Bundled Software Evaluation

This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.

Bundled software is often a deciding factor when buying a retail box. The MSI Ti4800SE box comes loaded with a large variety software ranging from desktop security, to backup software, to games. In total, there are 10 CDs worth, but how much of it is actually useful and how much can we classify as “bloat”?

MSI 3D Desktop CD

MSI 3D Desktop MSI 3D Desktop is a piece of software developed by MSI that combines the functions of a 2D desktop into a 3D space. The idea is to create a “Fantastic 3D Desktop Experience”. However, does this software do anything to assist the user in their computer navigation?

I installed the desktop software onto my computer and after a reboot, started to play around with it. The idea is that the user is a person walking around a house complete with a fountain, and two floors. Shortcuts to your applications, websites, games, and documents are all found somewhere in this house. You access your information by walking up to the icon or 3D widget and click on it. In addition to these shortcuts, there are also 2 games called “Crime Alley” and “Target Practice” which are essentially the same game but with different graphics.

When installed, it takes up about 30-40% of the available load on the XP1800+ CPU and occupies 65MB of system memory. Even with 512MB of RAM, the program was sluggish and poorly responsive. Walking around the house doing your operations, though novel at first, wears thin quickly. Soon you find that it just takes too long to walk around the house and simpler to just put all the shortcuts in one location in the house — which is something a normal 2D desktop does already.

This software feels like a gimmick that does little to improve productivity, but I’m sure there some of you out there who will think it’s neat.

MSI 3D Desktop.
The MSI 3D Desktop.

MSI Multimedia Beyond 3D CD

MSI Ti4800SE-VTD8X Video Card Review - Graphics Cards 18 This CD comes with a few utilities that adds odds and ends to your system ranging from desktop security to gamma correction to memory management. Here’s the manifest:

  • VGA Drivers – MSI’s branded drivers. (Detonators v41.07, WDM 1.21)
  • MSI 3D Turbo Experience – MSI’s overclocking tool and hardware monitoring software.
  • MSI Live Update – Automatically update your software and drivers using this Internet agent.
  • MSI GoodMEM – Memory manager.
  • MSI LockBox – Password protect your desktop.
  • MSI WMIinfo – Displays software and hardware informaion.
  • MSI SecureDoc – Desktop/File security software.
  • E-Color – Gamma correction software.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader – The popular PDF document reader.
  • Microsoft DirectX 8.1 – Microsoft’s 3D API runtime.
  • Trend Micro PC-Cillin – Virus protection software.
  • ThinSoft Be Twin – A thin client-server application.

I will not talk about DirectX or Acrobat since they are self-explanatory.

VGA Drivers
The drivers included on the CD are v4.28.20.21.00 of MSI’s video drivers (the equivalent of NVIDIA’s 41.07 Detonators) and v1.21 of NVIDIA’s WDM drivers.

MSI's driver properties.

MSI’s drivers include an overclocking interface which is a lot easier to use than the “MSI 3D Experience” tool. You just set your settings and apply – nothing fancy. I only wish they included hardware monitoring somewhere withing the driver’s properties control panel so they can do away with the whole “3D Experience” tool (as you will see next).

In testing this card, I encountered no stability issues with the bundled drivers which is a good thing for those people who have other priorities.

MSI 3D Experience
In today’s market overclocking is a popular idea and vendors include these tools in their packages to entice enthusiasts and the curious. MSI included their tool called “MSI 3D Experience” which is an unusual name for an application that controls the card’s voltage, frequency, and monitors temperature.

I was curiously surprised when I discovered that this wasn’t a traditional stand-alone application, but a Macromedia Flash multimedia application that controls the different aspects of the videocard. The interface shows various dials, and bars indicating your different settings. By activating a switch, you can adjust levels.

MSI's overclocking tool and hardware monitor.
The MSI 3D Experience overclocking and hardwarmonitoring tool.

The application itself does the job, but it feels terribly unpolished and too “fancy” for its own good. There are unecessary animations that play at startup and shutdown of the tool, there’s even a mystery button/hotzone on the interface that appears to refresh the monitor but does nothing. The temperature and voltage monitor does not work with any MSI driver I’ve tested.

