Matrox

Matrox was a Canadian graphics card manufacturer for the IBM PC and its compatibles, based in Montreal and was founded way back in 1976. Though they started out producing "frame grabbers" for various hardware, they really took off from 1994 to 1995 when their revenues jumped from $120M to $250M. From 1993 they stopped used third-party chipsets, instead choosing to design their own - the first of these was to be used on the Impression and Impression Pro video cards.

They were probably most famous for their MGA (Matrox Graphics Architecture), which was a 64-bit engine, as well as superior 2D graphics which was important during the era of using CRTs. These also had a reputation for being high performers.

They were also notably remembered for their multi-display capabilities, with "dual-head" and even "quad-head" graphics cards to drive up to 4 displays at once.

Matrox even provided games developers with their API, called MSI (Matrox Simple Interface), though this was not widely adopted and eventually only 12 titles directly supported MSI. MSI was limited to games that supported 640 x 480 x 16 with Z-buffer sorting and no bilinear filtering.

With the introduction of 3D accelerators in the mid-to-late 90s, Matrox were not able to keep pace with the competition from nVidia and ATI. In 2002, they launched their final 3D graphics card, Parhelia-512, before pulling out of the consumer graphics card market to focus on more niche industries, such as CAD and the multi-display features they were so strong in.

The company still exists today, and in September 2019 one of the original founders took back 100% control of the Matrox.

 

Impression

Launched: 1993
Graphics Chip: IS-TITAN
Bus: PCI
Memory:
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: ? MHz
RAMDAC Speed: ? MHz
Price: $999

Aimed at the CAD (Compute-Aided Design) market, this card was the first from Matrox to use their new homegrown graphics chipset instead of a third party. Impression was the single chip (cheaper) version, though the card was very expensive.

Impression Pro

Launched: 1993
Graphics Chip: IS-TITAN
Bus: PCI
Memory:
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: ? MHz
RAMDAC Speed: ? MHz
Price: $1,999

Impression Pro was the same as Impression, but came with two of their chipset chips onboard.

Ultima

Launched: 1993
Graphics Chip: IS-ATLAS
Bus: PCI
Memory:
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: ? MHz
RAMDAC Speed: ? MHz
Price: $799(?)

A cheaper, more integrated card that was designed to replace the pricey Impression card.

Ultima Plus

Launched: 1993
Graphics Chip: IS-ATLAS
Bus: PCI
Memory:
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: ? MHz
RAMDAC Speed: ? MHz
Price: $999

Ultima Plus was the same as Ultima, though designed to replace the Impression Pro card.

Impression Plus

Launched: 1994
Graphics Chip: IS-ATHENA
Bus: PCI
Memory:
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: ? MHz
RAMDAC Speed: ? MHz
Price: $898

Impression Plus was the first Matrox card that came with basic 3D features built into its hardware chipset, including Gouraud shading.

Millennium

Launched: 1995
Graphics Chip: IS-STORM (MGA2064W)
Bus: PCI
Memory: 2 MB, 4 MB, or 8 MB WRAM
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: 60 MHz
RAMDAC Speed: 220 MHz
Price: $180 (2MB, Apr 1997), $250 (4MB, Apr 1997)

Designed to be a Windows 2D GUI accelerator, this card provided blazing fast 2D performance with a crisp output. It could reach resolutions of 1600 x 1200 in 16.7 million colours, and up to 200 Hz refresh rate.

The card had quite a price premium though. Matrox integrated their 3D engine from the earlier (and market failure) Impression cards to the Millennium. It got good-quality WRAM memory from Samsung, but for a 3D-capable card it had no texturing unit - something gamers weren't excited about. This of course is because it was never pitched as a gaming card.

So instead of hardware texturing it had to use its software drivers that implemented Gouraud shading and other more limited techniques which resulted in lower quality 3D rendering. According to the adverts, it could render 190,000 3D polygons per second.

The first cards were specified with 50 MHz core clock, although 60 MHz is more common clock to see on these cards.

