Worst Game Graphics Cards – Matrox Mystique 220

July 31, 2019 posted by

Hello again to all retrolovers! In this 2nd episode of Worst Gaming Cards
we are going to take a look at Matrox’s first 2 products targeted towards the gaming
market. These are the Matrox Mystique, released in
1996 and the Matrox Mystique 220, which was released a year later in 1997. Both of these cards are usually recommended
for use as 2D cards alongside a Voodoo 1 or Voodoo 2 cards. Uh, ehm that doesn’t really sound promising,
does it? But first some background information. Matrox is a Canadian company based in Montreal
and was founded in 1976. Their first product was a video adapter for
minicomputers. They were soon contracted by the US Army and
later Wall Street, which changed the focus of the company towards the High-End and Professional
Markets. Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, Matrox
was creating various professional 2D, multiscreen and video editing adapters based on 3rd party
graphics chips. Because of the very high price of these cards,
which cost thousands of dollars upon release, and the few surviving cards in public, there’s
not a whole lot of info on them online. The usage of 3rd party chips was abandoned
as a strategy in 1993 with the release of Matrox’s first inhouse, 64bit, highend chipset
which was used for the Matrox Impression and Matrox Impression Pro video cards. Both the dual chip Matrox Impression and triple
chip Impression Pro were expensive products targeting CAD users, with prices between 999
and 1999 US dollars. They were quickly replaced within the same
year by the more integrated and cheaper as a result Ultima and Ultima Plus video cards,
with prices reaching the 999 dollar mark. The pin compatible Impression Plus followed
suit in 1994 with some basic 3D features including Gouraud Shading support and a decreased price
of 898 dollars. Next up, in 1995, was the Matrox Millennium
with a then exotic, up to 8MB of faster WRAM, which stands for Window Ram Memory, at a maximum
price of 948 dollars. And finally, in 1996, Matrox’s first card
with texturing support came to the market, the Matrox Mystique. It was limited to 4MB of cheaper SGRAM memory
with prices ending at 259 dollars. Cards could also be upgraded with a video
recording and decoding module or a TV Tuner module. Using an updated core from the Mystique and
targeted towards Business users, the Matrox Millennium II was released in the following
year. Using the more expensive WRAM, prices hovered
at 399 dollars for the 8MB version. In August 1997, the new updated version of
the Mystique, dubbed the Mystique 220 was announced. It was basically the same chip with a higher
clocked core and RAMDAC allowing higher resolutions and refresh rates. Matrox presented the Mystique 220 as a card
with fast, high quality 3D acceleration and advanced 2D features and performance. While 2D Performance was great, the 3D acceleration
certainly wasn’t up to “high quality” standards. The company demonstrated the cards performance
against 6 other competitors, with benchmark results for 15 games uploaded on their website. But, by what appears to be a um, mistake,
they forgot to include any tests using the 3Dfx Voodoo Graphics chipset. The time has come to fix this. Unfortunately, the original Mystique is not
compatible with our recording device and is causing video stream dropouts. So, we’ll be using the faster Mystique 220
for video footage with a core clocked at 66MHz and 4MB of SGRAM Memory at 99MHz. The original Mystique was clocked at 50MHz
for the core and 75MHz memory. Results will be shown from both cards. The cards will be compared to a Diamond Monster
3D using the 3Dfx Voodoo Graphics chipset with 4MB of memory clocked at 50MHz. In games with texture bugs, the Voodoo 1 will
be replaced by an STB Velocity 128 using the Nvidia Riva 128 chip with 4MB of memory clocked
at 100MHz. The Mystique cards have support for Direct3D
and Matrox’s own API called MSI, which stands for Matrox Simple Interface. MSI was unfortunately only supported in 12
games, so we’ll be using Direct3D accelerated versions instead for all games tested. Like in the previous episode, we once again
start with some synthetic benchmarks. Final Reality shows only 3 supported 3D features. That’s even worse than the S3 ViRGE! Worst of all is the missing Bilinear Filtering
