anyone who's staring at on-screen text for hours on end.

     

  • Video features — Just like Parhelia, the P750 supports dual, gamma-corrected hardware overlays with hue, saturation, contrast, and brightness control. The card supports 10-bit per channel DVD playback, too, which should interest those looking to build high-fidelity home theater PCs.

     

  • Extra drivers — Matrox offers its own Red Hat Linux drivers for the P750. Matrox's web site also provides links to a number of third-party drivers for alternative operating systems. Matrox also supplies a number of "certified" drivers for various CAD and 3D applications, but the P750 has certified drivers for significantly fewer applications than Parhelia.

    Parhelia's certified driver support advantage isn't just because the P750 is new. According to its website, Matrox has no plans to certify P750 drivers for application niches like plant & process design, geographic information systems (GIS), or digital content creation. Also, Matrox only plans to certify drivers for a handful of mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD) and architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) apps, probably because the P750 is considered an entry-level card.


The Millennium P750's GPU in all its understated glory.
Well, OK, it's a metal cap.

The card

The Millennium P750's small size is easily its most striking feature. Notice how the board isn't any longer than a standard AGP slot.


 


 


 

Matrox uses 64MB worth of K4D263238A-GC33 BGA memory chips from Samsung rated for operation all the way up to 300MHz, though it's doubtful they're clocked nearly that high on the card. Even the retail Parhelia's memory chips are only clocked at 275MHz (550MHz DDR).


 

The P750 GPU is cooled by a tiny active heat sink. I honestly didn't expect to find a fan on the card. I can't imagine the GPU generates more heat than NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5200, which gets away with only passive cooling. Since the Millennium P750 is targeted at business environments where passive cooling is preferred for its silent operation and lack of failure-prone moving parts, I'd have much rather seen the card equipped with a larger, but passive, cooler.


 

Dual DVI output ports bristle from the Millennium P750's back plate, ready to drive a pair of digital flat panels. Dating back to the G550, Matrox has traditionally been the only game in town for those who wanted dual DVI outputs on a consumer-level graphics card, but the competition is slowly catching up. Tyan almost introduced a dual DVI version of its Tachyon G9600 Pro before changing its mind, and Asus and Gainward both have GeForce FX 5600 cards with dual DVI output ports. Gainward has also offered a dual-DVI GeForce4 Ti 4600 in the past, and I have a feeling it's only a matter of time before dual DVI becomes standard for mid-range and high-end consumer graphics cards.

On the workstation front, dual DVI ports are far more common. Even NVIDIA's low-end NV17-based Quadros are available with dual DVI output ports, so the P750 doesn't stand out as much among workstation cards.


 

Matrox ships the Millennium P750 with a set of video adapters that manipulate the card's two DVI outputs to feed all manner of one, two, and three-screen configurations. There are no actual video cables included with the card, which is a little disappointing considering its price.

Multimonitor support

Matrox's crown jewel, at least as far as competitive advantages go, has long been its multimonitor support. Matrox was the first to offer DualHead to drive two monitors with a single graphics card, and Parhelia raised the bar by throwing a third monitor into the mix. With the Millennium P750, Matrox hasn't expanded Parhelia's TripleHead support, but they haven't cut it back, either.

To satisfy varied user needs, the Millennium P750's multimonitor support includes a vast array of DualHead and TripleHead options. The card is capable of "SurroundDesign" 3D acceleration across up to three screens, which would be perfect for CAD and 3D content creation applications. Heck, the P750 even supports SurroundGaming, though Matrox makes it quite clear that the card lacks the horsepower necessary to make such a feature useful in the real world. I suspect that same lack of horsepower is why Matrox is only targeting the P750 at "entry-level" CAD use. With half as many rendering pipelines as Parhelia—and Parhelia is no screamer—the P750 will no doubt struggle sometimes driving three 3D-accelerated screens at once.

