Accelerate Your Mac! www.xlr8yourmac.com - 1997 Video Card Test Report
   #9's Imagine 128 Series 2 vs. IXMicro's Twin Turbo M8
  By Mike, Published: August 17, 1997
    Introduction/Overview

The Imagine 128 Series 2 and Twin Turbo M8 are two of the most popular affordable high-performance video cards for the PCI based Macintosh. Both offer 8 megabytes of dual ported Vram, 128-bit engines, and 220mhz (Twin Turbo) to 250mhz (Imagine) RamDac's for maximum throughput when working in true-color (millions colors) mode with high resolution displays. The faster RamDac's allow higher vertical refresh and horizontal scan rates needed for high resolution modes and flicker free operation.

The Imagine 128 has a true 128-bit data path for the entire graphics chip to vram bus, whereas the Twin Turbo uses two 64-bit interleaved banks of Vram to deliver similar benefits. Both cards offer true-color modes as high as 1920x1080 (80hz) for the Imagine 128 and 1920x1080 (60hz) for the Twin Turbo (due to the 60hz refresh rate at this resolution, the practical limit for the Twin Turbo is actually 1600x1200 at 75hz). For more detailed information about each card's hardware - see the specifications page.

Both IXMicro and Number Nine offer excellent controls for color correction (gamma) and a myriad of resolution's and refresh rates. In addition, Number Nine's Hawkeye 4.50 adds a font cache size control, cursor sizing/coloring, Quickdraw 3D hardware support (although without texture mapping), and a "drag window" function that maintains the window contents during drag operations (instead of the normal window outline). Interestingly, when this function was enabled it applied to the internal 8500 video screen as well as the Imagine's display. Photoshop windows however do not use this feature. IXMicro counters with options to disable acceleration and fast scrolling (handy at times when scrolling is too fast, like text only web pages). Also, IXMicro's control panel contains the resolution and color depth controls, whereas Number Nine's Hawkeye leaves the resolution control to Apple's standard monitor control panel. The advantage of IXMicro's method is that you can change any aspect of the display from one control panel. For a complete list of features (w/pictures) of each control panel, see the HawkEye and Turbo Control pages.

Although both cards claim to be 128-bit accelerators, the IXMicro manual states that 128-bits of data is transferred every two clock cycles, whereas the Imagine 128 transfers 128-bits every clock cycle. At first I thought the IXMicro statement was a typo, but later testing at hi-resolution and color depths showed evidence that this was not the case. IXMicro states that the every other cycle Vram access and interleaved vram architecture delivers equivalent performace. For full specification comparison of the two cards, see the technical specifications page.

Both cards deliver very good performance, excellent image quality and good feature sets. Read on to learn more about the how the cards performed in various testing and a comparison of their software controls and documentation.

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