 

Mystique

Launched: 1996
Codename: 1064SG
Graphics Chip: IS-MGA-1064SG-D, IS-MGA-1064SG-H
Bus: PCI
Memory: 2 MB, 4 MB or 8 MB SGRAM (64-bit)
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: 60 MHz
RAMDAC Speed: 170 MHz
Price: $130 (2MB, Apr 1997)

The Mystique was Matrox' response to gamers demands for a 'proper' 3D card with a texturing engine, since the first Millennium had none. In a single chip (the 1064SG) Matrox integrated the RAMDAC and video engine with a hardware scaler. The new texturing engine handled perspective correction, transparency lookup table, lighting in true colour precision, and dithering, though despite being the best 3D card from Matrox even through 1997, it did not have bilinear filtering, fogging, mip-mapping or anti-aliasing - instead relying on "nearest neighbour" interpolation. It also doesn't directly support OpenGL.

As was typical for Matrox, their 2D image quality was fantastic - noticeably better than its peers at the time such as S3 ViRGE and ATI Mach64 based cards. 3D performance of this new chip, however, was sub-par. Mystique was a much cheaper card than the Millennium with a slower RAMDAC (even though it was integrated into the single graphics processor chip) and slower memory, though its 2D performance was almost as fast as Millennium up to XGA resolutions (1024 x 768).

It supports the following VGA and up graphics modes:

Resolution Max. Refresh Rate (Hz) Max. Colour Depth
1600 x 1200 60* 8-bit
1280 x 1024 85 8-bit
1152 x 864 75 16-bit
1024 x 768 85 16-bit
800 x 600 85 32-bit
640 x 480 85 32-bit

*Mystique 220 is able to display 1600 x 1200 at 75 Hz refresh rate.

The first Mystiques came with a 50 MHz core and memory running at 75 MHz. Without changing the model or version, a variety of flavours seemed to follow, such as 55/82.5 and 60/90. It appears Matrox spent 1996 to mid-1997 gradually raising the Mystique's clock speeds.

Mystiques fitted with 4 MB from factory were upgradable to 8 MB. The 8 MB cards from factory simply had the 4 MB memory expansion module fitted. Another option header on the board allowed you to connect the Rainbow Runner - an MPEG-1 and AVI video playback module that included further video input and output ports. A Rainbow Runner TV module added a TV tuner.

The retail version of Mystique came bundled with three 3D games: MechWarrior 2, Destruction Derby 2 and Scorched Planet. IBM shipped their desktop and mini-tower PC 300PL range with Mystique cards in 1997.

Tip: If you get frequent lock-ups or freezes disable the "Use Bus Mastering" feature under the device driver Settings tab. This Bus Mastering is present on all Mystique models and will increase your frame rates but unfortunately increases instability

Summing up: Mystique had arguably the best 2D quality and performance for a 1996 and even 1997 card. For 3D gaming, performance still beat the early S3 ViRGE and ATI Mach 64 cards though 3D image quality was poorer due to its limited 3D feature set. If you have a 3dfx Voodoo 1 card, use that in conjunction with this for better 3D performance.

Millennium 2

Launched: 1997
Codename: 164WMistral
Graphics Chip: MGA-2164W
Bus: AGP
Memory: 4 MB WRAM (expandable up to 16 MB)
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: 66 MHz
RAMDAC Speed: 250 MHz
Price: $399 (8 MB version), $498 (mid-1997, 16 MB WRAM version)

Introducing faster 2D performance, higher maximum resolution, and a Direct3D-compliant engine thanks to an upgraded version of the Mystique chip, the Millennium 2 was targeted at the business market.

Key features:

  • 62.5 MHz core clock
  • 4 MB of fast WRAM (64-bit memory bus width) - expandable in 4, 8 or 12 MB modules

 Dell shipped their Dimension XPS range with Matrox Millennium II cards in mid-1997, and Compaq did the same on their Pentium II desktops toward the end of that year. US-only PC maker, Quantex also shipped some Pentium II systems with the Millennium II. You could also upgrade a Millennium II card with the Matrox Rainbow Runner Studio, which gave the card video editing, video conferencing, and PC-to-TV capability with hardward MPEG video. In December 1997, PC Magazine ran a comparison of Pentium II desktops for Professional/Enthusiast, and the Matrox Millennium II was considered the best graphics card alongside the Number Nine Revolution 3D.