Of course, DualHead and TripleHead aren't limited to 3D applications. 2D desktop work is where I find that multiple displays shine the most. Generally, an expanded Windows desktop is useful either for letting a single application span multiple monitors or for viewing multiple applications on separate monitors. Content creation professionals, programmers, obsessive multitaskers, and video editing types can all benefit from adding a second or even third screen for an expanded desktop. Those working with video content will also appreciate the fact that the Millennium P750 supports TV output as a part of its Dual and TripleHead schemes. The TV output is a personal favorite of mine; I'm currently running DualHead independent desktops with a TV hooked up for video playback. There's something to be said for being able to make pretty graphs in Excel while keeping an eye on the Anonymous Gerbils as a little Family Guy plays in the background.


 

Like Parhelia, TripleHead on the Millennium P750 has a couple of annoying little limitations that are forgivable, but worth mentioning. The card supports independent refresh rates, resolutions, and color depths for DualHead configurations, but adding a third monitor to the mix requires a stretched desktop mode that locks in a single refresh rate, resolution, and color depth across all three monitors. The maximum single-screen resolution for TripleHead configurations is only 1280x1024, too. The following tables summarize available display modes and their limitations:

 

DualHead
Display 1 Display 2
Analog CRT monitor
Analog LCD monitor
Digital LCD monitor
Analog CRT monitor
Analog LCD monitor
Digital LCD monitor
NTSC/PAL TV or VCR

 

DualHead + TV output
Display 1 Display 2 TV
Analog CRT monitor
Analog LCD monitor
Digital LCD monitor
Analog CRT monitor
Analog LCD monitor
NTSC/PAL TV or VCR

 

TripleHead
Left Center Right
Analog CRT monitor
Analog LCD monitor
Analog CRT monitor
Analog LCD monitor
Digital LCD monitor
Analog CRT monitor
Analog LCD monitor

Another of the Millennium P750's more notable shortcomings is the fact that only a single DVI port is available with any three-screen configuration. In a three-monitor configuration that requires a stretched desktop with distinct left, right, and center screens, the Millennium P750 only supports a DVI monitor as the center screen.

Overall, the Matrox cards' three-screen limitations are tempered by the fact that they're nearly the only single-card solution capable of driving three displays. ATI has demonstrated three-screen support with its latest integrated graphics chipset, but that requires an external AGP card, so it's far from a single-card solution. Windows 2K/XP also supports three or more monitors through auxiliary PCI graphics cards, but again, that's not a single-card solution. Three-screen configurations that mix and match AGP and PCI graphics cards also won't support 3D hardware acceleration across all screens, but they do just fine for standard 2D desktop work. Perhaps PNY's Quadro4 400 NVS comes the closest to the Matrox cards; it supports four displays (DVI or VGA) on a single PCI card. The Quadro4 400 NVS also costs nearly $400.


 


 

Our testing methods

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test system was configured like so:

 

  System
Processor AMD Athlon XP 2600+
Front-side bus 333MHz (2x166MHz)
Motherboard DFI LANParty NFII Ultra
Chipset NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400
North bridge nForce2 SPP
South bridge nForce2 MCP
Chipset driver NVIDIA 2.03
Memory size 512MB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair XMS3000 PC2700 DDR SDRAM
Graphics Radeon 9000 Pro 64MB GeForce FX 5200 64MB Millennium P750 64MB
Parhelia 128MB
Millennium G550 32MB
Graphics driver CATALYST 3.6 Detonator FX 44.03 1.04.02.007 5.86.032
Storage

Maxtor 740X-6L 40GB 7200RPM ATA/133 hard drive

Operating System Windows XP Professional
Service Pack 1, DirectX 9.0a

To make things interesting, we'll be looking at the Millennium P750's performance against its big brother, Parhelia, and its grandpa, the G550. Since the G550 is really a DirectX 7-class card, I wouldn't expect it to complete most of the tests we'll be running today. However, the Millennium P750 is really the G550's successor, so we've included it for kicks.