Another problem with this utility is that it does not minimize to the system tray or display any useful information when minimized. So if you want some sort of indication of how your hardware is overclocked or see your current videocard temperature, you either have to keep the application maximized on your screen or re-launch it each time you want your information. You are probably better off using the overclocking tool integrated with the MSI driver or using a 3rd party tool.

MSI Live Update
MSI Live Update is a program that simplifies the user’s need to keep updated on the latest drivers. The program would connect to the MSI website and query their drivers database for any updated files. You then have the option of installing them onto your system through the Live Update interface.

MSI Live Update
Driver updates made easy with MSI Live Update.

This is probably one of the more useful utilities included in the bundle. For those of you who don’t want to worry about monitoring websites for updates you will find this very practical. The interface is very clean and straightforward to configure. I only wish this program updates the user on other possible fixes such as the WinProducer patch for MSI cards. This program is strictly for finding BIOS files and drivers and any other software updates the user will have to do on their own.

GoodMem
GoodMem (or “GoodMen” as mentioned on the MSI website :)) is MSI’s memory management tool. While it was running, I did not experience any performance increase or any tangible improvements even after doing a “memory clear” or “optimize” operations. Though this kind of utility may appeal to some of you, it’s always best to let the operating system manage its own memory. The OS caches files and does its own optimizations, so letting a 3rd party application clear this RAM space or do its own optimzations is generally not a good idea. It may actually do more harm than good, but is something I couldn’t immediately conclude in testing this particular software.
MSI LockBox
LockBox is a little utility that locks your desktop from any interaction with the objective to deter individuals from using your computer while you are not there. By setting up a username and password with the program, you can lock and unlock the desktop using the system tray icon the program installs. This program does what it claims to do. I could see how this could be useful to some of you, but it wasn’t immediately useful to me.

Unlocking the desktop.
Unlocking the desktop using MSI LockBox.
MSI WMIinfo
MSI WMI Info is a little utility that reports critial information about your system such as BIOS and driver versions, OS information, and more. This utility is pretty useful for quickly accessing hardware and software information. Having all this information in one place is a lot easier than digging through various Windows properties dialog boxes and menus.

The WMIinfo program displays critical system information.
SecureDoc
SecureDoc is a utility that encrypts or “locks” personal files from would-be information thieves, curious family members, or nosy co-workers. Before any locking/unlocking action takes place, the user must enter their master password into the utility to authenticate their identity. Once that is done, you can access your locked files or unlock files through a context-sensitive menu option that appears in your right mouse button menu.

I found this utility pretty useful. It’s an easy way add some security to your existing desktop without complicating things too much. There is only one single password required for all files locked which reduces the quantity of information memorized to get to your files. However, the only feature that I wish was included is the ability to lock entire folders. When doing a lock on a folder, all the files in the folder are locked and the folder itself is left untouched.

E-Color
E-Color is gamma correction software that optimizes your brightness, contrast, and colors so that colors are well saturated and not washed-out. In 3D games, it helps keep your graphics properly “lit” and vivid. After going through the application’s wizard, I think there was a change to my desktop — it’s hard to tell. I think that images on webpages did look a little richer and having a little more definition. I then decided to give UnrealTournament 2003 a try to see if there was any visible improvement. Using a level with interesting lighting, I took one screenshot with E-Color applied and another without.

UnrealTournament 2003 with eDeep off.
E-Color OFF.

UnrealTournament 2003 with eDeep on.
E-Color ON.

Can you see the difference? Neither can I. Perhaps it has something to do with UT2003 having its own gamma correction. If you’ve used this program and it made a difference for you in a game or in your desktop, please contact me. I would like to know if this software really works as advertised.

MediaRing Dialer
Media Ring Dialer is an application that uses the soundcard and modem to make phone calls from your desktop. It can simplify long distance dialing through using MSI’s built-in long distance plan application (if you don’t already have a long distance plan). This could be a great tool for those who have a modem installed and do a lot of calls from their desk. The business applications of this are pretty obvious, but home use may be a bit more limited.

