In the Forums...
Posted: August 16, 1999
Written by: tapped
MSRP: $199.99 (after $30.00 rebate)
Company website: www.guillemot.com
When I was first assigned this review, two thoughts immediately popped into my head. The first was, "I get to play with a TNT2 Ultra... great!" Then the second thought came: "But... it's a Guillemot." Being somewhat guilty of brand discrimination, I'd never before used a Guillemot product, and was somewhat skeptical. My thoughts turned to questions....
Who is this company? What kind of quality can I expect? What about support? How 'bout driver updates? I needed to know, and intended to find out, so I headed over to their website to scope things out.
Who's Guillemot, Anyway?
1984: At its inception, Guillemot began "trading multimedia software in France." Since then, they've grown substantially, becoming a competitive international player whose focus is on the development of cutting-edge multimedia components for the mainstream PC market.
1999: Guillemot currently employs approximately 250 people worldwide. The company sports R&D labs in "the advanced technology hubs of North America, Asia and France," as well as "marketing subsidiaries in France, Belgium, Holland, England, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, USA and Hong Kong."
Suffice it to say this quelled my skepticism a good deal. While the company may not be a Creative or Diamond Multimedia (yet), they've got a lot going for them, and it shows - especially in the Maxi Gamer Xentor 32.
The "Out of Box" Experience
Right away, the box's busy, colorful design caught my eye, but it's what's in the box that really counts. In regards to the Maxi Gamer Xentor 32, it's my opinion that Guillemot wants users to feel they've purchased not just a video card, but a whole package. In other words, they decided to go beyond merely tossing a board into the box with a drivers CD and calling it a day.
Opening the box, I found:
The user's manual is a 56-page book (or a .pdf file, should you choose to install it from the CD), 27 of which are in English. The other half is written in French. (As I don't read French, I can only comment on the English portion.) On the first page of the manual is a "Thank you," which is something users don't get much anymore. Nice touch. Then comes the "Forward," which introduces the user to Guillemot's Maxi Gamer line of products. Containing statements such as "...it's time to hold on to your socks," and "...you're about to get blown sky-high," it's apparent that Guillemot is a confident company who's looking to make its mark.
Next in the manual are the card's specifications, which are as follows:
Maxi Gamer Xentor 32
You may now breathe... =) Fairly extensive, I'd say. Next up, of course, is covering the installation/uninstallation/troubleshooting procedures. This part (which is the most important) of the manual is extremely thorough. Like many of the Creative Labs manuals I've seen, the hardware and software portions are both side-barred with notes of caution and terminology definitions, which is great for users who are new to performing hardware upgrades. Last in the manual is information on technical support and, of course, the product's warranty.
Overall, the manual is one of the best I've seen. While those who are veteran video card swappers will flip though it and scoff, newbies will feel more confident with this little book by their sides. All in all, it's a job very well done - with one small exception....
Ah... yes. There's always the exception. I found something missing from both manuals (printed and .pdf). While TV-out is mentioned in the manual as one of the board's features, there's no information on getting it to work. As I've had video cards with TV-out in the past, I found doing so relatively trouble-free; however, the newbie may find his or herself a bit perplexed. A section covering the TV-out would have been a nice addition.
On the Discs
To start you off on the right foot, Guillemot packs in three CDs with the Xentor 32:
1 - Maxi Gamer Xentor 32 drivers, utilities, NVIDIA technology demos, and game demos
2 - Kingpin: Life of Crime - On the Streets (OEM) and
3 - Speed Busters (full version)
While not the full version, Guillemot was gracious enough to include a shorter OEM version of Xatrix's first-person shooter, Kingpin: Life of Crime. On a second CD is the full version of UbiSoft's Speed Busters, which is eye-candy the whole way 'round. A good game? That's open to debate. Nonetheless, you've got two games that are sure to make your TNT2 Ultra scream. On the drivers CD, aside from the drivers, are DirectX 6.0, XingDVD (a software DVD player), NVIDIA technology demos, (nice for showing off your card and making your friends jealous), and a boatload of game demos.
Installing the stuff is a breeze. It's all automated, which is pretty nice. Simply select which items you'd like installed, and away it goes. While this is convenient for the user, I couldn't help but wonder... Browsing the CD in Explorer, I noticed something really nice: MORE game demos, provided by (I'm guessing here) PC Gamer, as part of NVIDIA's High-IQ campaign. Included are Rollcage, Expendable, HeavyGear II, and Redline Racer. If I wasn't the nosey type, I may have never realized these demos were there.
Fresh Baked Drivers
Rather than install the drivers from the provided CD, I opted to download the latest Guillemot drivers, which are based on NVIDIA's 2.08 reference drivers. As a matter of fact, these drivers are NVIDIA's 2.08 drivers, with the exception of the .cpl file, which Guillemot have redone to make NVIDIA's drivers their own. The installation process for the drivers is automated, as well. Simply double-click the install icon, and they're off.... On reboot later, and you're good to go. Another nice touch. The drivers are stable, fast, and allow the user to tweak just about any setting he or she can think of. (Each setting is also described and briefly explained in the .pdf manual, which is a plus for newbies.)
One point of honorable mention: Guillemot's PowerSprinter utility. Available for download on their website, this utility allows Xentor and Xentor 32 owners to overclock both the core and memory of their cards. PowerSprinter also allows the disabling of V-Sync in Direct3D, can "restore standard clock settings on start up" or restore the board's "standard settings" at any time. This particular option I found odd... If selected, PowerSprinter sets the card's core to 150MHz, a good 25MHz below what otherwise seems to be the board's default. Nothing to be worried about, necessarily, as it's not a permanent change. Just up it back to 175.