NVIDIA's budget GeForce FX 5200 and ATI's low-end Radeon 9000 Pro have also been included to give us an idea of how well the Millennium P750 stacks up against more mainstream budget graphics cards. The Millennium P750 is more than double the cost of either of these cards, but as you'll see, the 3D performance is comparable.

Since Matrox is very much not targeting the Millennium P750 at gamers or anyone demanding 3D performance, I'm not going to be putting much emphasis on the benchmark results. However, I am curious to see if the card is capable of at least light gaming, and I'd like to find out whether it really is about half as fast as Parhelia in 3D applications.

The test system's Windows desktop was set at 1024x768 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Synthetic tests

Fill rate

Unfortunately, Matrox isn't releasing the core and memory clock speeds of the Millennium P750. Also, OEM and retail versions of the card will run at different clock speeds, which further complicates the issue. Taken together with other considerations, the funky clock speed shuffle means the P750 is probably the last card anyone looking for predictable 3D performance should consider.

Anyway, here's our trusty chip chart to give you an idea of how the other cards we're looking at today stack up:

 

  Core clock (MHz) Pixel pipelines  Peak fill rate (Mpixels/s) Texture units per pixel pipeline Peak fill rate (Mtexels/s) Memory clock (MHz) Memory bus width (bits) Peak memory bandwidth (GB/s)
Millennium P750 NA 2 NA 4 NA NA 128 NA
Millennium G550 125 2 250 2 500 332 64 2.66
GeForce FX 5200 250 4 1000 1 1000 400 128 6.4
Radeon 9000 Pro 275 4 1100 1 1100 550 128 8.8
Parhelia 200 4 800 4 3200 500 256 16

If I had to guess, I'd wager that the Millennium P750's memory clock speed is somewhere in the 500MHz range. I doubt the core's clock speed is higher than 200MHz, but given the fact that it requires active cooling, it's probably not much lower.

Of course, we don't have to rely on theoretical fill rate specs since we have a few synthetic tests to fall back on.

In 3DMark2001 SE's single-texturing fill rate test, the Millennium P750's two pixel pipelines don't have a chance. Each pipe's ability to lay down four textures per pass does, however, give the card a more competitive multi-texturing fill rate.

Intriguingly, the Parhelia's fill rate scores are much more than twice the P750's. In fact, Parhelia delivers nearly three times the fill rate.

Occlusion detection
 

Parhelia doesn't feature any occlusion detection capabilities, and apparently, neither does the P750. Even so, the P750 hangs just behind the GeForce and Radeon cards in VillageMark.

Pixel shaders
 

The P750's pixel shader performance is about what we would expect. The card isn't quite as fast as Parhelia, suggesting, perhaps, slightly lower core and memory clock speeds. Interestingly enough, the Millennium P750 actually beats the GeForce FX 5200 in the advanced pixel shader test.

The Millennium P750 is at the back of the pack in the ChameleonMark pixel shader tests. Since the G550 lacks pixel shaders, it wouldn't run any of our pixel shader tests.

Vertex shaders
 

The Millennium P750's vertex shader scores look decent at lower resolutions, but scores tank when we crank things up to 1600x1200, where the card hits a fill rate bottleneck. The G550 only turns in a score here because DirectX is emulating a vertex shader in software. In theory, the software vertex shader should be quite fast our Athlon XP 2600+ test system, but the G550 doesn't have the pixel-pushing power to keep up.

In 3DMark03's more advanced vertex shader tests, the Millennium P750 is actually a hair faster than the GeForce FX 5200.

The Millennium P750 does quite well in 3DMark2001 SE's transform and lighting tests.

 

Games

Quake III Arena

 

Comanche 4
 

Unreal Tournament 2003
 

Codecreatures Benchmark Pro
 

In our gaming tests, the Millennium P750 is about half as fast as Parhelia. Unfortunately, that puts it behind the budget offerings from NVIDIA and ATI. The Millennium P750 is a much more capable gamer than the ancient G550, which at least makes it a viable option for a little lunchtime fragging in the office. Don't expect high frame rates, though, especially at high resolutions with newer titles like Unreal Tournament 2003.