support. The Mystique was one of the few cards not
to support this basic feature. Bilinear Filtering smooths pixel edges on
textures and creates the typical, expected look of 3D Accelerated games. Without it, games tend to look software rendered. Unfortunately, sound is also affected with
heavy slowdown and corruption. Image quality suffers the most in the city
scene. 3DMark 99 produces unbelievably high scores,
even higher than the Voodoo1 and Riva 128! The explanation for this is easy –
The Mystique is cheating. In both tests, all textures are missing, not
a single one of them is rendered. Tomb Raider 2 runs with a good framerate,
but the non-filtered textures don’t look that great. Forsaken has some serious issues with audio
and the explosion effects look better in Software Rendering. Carmageddon 2 runs with a very low framerate
and really cool looking 80’s style smoke effects. There’s no official wrapper for GLQuake,
so we’ll be using one made by Techland for their game called Crime Cities. Sadly, almost all textures are missing, but
the game is playable in low resolutions such as 320×240. Turok’s visual quality suffers a lot because
of missing texture filtering, but at least the game is relatively fast. Croc has audio issues and some not so great
looking shadows. Incoming is fast, but loses all of its colorful
explosion effect magic. Also, the helicopter rotor blades just disappeared! Half-Life is another victim of missing textures
and buggy audio. Wipeout would be playable, if it weren’t
for the garbled audio ruining it along with the not so good looking explosions. Expendable suffers a lot due to the missing
Bilinear Filtering. Aliens versus Predator looks almost playable,
despite the funny looking smoke, but good first impressions are ruined by the badly
rendered flares. Finally, here comes the greatest challenge
for every 1st gen 3D card. Will it run Unreal? Well, it looks like the game is running in
D3D mode, but it’s successfully decelerated and doesn’t look like its developers intended
it to for sure. Playing the game using the good-looking software
mode is a better idea here, with playable FPS thanks to our strong Pentium III CPU. But then again, isn’t that the case with
pretty much all of the games? Before we move on to the conclusion, we have
to warn you about one important driver feature named Bus Mastering. Both Mystique models support this and it does
increase the FPS. This was so important that Matrox integrated
a driver check that will waste your time on every Windows boot, until you decide to enable
it. This can be done in the Advanced Menu under
the Settings Tab. Sadly, this feature not only increases FPS,
but instability as well and on our testing board every 3D application freezed immediately
or after just a few seconds. Tests with another “modern board” equipped
with a VIA KT133A chipset provided similar results. So, if your Mystique is mysteriously freezing
in every game, you have to disable Bus Mastering or keep looking for another more period-correct
motherboard, something along the lines of an i430TX or similar Socket 7 board. What can we say about the Mystique cards? They are some of the fastest 1st gen 3D cards,
but still not good enough to beat the mighty Voodoo 1. Old games are playable and granted that they
use few effects, they don’t look that bad. Perhaps some people will love the un-filtered
look which is achieved by the Mystique’s lack of bilinear filtering. 2D image quality is great, so they are really
great choices for use in combination with Voodoo 1 or Voodoo 2 cards. Unfortunately, the missing hardware features
greatly degrade the look of more modern games and some might produce audio issues as well. OpenGL is not supported and Matrox’s own
MSI API was only supported in 12 titles. Bus Mastering might improve performance, however
this is not guaranteed to work with your setup and might require tinkering. We award the Mystique 3 stars out of 10, mostly
thanks to its performance. After all, it’s better to have a fast and
ugly Mystique rather than a very slow and ugly ViRGE… Thanks for watching and see you next time
with another bad gaming card. You may now enjoy the demo from 3DMark 99,
or at least those few parts which the Mystique was able to render properly. There’s also a video capture on a smaller
window of the Voodoo1 running the same demo for reference.


