Performance in 2D
Why should I care about 2D?
Most of us, even those willing to spend $500 for the latest and greatest 3D accelerators, simply take 2D for granted. We've come to believe that 2D performance among the top-end graphics cards is largely identical. Every AGP 4x card is "fast enough" when it comes to 2D graphics, right? It's the 3D performance that's important. Sure, there may be slight differences in synthetic benchmarks, but can Microsoft Word or Internet Explorer be that much faster? Like most of you, I didn't think so. Then, I discovered the truth.
If you were to visit the FS office, you might be surprised at what was here. Sure, there are dozens of games littered across the floors and shelves, and some killer rigs with ultra-high clockspeed Athlons and GeForce3's hum away under our desks. However, what you'd predominantly see is a bunch of guys using Word, EditPlus, and maybe Photoshop. Sadly, we can't spend all day playing games -- these articles will not write themselves (yet).
So, when I had some money available for a PC upgrade, I searched for something that would help me work rather than just play. I decided on an Iiyama i90A 19" flat CRT monitor, a high-bandwidth version of the VisionMaster Pro 450. With a new monitor, not only would my games look better, but running Windows at higher refresh rates and resolutions would help me be more productive - well at least that's what I told everyone else.
With the Mitsubishi DiamondTron NF technology in the hands of Iiyama engineers, my monitor was capable of running 2048x1536 at 72Hz with remarkable clarity, even though that setting was slightly above the rated bandwidth. This was perfect for working with digital camera images and so I ended up using this resolution on my All-in-Wonder Radeon. Though the text was still readable, concern for my vision and limited monitor bandwidth convinced me to drop to 1920x1440.
All was well until I realized that I had a second monitor lying unused. Since this was my work machine, I pondered getting a secondary PCI card or a dual monitor card such as the Matrox Millenium G450 or ATI Radeon VE. For business applications, fillrate and vertex/pixel shaders are all but useless - it's all about 2D graphics, and so I was open to replacing the card. Matrox and ATI are considered to be peers in 2D image quality, but only Matrox had full DualHead support for Windows 2000. So, I went out and got a new Millenium G450.
DualHead was working wonderfully, doing everything I needed to do, but there were times when the G450 felt unbearably slow. I would see the screen refresh, and videos weren't running smoothly. Moreover, there was an interesting "bug" with DualHead: I couldn't use DVDMax to output the video overlay to the second monitor, unless I had the primary monitor set to 1600x1200 at 16-bit and 60Hz on the primary display.
I thought something was wrong with my system, but then I decided to run a slew of benchmarks. It turns out there was nothing was wrong with my system - instead, I was pushing the limits of the card's 2D performance.