Serious Sam SE

I used Serious Sam SE's "Extreme quality" add-on to create a relatively level playing field across all cards. Since the "Extreme quality" add-on automatically turns up anisotropic filtering as high as any given card will go, I disabled anisotropic filtering and ran the tests with trilinear filtering only. We'll look at the Millennium P750's anisotropic filtering capabilities in a moment.

The Millennium P750 can only beat the G550 in Serious Sam SE, but it comes close to nipping the GeForce FX 5200 at high resolutions.

Just because we can, let's take a look at the Millennium P750's performance across the length of the benchmark demo.

The Millennium P750 doesn't display any alarming performance dips across the length of our benchmark demo, which is good. Still, I wouldn't want to play at any resolution higher than 1024x768. Go any higher than that, and the P750 just can't deliver playable frame rates.

3DMark2001 SE
 

The Millennium P750 struggles a little in 3DMark2001 SE's game tests; it's well off the pace set by the budget GeForce and Radeon cards.

3DMark03
 

The trend continues in 3DMark03's game tests. The Millennium P750 just doesn't have the horsepower to compete with today's low-end GeForce and Radeon cards in 3D gaming.

SPECviewperf

Now this should be a little more up the P750's alley. SPEC's viewperf simulates graphics loads taken from real-life, workstation-class OpenGL applications.

Anyone looking at using the P750 in a low-end CAD workstation should be a little disturbed by the card's relatively slow performance in SPECviewperf 7.1. It's embarrassing to see the P750 and even the high-end Parhelia getting whupped by ATI and NVIDIA's bargain basement graphics cards.

However, these SPEC results don't follow the performance pattern we've established throughout our 3D testing. Curious, I asked Matrox about the low scores, and they sent me the results of their own internal testing with an nForce2 system and Athlon XP 2400+. Matrox's scores are below:

 

  P750 Parhelia
3dsmax-02 6.665 8.938
drv-09 16.97 17.21
dx-08 37.58 42.34
light-06 0.000 9.024
proe-02 3.396 4.465
ugs-03 5.163 6.023

Matrox's internal scores for the P750 and Parhelia are closer to what I would have expected from the cards, and they are much higher than the scores our test card was able to achieve. After several fresh drive images, driver installations, and clean installations of Windows XP, I was unable to replicate Matrox's scores on our nForce2 test system or on a couple of Pentium 4-based testbeds.

I've been working with Matrox on this problem for a couple of weeks now. While my test results in other applications suggest that Matrox isn't cooking the books intentionally, I can't see end users having better luck getting their systems to match Matrox's internal scores than I did. Short-Media's review of the P750 also shows poor SPECviewperf performance, which only reinforces my confidence in the repeatability of my scores. I'm still working with Matrox on the problem, and I will update this review if Matrox is able to fix whatever's wrong.

You may also be curious about why the Millennium P750 fails the light-06 test while Parhelia produces a score. Since the two cards have the same feature support, they should both be able to complete the test. According to Matrox, the P750's failure has to do with the fact that it only has 64MB of memory; SPECviewperf apparently tries to write to areas of memory that don't exist on the P750. However, our 64MB Radeon 9000 Pro has no problems with the light-06 test, so I suspect the P750's drivers are at least partially to blame.

Update 24-11-2003: Matrox has released a driver update for its Parhelia, P750, and P650 graphics cards, fixing a nagging bug that impeded performance in SPEC's viewperf workstation graphics benchmark. The P750's performance with the latest 1.05.01.008 drivers is much improved and the card generates the following scores on our Athlon XP 2600+ test system:

 

  P750 (1.05.01.008) Parhelia (1.05.01.008)
3dsmax-02 6.098 8.789
drv-09 15.24 17.10
dx-08 35.78 42.19
light-06 8.704 8.911
proe-02 3.356 4.356
ugs-03 4.723 6.042

As you can see, the new drivers also fix a bug that prevented the light-06 test from completing on the P750.