57 Replies to “Worst Game Graphics Cards – Matrox Mystique 220”

  1. leileilol says:

    That final reality sound bug is weird. I've heard it has to do with faster cpus though it looks similar to a pci bus-affected issue like with a live! in a ss7 with <insert good non-3dfx video card here>.

    Also no blend functions for AVP = unplayable game. The other necessary vision modes will screw up.

  2. Andrei Neacsu says:

    I reconciled with my past. The S3 Virge DX 4MB that I had in 1997 was a good card, now that I think of it. I used SciTech Display Doctor to get primitive D3D to OpenGL 1.2/1.3 support when other specific wrappers and binaries were not available.

  3. 3Dfx_Aslinger says:

    I think that the mystique drivers are too old for newer games/benches, so you see this white textures, for example in 3dmark99.

  4. Maxim Reality says:

    "Slow and ugly Virge"? Pure heresy, mate. Back in 1997 I have actually managed to install 3Dfx drivers on my S3 Virge DX 4MB and the games would run with bilinear filtering in D3D! Only problem was, there was no transparency so all transparent sprites had black background. Everything else though was running OK. My friends back then were shocked (even though they all had 3Dfx already at the time). I remember playing Subculture, Fighting Force and a couple of other games like this before I got a proper Voodoo 1 ;]

  5. Pavol Fábry says:

    Your reviews are very well done, but I reckon you didn't really experience gaming in 1995-1997. At that time I had S3 virge DX 4MB and let me assure nobody dared to call it decelerator. Coupled with pentium 150 Mhz, 16MB dimm ram and 1.2GB Hdd, it made awesome gaming machine. Graphics card came with Descent 2 game and I was amazed how smooth the game was and how beautiful it looked. Same with tomb raider. I used to play it at 800×600 and it didn't chop whatsoever so I was rather confused when you reviewed s3 virge with pentium 3 – 1Ghz and it had 4-8fps. None of that was true for my computer. Not to mention that Matrox Mystique 220 was dream card back then for everyone using s3trio64 or Virge. It came with Mechwarrior 2: mercenaries.

  6. evolved monkey says:

    I loved my Millenium 2, for 2D, nothing came close in quality, but never used her for 3D with software renderer, I had 2 different "engines" for 3D, a PowerVR one and a Voodoo2, also i must be honest i wasn't much on 3D games and rahter RTS's like command and conquer and C&C like games so for that even an S3 Virge did the trick, also played a lot of RPG's and for example Baldur's Gate from 98 sometimes had some interesting glitches when played on a Millenium 2 specially on spells, but you know very well, those were different times and we sticked for our graphics boards at least to defend the great sums of money we invested on them i remember that my Millenium 2 cost me a wooping 250 euros "for a 2D board", nowadays we can buy for 30 dollars a graphics card that is uniformized with today's technologies and runs most of the games in low settings at least with excelent 2D quality, technology back then was a mess, everyone came out with new engines that didn't last and we didn't know where to stick to, I, as yourself have that love for graphic boards that I did buy back in the day or bought used on ebay that I still use on a PIII 500 for nostalgia, some were indeed poor with terrible performance, Millenium 2 and Mystique 220 although sucked on 3D will always be my sweet spot, I loved Matrox 2D quality.

  7. pubg cast says:

    What a great video. I recently did a podcast about Retro Regrets and one of mine was getting the Matrox Mystique. I'm so glad to see that I didn't imagine that games like Destruction Derby ran at about 10fps (no exaggration) LOL.

  8. Hubert Hans says:

    I hated this card. Nearly every game needed a different driver to run. (Tom Raider was especially tricky, crashing in some instances without the correct driver) The non existing texture filtering did render most games unplayable.