MediaRing Dialer interface.
ThinSoft BeTwin
BeTwin is an application that allows you to support more than 1 user (i.e. more than 1 keyboard, mouse, and monitor) on a single computer simultaneously. The idea is like creating a central server computer with multiple simultaneous users without having to buy a computer for each of them.

I personally did not find this software useful to me, but it may be for some of you. If you want to share your Internet connection or applications and have extra PCI video cards, monitors, a USB hub and keyboards lying around, then it may be worth installing. However with networking becoming cheaper and hardware prices dropping, I am left wondering the practicalities of this tool.

InterVideo WinProducer CD

MSI Ti4800SE-VTD8X Video Card Review - Graphics Cards 19 This is an application that takes advantage of the card’s Video-in feature by allowing users to digitize video and create their own multimedia presentations complete with special transition effects. However, after installing the software, I could not seem to find any way to import video from my Samsung Mini DV camera connected through the SVideo connection. If you look at the following image, you can see that there are no options to digitize video through the “Import” features.

WinProducer interface with lack of importing buttons.

After many different MSI driver and WDM driver installations, I found a patch located at the MSI site for WinProducer (you can find it at www.msi.com.tw under Support > Driver > VGA Driver > Others). The description of the patch states “Fixed WinProducer capture button not working” which is exactly what I’m looking for. But upon installing the patch, I am greeted with this error:

MSI WinProducer update error dialog.

I searched the MSI site and their support forum and did not find anything that could help me. After a good evening of installing drivers and searching the web, I still can not get this software working with any MSI supported drivers (WDM and VGA) even though it all works with Adobe Premiere 6.5. So, if you plan on using this card to produce your own videos, be aware you may run into the same problem as me and not be able to use MSI’s bundled authoring software. Be prepared to spend some money on getting software that works such as Adobe Premiere or Pinnacle Expression software if you exhaust all troubleshooting and support alternatives.

InterVideo WinDVD

MSI Ti4800SE-VTD8X Video Card Review - Graphics Cards 20 If you have a DVD player in your computer or have VCDs, you can use WinDVD to view your media. The interface is clean and features the typical set of features seen on most DVD playback software available on the PC these days (zoom, slow-motion, audio channel selection, etc.).

The only twist to the version MSI bundled with their software is something called “Supreme Foreign Language Learning Machine” (SFLLM for short). The purpose of this tool is to allow you to pause and repeat sections of video. However, there is no documentaion on how to use this properly. The installation screen mentions using some combination of ENTER and SPACE to pause and replay sections, but from what I can see, it does nothing more than pause and unpause the movie.

Bundled Games

MSI Ti4800SE-VTD8X Video Card Review - Graphics Cards 21
MSI Ti4800SE-VTD8X Video Card Review - Graphics Cards 22
MSI Ti4800SE-VTD8X Video Card Review - Graphics Cards 23
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Included with the retail package are 5 games-related CDs:
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2 discs)
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
  • Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
  • Games Collection CD
    • The Sum of All Fears
    • IL-2 Sturmovik
    • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
    • Rally Trophy
    • Beeam breakers
    • Zax: The Alien Hunter
    • Oni

I won’t review these games here since you can find many reviews of them elsewhere on the Internet. I will comment on the value of these games and what makes these games worth considering when you make a purchasing decision.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Picture by CRAG.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Ghost Recon - Picture by DeathDie.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon

Four games in particular stick out: Elder Scrolls III, Ghost Recon, IL-2 Sturmovik, and Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. These four games are exceptional for many different reasons. Morrowind is one of the best RPG to be releaseed in the past 5 years. Ghost Recon advances the typical tactical shooter by adding strategy elements and co-operative play. IL-Sturmovik has a reputation of being an overlooked flight simulator. Altough I personally have never played it, the reviews from fans are enough for me to include it here as a reason to consider when buying this product. Serious Sam is a fast and furious shooter that is a blast to play and is good for a mindless diversion.

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