Tip: If you get frequent lock-ups or freezes disable "Use Bus Mastering" in the device driver settings.
Tip: There have been reports of issues running 3D with motherboards that use the Intel i815 and 440BX chipsets.

Summing Up: Sadly, the Millennium 2 still had a lack of 3D features that plagued the Mystique. Millennium 2 did however support 3D rendering in 32-bit colour depth, and got a 32-bit Z-buffer. In reality the Millennium 2 is about the same as a Mystique in 3D gaming - it suffers the same horrible lack of features that cause many games to display badly, if at all. Ordinarily the Mystique would beat it performance-wise, but the Millennium 2's faster WRAM memory make up for the shortfall.

Mystique 220

Launched: 1997
Codename: 1164SGCyclone
Graphics Chip: MGA-1164
Bus: PCI
Memory: 2 MB or 4 MB SGRAM
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: 66 MHz
RAMDAC Clock Speed: 220 MHz
Price: $140 (mid-1997)

A mild refresh of 1996's Mystique card with the only difference being the faster internal RAMDAC, now at 220 MHz over the original's 170 MHz. From a 2D perspective this put the Mystique 220 on par at XGA (1024 x 768) and higher resolutions with the original more expensive Millennium.

It is easy to spot a 220 over the original, with the main chip now coded "MGA-1164SG-A" instead of a 1064.

This card has good DOS, Windows 3.1 and Windows 98 support, though doesn't directly support OpenGL. It supports the following VGA and up graphics modes:

Resolution Max. Refresh Rate (Hz) Max. Colour Depth
1600 x 1200 75* 8-bit
1280 x 1024 85 8-bit
1152 x 864 75 16-bit
1024 x 768 85 16-bit
800 x 600 85 32-bit
640 x 480 85 32-bit

*Original Mystique is only able to display 1600 x 1200 at 60 Hz refresh rate.

A Mystique 220 Business version was also released, though this only differed in what bundled software you got.

Tip: If you get frequent lock-ups or freezes disable the "Use Bus Mastering" feature under the device driver Settings tab. This Bus Mastering is present on all Mystique models and will increase your frame rates but unfortunately increases instability
Tip: There have been reports of issues running 3D with motherboards that use the Intel i815 and 440BX chipsets.

Summing Up: Not a great deal of difference from the earlier Mystique, just slightly faster so it's the same message here - great 2D quality and performance for a 1997 card. For 3D gaming, performance still just fractionally beat the latest S3 ViRGE/DX card [also from 1997] with 4 MB on both and ATI Mach 64 cards though 3D image quality was poorer due to its limited 3D feature set. If you have a 3dfx Voodoo 1 card, use that in conjunction with this for better 3D performance.

 

Millennium G200

Launched: 1999
Codename: G200A D2
Graphics Chip: MGA-G200
Bus: PCI
Memory: 8 MB SGRAM (upgradable to 16 MB)
Ports: 15-pin DSUB
Core Clock Speed: 85 MHz
RAMDAC Speed: 250 MHz

The G200 from Matrox (found in both the G200 Mystique and G200 Millennium) was developed as a pretty fast 3D chip that offered very good 3D image quality. It came with an excellent 2D core, something that Matrox were famous for. The 3D core was not as fast as Voodoo2, but in most cases it offered a significantly better image quality. 32-bit color rendering and a 32 bit Z-buffer are the ones responsible for that besides a lot of other nice features.

Whilst the Millennium G200 was the higher-end version equipped with 8 MB SGRAM, the Mystique G200 used slower SDRAM but added a TV out port. Sadly the G200s were released just shortly before a new generation of cards were launched by ATI and nVidia, which both completely outperformed the G200 range.

 

Mystique G200

Launched: 1998
Graphics Chip: MGA-G200
DAC: 230 MHz
Bus: PCI
Memory: 8 MB SDRAM (upgradable to 16 MB)
Ports: 15-pin DSUB and RCA TV out port
Part #:
Price: ?