AGP texture download performance
Because the P750 is suited for video editing, we also threw in Serious Magic's AGP texture download benchmark. Serious Magic develops video editing applications, and decent AGP texture transfer performance is key to certain video manipulation tasks. You can read more about this issue here.

Since we first looked at texture download speeds, driver updates from ATI and NVIDIA have dramatically improved the performance of the Radeon and GeForce cards, but Matrox's cards are still slow. The P750's poor texture download performance will be an issue for any application that needs to bring the card's output back into main memory. Even simple 3D character generation or screen captures will be limited to very low frame rates and resolutions. Since ATI and NVIDIA were able to improve their cards' texture download performance dramatically with driver updates, we'd like to see Matrox address the problem with a future driver release.

Antialiasing

Edge antialiasing

The Millennium P750 supports the 4X supersampling and 16X fragment antialiasing, just like Parhelia.

Since they only support two antialiasing modes, the P750 and Parhelia lines are broken on our graph. However, the P750 doesn't have the horsepower for antialiasing at anything other than extremely low resolutions, anyway.

Antialiasing quality

It's doubtful many P750 owners will actually use antialiasing in games, but here's what the card's supersampled and fragment antialiasing modes look like. Click on the images for an uncompressed PNG version of each screenshot.

 


Millennium P750: No antialiasing


 

 


Millennium P750: 4x antialiasing


 

 


Millennium P750: 16x antialiasing


 

The P750's 16X fragment antialiasing produces incredibly sharp edges with nary a ragged edge in sight. However, fragment antialiasing only works on edges, so textures look better with the card's supersampled 4X antialiasing.

Texture antialiasing
 

The Millennium P750 only supports 2X anisotropic filtering, so there's not much to see here. Let's check out what the card's 2X aniso looks like. Click on the images for an uncompressed PNG version of each screenshot.

 


Millennium P750: Standard trilinear + bilinear filtering


 

 


Millennium P750: Trilinear + anisotropic filtering


 

2X aniso is an improvement over trilinear filtering, but there's still a lot of blurring in the distance. Here are the mipmap transitions with trilinear and anisotropic filtering:

 


Millennium P750: Standard trilinear + bilinear filtering


 

 


Millennium P750: Trilinear + anisotropic filtering

Conclusions

If you're looking for 3D performance, don't buy a P750. Bargain-basement cards like the GeForce FX 5200 and Radeon 9000 Pro outclassed the $226 P750 in the 3D applications we tested, but that was to be expected. The P750 does offer much better 3D performance and compatibility than the DirectX 7-class G550, but that's not saying much. Matrox smartly isn't positioning the P750 for gamers, but what about the markets that the P750 is specifically targeted at?

For 2D workstations, the P750's multimonitor support, Glyph antialiasing, and impeccable video signal quality are certainly attractive. However, even low-end cards from ATI and offer signal quality comparable to the P750. ATI and NVIDIA support dual-monitor configurations, too. ATI's HyrdraVision software could still use a little work, but NVIDIA's nView is more than powerful enough for the majority of dual-monitor applications. (For our in-depth take on these three competing multi-display implementations, see our multimonitor shootout.)

For 2D workstation applications, the P750 has competition from its little brother. Since the cheaper Millennium P650 also has dual DVI outputs and Glyph Antialiasing, the P750's appeal will probably be confined to those folks seeking to build to TripleHead systems. Also, those who can live without hardware-accelerated font antialiasing can easily cobble together a cheaper setup with three (or more) monitors by mixing AGP and PCI graphics cards. Still, the P750 remains a hassle-free single-card solution for TripleHead. With a tweak here and there to support higher resolutions and independent display settings, TripleHead could really take 2D workstations by storm, but it hasn't been perfected yet.