  9. John Davis says:

    Honest i hate the effect that texture filtering has on all games
    You can see this as a washed-out effect, the graphic becomes less distinct.
    if you look at this video it becomes very obvious what i mean
    the matrox have more and clearer shapes and colours.
    and thats why i prefered the graphic on sega Saturn and PS1 instead of the N64

  10. Koushiro Izumi says:

    Damn, this card sucks, really bad. Playing AVP with it would be even scarrier than it already was.

  11. Brassic Gamer says:

    Wow, what a munter of a card. I'm sure I remember the gaming press raving about Matrox cards at the time they came out yet they are now generally derided.

  12. vBDKv says:

    Huh? Matrox Mystique did boost my gaming performance by quite a bit, however, it didn't have any of the advanced features the 3dfx had. However if you combined the two, you were in for some serious gaming bliss.

  13. J Frye says:

    damn Direct 3D is a fucking mess real issue.

  14. Ancient Electronics says:

    That clown on the Mystique box always freaked me out

  15. Doug Kahler says:

    What sound card was used for this review? It sounds like a software AC97 sound system, not a real sound card like a sound blaster that could have used DMA to fetch audio on its own and not been all glitchy from the overworked CPU

  16. L'Archivio del Sig. Santilio says:

    It wasn't a bad card, it just missed bilinear filtering. It actually boosted 96/97 games which were able to run in 640×480 and 65K colours at decent framerate. A better choice than 3D Blaster or Virge, and 3Dfx was an add-on and more expensive.

  17. mike spikeey says:

    its not matrix its trox matrox

  18. alex76gr says:

    You review is very accurate.
    I bought a Mystique (not 220) and paired it with a Cyrix 133MHz back in 1997.
    It sucked big time in 3D gaming and software rendering was my only choice.
    2D titles and productivity software was working without any issues from what i remember.
    Later i bought a PowerVR add on card which suffered from instabilities and luck of support.
    At the end and about a year before i upgrade to a P4 machine, i got my hands on a Viper V330 with the Riva 128 chip and manufactured from Diamond.
    That was a totally different machine!
    I played all my 3D games with the Viper and they looked nothing like i knew.
    I still have this Viper card in a drawer. 🙂

  19. Radio Żelaza says:

    I never had sound issues with Matrox, I used Gravis Ultrasound PnP

  20. Señor Dossier [Retro reviews, Coleccionismo & más] says:

    Hail Matrox Master Race :V /

  21. EVIL QTip says:

    I had a Matrox Mystique with 2  Voodoo2's   I loved that setup way back then..
    Cost me $1000 dollars at Costco for all 3 cards they came with a Key to open the locked glass case for me.  LOL

  22. Raven Gaming says:

    Looks like the SNES Super FX version of Quake. Gotta love the Unreal software renderer though, with a fast CPU it beat the crap out of the crappy 3D accelerated (decelerated) version.

  23. Michal Zušťák says:

    Nemôžem si pomôcť ale… oproti VIRGE a Tridentu toto náhodou beží ešte celkom dobre, obzvlášť na 3D kartu úplne prvej generácie.

  24. Adorenu アドレーヌ says:

    try to run gta v on it..

  25. gamecomparisons says:

    I paid less than $300 for my entire Cyrix 133mhz PC with Matrox Mystique in late 1996. The games that were optimized for mystique, like Mech Warrior 2, Destruction Derby 2 and others were amazing for the time. Quake runs fine, I never attempted running GL Quake.

    My tests with some of these other games have some of the same issues seen here. Voodoo 1 was way out of my reach, as was Voodoo 2. I picked up a Matrox m3D sometime after its release though.

  26. 10p6 says:

    Interesting video but the bus mastering issue is the Mystique cards were made for the Pentium processor, not P2 and certainly not P3. However I bought one for my Pentium 150 to replace the Rage card I had and hated it for 3D. For 2D the Mystique was awesome.

  27. Jan Witkowsky says:

    Good review.
    I had a Mystique myself backmin the day and I do remember that some games were horrid.