The G200 from Matrox (found in both the G200 Mystique and G200 Millennium) was developed as a pretty fast 3D chip that offered very good 3D image quality. It came with an excellent 2D core, something that Matrox were famous for. The 3D core was not as fast as Voodoo2, but in most cases it offered a significantly better image quality. 32-bit color rendering and a 32 bit Z-buffer are the ones responsible for that besides a lot of other nice features.

Whilst the Millennium G200 was the higher-end version equipped with 8 MB SGRAM, the Mystique G200 used slower SDRAM but added a TV out port. Sadly the G200s were released just shortly before a new generation of cards were launched by ATI and nVidia, which both completely outperformed the G200 range.

The G200's potential was severely hurt by Matrox's inability to release a high performing OpenGL driver upon the launch of the chip - something that nVidia already had with their TNT card.

 

 

Millennium G200 Quad

Launched: ?
Graphics Chip: MGA-G200
Bus: PCI
Memory: 8 MB SGRAM per channel (max 32 MB per board)
Ports: DVI Out
Part #:
Price: ?

This card is a "dual-head" card but using the provided cables you can display on four separate monitors. The MGA-G200 graphics chip can support 2 or 4 analog or digital outputs per single PCI board. With several of these cards, you can display up to 16 monitors from a single system!

Maximum resolution per channel is 1920 x 1200 @ 16bpp @ 70 Hz, 1600 x 1200 @ 24bpp @ 85 Hz or 1280 x 1024 with digital flat panel monitors.

For Windows, this uses G200 MMS drivers supported under Windows® XP, Windows® 2000, Windows® Me, Windows® NT®4.0, and Windows® 98. Minimum system requirements are PCI bus motherboard, Pentium 133+ with 32 MB RAM, Windows 98, XP, 2000 or NT 4.0.

Millennium G250

Launched: ?
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP
Memory: 16 MB
Part #: 5064-9191
Ports: 15-pin DSUB.
Price: ?

Onboard memory can be expanded using the SODIMM slot.
This card was OEM'd to Compaq (part #358231-005) - the memory expansion slot was removed and it came with 8 MB onboard memory only.

 

Millennium G400

Launched: 1998
DAC: 300 MHz
Bus: AGP
Memory: 16 MB or 32 MB
Core Clock Speed: 125 MHz
Memory Speed: 166 MHz DRAM (128-bit)
RAMDAC Speed: 300 MHz (main display), 135 MHz (secondary display)
Part #: 5064-9194 Dual Head MDHA/16/0E5
Price: $169 (16 MB), $199 (32 MB)

The G400 was considered very competitive for its time, especially with DirectX games. As per previous Matrox cards, it had an incredibly crisp image quality.

It supports the following SVGA and up graphics modes:

Resolution Max. Refresh Rate (Hz) Max. Colour Depth
2048 x 1536 70 ?
1920 x 1440 75 ?
1920 x 1200 90 ?
1920 x 1080 100 ?
1800 x 1440 80 ?
1600 x 1200 100 ?
1600 x 1024 120 ?
1280 x 1024 120 ?
1280 x 720 160 ?
1152 x 864 140 ?
1024 x 768 160 ?
856 x 480 200 ?
800 x 600 200 ?

This card shown is a "dual-head" card (2 x 15-pin DSUB connectors) to operate dual monitors for Windows in extended desktop mode or to duplicate the same image on each monitor. The G400 was also available in single output form, which no doubt was slightly cheaper to buy.

Tip: Matrox released the Matrox Tweak Utility in late 1999. This allows you to toggle V-Sync and also overclock the card. The core and memory are always locked together, so the overclock which is specified in %, will impact both by the same percent. The tool will store each overclock setting for each res

Similar performance to ATI's Rage 128 Pro, nVidia's Riva TNT2 and 3dfx Voodoo 3 2000.