On the home entertainment front, video and imaging editing enthusiasts will no doubt enjoy the card's 10-bit-per-color-channel video output and GigaColor Photoshop plugin. However, the P750's poor gaming performance limits its entertainment potential. For the same price, the All-in-Wonder and Personal Cinema products from ATI and NVIDIA offer better gaming frame rates coupled with more robust multimedia functionality for home theater PCs.

The P750 is probably best suited for video editing workstations that will make use of the card's TV output in three-screen configurations. The big selling point for TripleHead here is the DualHead + TV configuration, which seamlessly combines a DualHead two-screen desktop with a TV for video playback. The P750's poor texture download performance should definitely be a concern for video editing professionals, but it won't have a negative impact on all video editing tasks. Matrox may yet, in time, alleviate this problem with a driver update as ATI and NVIDIA have done. However, they are apparently in no hurry to do so.

In the 3D and CAD workstation world, the P750 will have to go up against NVIDIA's low-end Quadro cards, which feature dual DVI ports and should offer better performance in 3D applications. Quadros can't do 3D hardware acceleration across three screens, and they don't have 16X fragment antialiasing, so the P750 has an edge for certain types of 3D workstations. However, Parhelia seems like a far better choice for this segment. Parhelia 128MB cards can be had online for only about $85 more than a P750—a small price to pay for much better 3D performance and a wider range of certified application-specific drivers.

At the end of the day, the P750 is a good low-cost option for picky niche markets that specifically want access to features like SurroundDesign, TripleHead, Glyph Antialiasing, and GigaColor. The P750's $226 price tag should give the card a broader appeal than the more expensive Parhelia. However, competing cards from ATI and NVIDIA offer comparable video signal quality, comparable dual monitor support, and far superior 3D performance. Thus, I can't see the P750 digging Matrox out of its existing niches. At the very least, the P750 should fare better in those niches than HeadCasting did. 


Matrox Millennium P750 Video Card

Date: 01.05.2003

"Matrox took a page from the lesson book of Parhelia and took notice of a very interesting statistic; the G550 is still a popular card. Believe it or not dual monitor enthusiasts look to the G550 for dual CRT and DFP support that is affordable. Graphic artists use it. Video editors use it. Financial analysts use it. Dual monitor enthusiasts loved it.


Somewhere in the Matrox offices over someone's head a light bulb appeared. The PC users who bought the G450 and G550 in droves didn't buy the Parhelia. Somewhere between everything that the Parhelia offers and what the G450 and G550 delivered lay Matrox's new video card."

A return to roots
I'm often asked for application specific recommendations for PC hardware due to my full time occupation in the broadcasting industry. Many times I receive emails from inquisitive entrepreneurs who aspire to build non-linear video edit suites. I have found that video editors are far more of the tinkering type than graphic artists. Graphic artists, on the other hand, do the best that they can with the tools at hand but constantly prod for "newer, better, faster." There is a commonality in the profession and that is no graphic or video professional works on single monitors. Dual monitors are the mainstay of the graphic and video world. Dual monitors are for web designers who code laboriously into the night in single monitor hell and dual monitors are for anyone who wants a little more "digital elbow room".

Matrox has no desire to run the race for ultimate frames per second. Matrox does multi-monitor and they do it well. The competition would have to spend tremendous energy, time and effort just to catch up. It is no secret that Matrox is far ahead for multi-monitor support and desktop image quality. Even the most hardcore of gamers will relinquish this fact. The Parhelia wasn't a failure for what it was intended to do. The key word is intent. Matrox introduced the Parhelia to provide dual and even triple head display with the highest quality image display possible and more than enough horsepower to meet the needs of the graphic world.

"The Millennium P650 and P750 series fulfill a niche of those who wanted more from the G450 and G550 but didn't need all that the Parhelia offered. Not everyone is a hardcore gamer and those who are may have a dedicated PC for gaming. Dual monitors are a joy to work with. There is no better way to say it and nobody who delivers it better than Matrox."

