Creative's Blaster Banshee
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March 17. 1999

Introduction
The Banshee graphics chip, the core of which is the heart of Creative's Graphics Blaster Banshee, is the first 2D/3D solution from 3D graphics hardware leader 3Dfx. Released at a very reasonable price the Banshee has met stiff competition from nVidia's TNT and as far as performance goes has come out on the short end on the other hand Creative's Blaster Banshee does have it's merits. Unlike the Voodoo², the Banshee doesn't require additional 2D support. 3Dfx invested a lot of time and energy into developing it's 2D hardware. Its integrated 250 MHz RAMDAC offering all Windows Graphic Display Interface functions in hardware, saving a software interface between the driver and the graphics hardware may make it the fastest 2D chip available. Banshee also comes with full DVD support enabling hardware assistance for software DVD and a VMI interface for single slot hardware DVD.

BansheeBox.jpg (7514 bytes) The highlight of the Banshee is of course its 3D core. Banshee has an only slightly different 3D interface than the Voodoo2 and so supports the Glide API. A major selling point considering the lack of special software support for the rest of the competition. Although it currently has no driver support for AMD's 3DNow! instruction set (perhaps in the near future) the true highlight of the Banshee, as produced in the form of Creative's Blaster Banshee anyway, is super7 platform system compatibility.

The difference between Banshee's 3D engine and Voodoo² is Banshee's lack of a second texture unit. Voodoo²'s twin Texelfx2 units render complicated scene textures using both of the chips simultaneously in a single pass, which is much faster than sequential or multi-pass texture rendering. However. the fill rate of Banshee is slightly higher than Voodoo²'s. Voodoo² runs at 90 MHz offering 90 MPps, Banshee is clocked somewhat faster and is capable of 100-125 MPps ( a feature the Creative allows access to in it's Blaster Control control panel applet. Games that don't use multi-pass texturing will so run slightly faster on Banshee than on Voodoo². And, while most of the games on the present market don't use multi-pass texturing, look for that to change soon.

BansheeAGP.jpg (20726 bytes)

Packaging
In order to keep the cost down Creative went a bit light on Blaster Banshee's accompanying software bundle; including only Colorific® by Sonnetech, Ltd. which provides quick-and-easy, set-and-forget color characterization, giving you accurate screen-to-printer and monitor-to-monitor color matching between your monitor, printer and browser. You can use the Colorific Control Panel under Windows 95 or 98 for on-the-fly optimization of your display for Internet browsing, DVD video, games, business graphics, or desktop publishing. Also included is 3DEEP also by Sonnetech, Ltd. 3DEEP uses Colorific's technology to allow game developers to automatically set accurate gamma values for your monitor, which means games that look the way the designer intended. Installation of the Blaster Banshee drivers also includes 'Blaster Control'. a control panel display properties applet that provides relevant information regarding the card and also allows for a good deal of modification to the Blaster Banshee's default registry settings.   Creative has included a  reasonably well written Users Guide that will help you get the card, drivers and accompanying software installed, as well as answer many of your questions.

Creative's Blaster Banshee Technical Specifications

Highlights
  • Voodoo2-based 3Dfx Voodoo Banshee core for the broadest game compatibility
  • 128-bit wide graphics engine, memory interface, and VGA
  • 3D rendering pipeline based on the Voodoo2
  • 4 million triangle per second peak
  • Large 12K on-chip cache
  • 36 billion operation per second pixel processing pipeline

2D Features

  • High-performance 128-bit 2D/GUI/DirectDraw acceleration with the full Windows GDI in hardware
  • Screaming fast 128-bit VGA with full IBM 8514 compatibility
  • Simultaneous tiled and linear memory support


3D Features

  • Integrated Voodoo2 3D core makes 3D Blaster™ Banshee the only 2D/3D accelerator architecture with support for Glide
  • Optimized drivers for the Microsoft® DirectX API, including DirectX 5.0 and 6.0 support
  • 3Dfx "MiniGL" driver for Quake II and other hot titles
  • Full hardware triangle setup
  • On-chip texture caching
  • High-precision 16-bit Z-buffer
  • Sub-pixel and sub-texel accurate perspective correction
  • Transparency and chroma-key with color mask
  • Alpha blending on source and destination pixels
  • Default environment maps and bump mapping
  • Per-pixel table-based fog/haze effects
  • Per-pixel MIP mapping, trilinear filtering
  • Full scene and sort-independent edge anti-aliasing
  • Supports palletized and compressed textures
Video Support
  • Double and triple-buffered video for smooth playback
  • Bob-and-weave de-interlacing
  • Hardware color space conversion
  • Supports packed and planar YUV 4:2:2 modes
  • X and Y smooth up and down scaling with bilinear filtering

Interfaces

  • Available for PCI and AGP bus systems
  • PCI model supports 33 MHz and 66 MHz operation
  • AGP model supports sideband signaling
  • Bus mastering DMA and dual command FIFO
  • 256-bit internal buffering for maximum memory efficiency

Specifications

  • Single-slot 2D, 3D graphics and video accelerator
  • 3Dfx Interactive® Voodoo Banshee™ chipset
  • Integrated 250MHz Palette-DAC supporting up to 1920x1200 at 75Hz
  • 16MB of 100MHz memory (SDRAM on PCI model, SGRAM on AGP bus model)
  • MPEG-1/MPEG-2 and full-motion video playback acceleration
  • PCI bus version 2.1 or AGP bus version 1.0
  • Multi-display support under Windows® 98
  • VESA DDC 2B + DPMS
  • Full Plug-and-Play compliant

Drivers

  • Accelerated Windows NT® display drivers
  • Accelerated Windows 95 and 98 display driver with support for DirectDraw, Direct3D, DirectVideo, ActiveX and Glide
  • MiniGL for Quake, Hexen, Half-Life etc.
  • VESA VBE 3.0 compliant

Warranty: Three-year limited hardware warranty covering parts and labor

2D Resolution Table

  No. of Colors
Refresh Rates (Hz)
Resolution
256 64K 16.7M
640x480 60-120 60-120 60-120
800x600 60-120 60-120 60-120
1024x768 60-120 60-120 60-120
1152x864 60-120 60-120 60-120
1280x1024 60-120 60-120 60-120
1600x1200 60-85 60-85 60-85
1920x1080 60-75 60-75 60-75
1920x1200 60-75 60-75 60-72
Refresh rates shown are the highest obtainable and are monitor-dependant. Resolutions, pixel depths and refresh rates are driver-dependent and may not be available in all applications or operating systems.

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