    I will not lie, some of it, made me almost rage in frustration, but then again, I was 11 years old in 1996.
    A couple of months later, I got the Orchid Righteous 3D Voodoo 1 card. And games were great to play and a joy for the eye.

    One cannot deny that Mystique was lacking in many points, but it did have strong 2D support.
    Which basically meant it was a card, by sheer accident, that was the near perfect mate for the 3dfx cards of the time.

    I even kept the card, when I got my Voodoo 2 card. It was still a good match for it. xD

  28. PowerLeef says:

    Are there any Matrox video cards that you like?
    I've heard my uncle praising Matrox cards back in the day.

  29. psychoticgiraffe says:

    the matrox card has better graphics so i'd not put it in the worst cards

  30. Osystem says:

    I remember seing these in magazines, like they were monsters, that would make your PC fly to the stars. or something like that

  31. Michael Cox says:

    My uncle had this one back in the day. Now I see why it was in the box and not in a pc.

  32. Eep386 says:

    Matrox cards were never really head-turners in 3D, but then that wasn't really their primary focus: they were designed to kick out the cleanest, sharpest and brightest analog VGA/2D pictures, and do so with phenomenal efficiency. They were always great 2D chips for their day.

    While not 'slow' except for the very first generation Millennium cards, their DOS VGA/Mode13h support were suspect in terms of compatibility, but then one could argue that wasn't their focus either.

  33. Scali Bohemiq says:

    The sound slowdown is because of the bus mastering feature that Matrox applied to maximize Windows acceleration performance. There should be a checkbox in the PowerDesk configuration to turn it off.

  34. szt1980 says:

    Could it work with AutoCAD, MathCAD, and other applications displaying 3D in viewports? I remember Savage 4, which had more or less decent gaming rendering, had the apps mentioned either garbled or crashing.

  35. ZilleOutdoor says:

    I bought Matrox Mystique (4MB) with Windows 98 SE/MS-DOS 6.22. Bad and problems for D3D and OpenGL. Later I bought Nvidia TNT2 card for no problems the 3D games.

  36. Stale Potato says:

    thanks for this really helpful

  37. Lukas Steinbrink says:

    The Matrox Mystique 220 is my favorite card cause it also supports Windows 3.11 adn games like Tomb Raider 2 from Eidos or Sub Culture from Criterion Studios work perfectly with the card in D3D mode 🙂

  38. MegaUnwetter says:

    But can it run crysis?

  39. lauticraft_config says:

    y gta v?

  40. RandomlyDrumming says:

    I still have this in combination with Voodoo 2 (in Pentium 2 233MHz). It's not really that bad as a 2D card, but it can't perform quite a few fairly important (for the time) 3D rendering effects and is also visibly slower than Voodoo Graphics, let alone Voodoo2.

  41. Kyle Ruggles says:

    The worst!?
    OMG, it was the first 3d/2d card I ever owned, it had the best version of Mechwarrior 2, Tomb Raider, G-Police, tech specs aside. Living in that time period? Matrox wasn't that bad for gaming, at the time.
    This is such a click baity title… jeez.

  42. armorgeddon says:

    The Matrox cards were good in Windows doing 2D acceleration & video stuff, allright with games supporting their proprietary MSI API and creating a sharp picture on high resolutions. Apart from that, even in DOS gaming up to 800×600, there are better alternatives.

  43. Thomas Jones says:

    I saved up and purchased a Mystique, got it the first week of launch in the UK, came bundled with Mech Warrior, I thought it was amazing to start with, then realised it was pretty poor at games. w
    worked well with AutoCAD.

  44. Rebecca Schade says:

    I had a Mystique 220 back when it was new. It was actually pretty decent. At that time, nothing, and I truly mean nothing, even came close to 3dfx when it came to 3D acceleration. Hardware 3D wasn't yet a big thing in gaming, so the Mystique 220 actually wasn't a bad product back then. Moto Racer ran silky smooth on the Mystique 220.