Dual monitor capable video cards have a primary and a secondary display. The secondary display gets the "leftovers". In other words just enough to display a desktop image. One monitor or the other has to be designated as a primary but not both. Software programs may require for part of the workspace to be in the primary display and will not work in the secondary display. This is where Matrox has leapt ahead. The Matrox Millennium P650 and P750 have no secondary display. The Millennium P650 and P750, like the Parhelia, have dual 400 MHz RAMDAC’s for dual 1920 x 1440 resolution support and fully symmetric DualHead. There is also dual hardware overlay support for video in a window in either display. You'll often find that video only plays on the primary display for competitors cards.

"High performance gaming cards are indeed better...at games. Matrox is forthright in stating that their products are not designed to compete with the high frame rates of the competition. Matrox designs product for multi-monitor support."

Photoshop users know all too well the confines of single monitor displays. Anyone who is in graphic design needs room especially in a program like Adobe After Effects. Single monitor with Adobe After Effects is hell. There is a constant reshuffling of windows that wastes time, hurts productivity and creates frustration. Adobe After Effects isn't a graphic card hungry program. When it renders it relies mainly on the CPU. The composition window which displays the composition timeline does have to be in the primary display to receive the GPU horsepower. The comp window can be in either display since the Millennium P650 and P750 have dual 400 MHz RAMDAC’s for dual 2048 x 1536 resolution support and fully symmetric DualHead. When you look to programs like Premiere or Avid Express DV, for example, this performance isn't possible with competitor's cards because those programs use hardware overlay which restricts some functional use to the primary monitor.

Any smart graphic designer would work in dual displays for After Effects and why not have the option and benefit of dual digital displays. There is one more plus to the Matrox P750 and that is dual display PLUS TV-OUT. The graphic artist or non-linear editor can retain the dual desktop PLUS output the video to a NTSC monitor for preview. There is no additional hardware to buy.

The Millennium P750 will please some and disappoint others. It is easy to figure out who will be and who won't be. Gamers will want to avoid the Matrox line and it isn't a negative to say so. Matrox does not deliver the high frame rates to match the competition. Gamers can also be web designers. Gamers can be graphic designers. They are all enthusiasts who most likely have more than one PC and who like the right tool for the job. The Millennium P650/P750 fills the niche between Parhelia and the G450/550 series. Those that are familiar with the G450/G550 will most likely be at the front of the line for Matrox's latest. It has what they have been waiting for at a price point that is substantially easier to swallow than Parhelia.

You must keep in mind what the Matrox Millennium P650/P750 series is designed for; multi-monitor support and 2D image perfection. The P750 brings added value of maintaining dual head plus TV. Photoshop and After Effects, which are very powerful programs, rely mainly on CPU power for rendering effects. The Millennium P650/P750 series allow users to shift hardware overlay to either window or split it between.

It really is quite simple. Matrox has an extremely good desktop image. They are a good choice for a 2D multi-monitor PCs, 2D graphic workstations and affordable NLE systems. 2D power-app users will prefer this card over higher priced gaming products. Home users will love the ability to stretch out over 2 monitors....perhaps even three.

The casual gamer will be able to enjoy the latest games but with a few concessions. I recommend Matrox products for multi-monitor environments but would obviously hesitate for gaming enthusiasts and 3D designers who require massive GPU processing power. 2D graphic enthusiasts will love the flexibility and no-hassle desktop that Matrox provides.

I can't help but respect Matrox for their multi-monitor expertise. I work on multi-monitor computers day in and day out. G450/G550 lovers who are looking for an upgrade will be very pleased with the Millennium P650 or P750 and especially pleased with the price point in comparison to the Parhelia. Matrox have targeted productivity enthusiasts and once you go dual (or even triple) you won't go back.

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Copyright © 2002 Øyvind Haugland
Sist endret:  25 mars 2017
 

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