 

Millennium G400 Max

Launched: 1999
DAC: 360 MHz
Bus: AGP 4x
Core Clock Speed: 166 MHz
Memory: 32 MB only
Memory Speed: 200 MHz SGRAM (128-bit)
RAMDAC Speed: 360 MHz (main display),135 MHz (secondary display)
Price: $249
Known Board Revisions: A, B

A souped-up G400, with faster core clock speed, faster memory and a faster RAMDAC. It supports resolutions up to 1600 x 1200 at 24-bit colour depth, but fails to better the faster 3dfx Voodoo 3 3000 or nVidia Riva TNT2. It is fully compatible with DirectX 6.0 and OpenGL. Due to the faster speed, the G400 Max comes with a fan on top of the heatsink whereas the original G400 was passively cooled.

Note the two VGA outputs, which were almost a trademark of many Matrox cards of the era - this allowed you to run Windows in split screen/extended desktop mode. The topmost DSUB header is for the "main" monitor. I don't believe the G440 Max also got a single output version, like the original G400 had.

It supports the following SVGA and up graphics modes:

Resolution Max. Refresh Rate (Hz) Max. Colour Depth
2048 x 1536 85 ?
1920 x 1440 85 ?
1920 x 1200 100 ?
1920 x 1080 110 ?
1800 x 1440 85 ?
1600 x 1200 100 24-bit
1600 x 1024 120 ?
1280 x 1024 120 ?
1280 x 720 160 ?
1152 x 864 140 ?
1024 x 768 160 ?
856 x 480 200 ?
800 x 600 200 ?

Here's what a review at the time had to say:

"The G400 is finally here, and it is definitely not a Voodoo3 or TNT2 killer.  The hard core gamer that simply wants performance will probably want to stay away from the G400, however if you don't mind not having the absolute best in 3D performance then the G400 quickly becomes a viable option.

Owners of slower computers will want to stay away from the G400, instead you'll probably want to explore 3dfx's solutions, or maybe NVIDIA's TNT2 depending on how "slow" your computer happens to be (in terms of CPU speed).   Mid range systems should be fine with the G400, however don't expect eyebrow raising performance out of the card, even the MAX version.  Higher end systems will prove to close the gap between the G400 and the more performance oriented alternatives; the G400 has some room to grow, so the faster your CPU, the better your G400 will perform, that's a given.

Matrox definitely has a winner on their hands. The G400 is much more than everything the G200 should have been, and it's no surprise that such a combination of features, performance, and outstanding image quality will be making its way into the hands of quite a few anxious users that have renewed faith in Matrox, myself included ;)  Let's just hope that Matrox can iron out the last few bugs with their OpenGL driver, and work on improving performance.  Although the G400 will probably never reach TNT2 Ultra levels of performance".

More images: Box, Rear

Millennium G450 AGP

Launched: 2000
Codename: Condor
Bus: AGP 1x/2x/4x
Memory: 16 MB, 32 MB
Part #: G45+MDHA16D, G45+MHDA16LXB, G45+MHDA16DLXB, G45+MDHA32DCPQF
Core Clock Speed: 124 MHz
RAMDAC Speed: 360 MHz

"Powered by the highly integrated Matrox G450 chip, the Millennium G450 is a feature-rich, future-proof business accelerator. Built to blaze trails in the worlds of productivity and multitasking, it offers the corporate market a host of features, such as third-generation DualHead® display technology, including eDualHeadTM, and Matrox's trademark ultra-crisp image quality. The Millennium G450 also doubles as a well-rounded home entertainment solution. In addition to 2D, 3D, and DVD acceleration, it comes equipped for DualHead gaming, 3D Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping, and TV output."

Key features:

  • 0.18-micron technology
  • AGP 1X, 2X, 4X
  • 360 MHz RAMDAC
  • 16MB or 32MB DDR memory
  • Support for OpenGL and DirectX
  • 256-bit DualBus
  • DualHead display technology
  • Vibrant Color Quality² rendering
  • Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping
  • UltraSharp DAC
  • Integrated TV encoder
  • High-quality DVD playbacks

 

Millennium G450 PCI

Launched: 2000
Codename: Condor
Graphics Chip: MGA-G450
Bus: PCI
Memory: 16 MB or 32 MB DDR RAM
Core Clock Speed: 124 MHz
RAMDAC Speed: 360 MHz

"Powered by the highly integrated Matrox G450 chip, the Millennium G450 is a feature-rich, future-proof business accelerator. Built to blaze trails in the worlds of productivity and multitasking, it offers the corporate market a host of features, such as third-generation DualHead® display technology, including eDualHeadTM, and Matrox's trademark ultra-crisp image quality. The Millennium G450 also doubles as a well-rounded home entertainment solution. In addition to 2D, 3D, and DVD acceleration, it comes equipped for DualHead gaming, 3D Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping, and TV output."