    I also think that what a lot of people, at least the ones who are too young to have "been there" during the gaming era of mid to late 90's fail to realize, is that before the release of the Voodoo 2, there wasn't really ANY 3D graphics card that could but the mustard. Hardware also didn't generally stay relevant for more than a year, at best. A 1997 graphics card couldn't be expected to run the latest games a year later. If you compare a high end system from 1995 to a high end system from 2000, the difference is literally like night and day. The same goes for the games. Running a 2000 3D game on 1995 hardware, was an exercise in futility. Unlike today, when a high end gaming rig from 2014 probably can still play most of the current games, although perhaps not at the highest settings. So in retrospect, some of these cards seem worse than they actually were. Personally, I only used hardware 3D on perhaps 2-3 games before I got a Voodoo 2. Before that, it just wasn't worth it compared to software rendering.

  45. Greg says:

    I had one of these, Seem to remember being pretty happy with it but I did need a 3dfx add in, then added a rainbow runner and rainbow runner tv pretty much a brick of cards to get the video stuff sorted 😃

  46. wishus knight says:

    The garbled audio was due to PCI latency settings. Most likely would need to be increased. The sound blaster cards also were real offenders of bus mastering abuse.

  47. E 5 1 5 0 says:

    Can you explain the influence of FRAPS FPS counter on results? Also, is there an full explanation on how these are tested?

  48. Harvy Ackermans says:

    Does anyone know the name of the shoot-em up game in this video that starts at 21:03? I used to have it and I am trying to find it.

  49. david S says:

    matrox mistic was the best card video on mark, and i got it 3 years before the first 3dfx…. mechwarrior on matrox was excelent and offert nice graphical. Yo usay just shit guy ! you cannot compare matrox mystic and a 3dfx, because there 3 years of difference technologie… it's like if you compare a voodoo 5 with a gforce 2…

  50. Joystick Versus Machine says:

    I'm not sure that lacking bilinear filtration for games this old is THAT big of a disadvantage. I thought it was so cool back in the day, having everything look smooth. Now it looks like someone smeared vasoline all over the screen. The lack of transparencies is the killer, though. It really makes a lot of these games look like you're playing them on a Sega Saturn. Except most Saturn games made better use of mesh transparencies and honestly seemed to handle colored lighting better than this card.

  51. veldringr says:

    I had the Mystique 220 and I had the same problems again and again. Direct3D when it came to bilinear filtering was always problematic with this card. It got a bit better when a year and a half later I paired it with the Matrox m3D powerVR. A great chip, with extremely limited support. However, I always remember it with a smile as it was a part of my first 32bit computer, paired with an AMD K6 @200MHz (had an 8088 until then). Great games we had back then…

  52. Equals3 says:

    >title and description is in czech
    >video is in english
    lol, not a problem for me since im czech but for people who dont/cant speak czech its bad

  53. downloadableskills says:

    Yeah this is a bit out if context which is understand able if you werent actively buulding pcs back then…. Damn im old.. Either way this was considered one of the best 2d cards out at the time.

    You would buy thus for 2d and a voodoo 2 for your 3d

    Not to mention you would almost always by a soundblaster awe 32
    soundcard with these. Soundblaster 2 or 64 or maybe even a

  54. christian Rodgers says:


  55. MicroMacroUniverse says:

    Curious about those 12 MSI supported game performances.Great video btw, loved that card playing Scorched Planet and Sub-Culture. I have to try that Bus Mastering on my Pentium MMX also 😀

  56. dagda3000 says:

    The Mystique was my first card. Good old times.

  57. jen says:

    Still have mine a 220, it was considered as a very good 2D card and an okeyish 3D, it was an upgrade from old S3 trios and Tridents comparing it to voodoo is not fair.
    Pricey but Assemble in USA and Ireland. 3D side was probably way more broken than advertised. Matrox was struggling with 3D. Still highly respected brand at the time.

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