Key features:

  • 0.18-micron technology
  • PCI bus
  • 360 MHz RAMDAC
  • 32MB DDR memory
  • Support for OpenGL 1.1 and DirectX 6
  • 256-bit DualBus
  • DualHead display technology
  • Vibrant Color Quality² rendering
  • Environment-Mapped Bump Mapping
  • UltraSharp DAC
  • Integrated TV encoder
  • High-quality DVD playbacks

 

Millennium G550

Launched: 2001
Codename: G550
Bus: AGP 4x/8x
Memory: 32 MB DDR RAM
Part #: G55MDDAP32DB
Ports: DVI out
Core Clock Speed: 132 MHz
Memory Clock Speed: 330 MHz
RAMDAC Speed: 360 MHz

This card is a low profile card suitable for shallow desktop or micro-tower units.

It was OEM'd by Compaq as part #313435-001.

Millennium G550 Dual Monitor

Launched: 2001
Codename: G550
Bus: AGP 4x/8x
Memory: 32 MB
Part #: ?
Ports: Proprietary with breakout cable into 2 x 15-pin DSUB.
Price: ?

This card is a low profile card suitable for shallow desktop or micro-tower units.

 

 

 

Millennium G550 PCI

Launched: 2001
Codename: G550
Bus: PCI
Memory: 32 MB
Part #: G55MDDAP32DBF (low profile) or
Ports: 1 x DMS-59 (DVI) output and adaptor cable with 2 VGA/DSUB connectors
Price: ?

 

The low profile card is suitable for shallow desktop or micro-tower units.
Max digital resolution 1280 x 1024 in two-monitor operation ideal for professional digital 2-monitor operation

 

Millennium m3D PCX2

Launched: 1997
Graphics Chip: PowerVR PCX2
Bus: PCI
Memory: 4 MB SDRAM
Ports: None
Price: ?
Known Board Revisions: B

The m3D was a 3D graphics accelerator based around the NEC PowerVR chip. It had 4 MB of onboard RAM. Unlike other cards like the 3dfx Voodoo range, PowerVR did not have a VGA passthrough connector, instead relying on the board's drivers to detect 3D and make use of the card.

One key advantage of the PCX2 chip was that it supported 3D acceleration at up to 1024 x 768 resolutions.

More pics: 1 2 3

 

Millennium P650 Dual Head

Launched: ?
Graphics Chip: P650
Bus: AGP 4x/8x
Memory: 64 MB
Part #: P65-MDDA8X64 (dual head)
Ports: 2 x DVI out
Price: ?

Full "DualHead" support for using 2 digital or analog monitors at a time.

 

Millennium P650 Low Profile

Launched: ?
Graphics Chip: P650
Bus: AGP 4x/8x
Memory: 64 MB
Part #: P65-MDDAP64F (dual head), P65-MDDAP64 (single head)
Ports: 1 x DVI out to 2 DVI out cable + DVI-to-VGA converter.
Price: ?

The P65-MDDAP64F has full "DualHead" support for using 2 digital or analog monitors at a time.

 

 

Parhelia PH-A128R Triple Monitor

Launched: 2003
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP 4x/8x
Memory: 128 MB
Part #: ?
Ports: 2 x DVI out.
Max. Resolutions: 1-2 digital monitors: 1920 x 1200, 1-2 analog monitors: 2048 x 1536, 3 analog monitors: 1280 x 1024.
Price: ?

Matrox TripleHead to use three* analog monitors at a time (in "independent" or "stretched" mode).
Matrox DualHead to use two digital or analog monitors at a time (in "independent" or "stretched" mode).
Joined graphics card mode enables an additional Matrox DualHead** or TripleHead† graphics solution to work in tandem in one system to drive up to four displays.