Voodoo3 2000
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Introduction
Possibly the best news to come down the pipe in the last several months, for super7 users anyway, is the release of the new Voodoo3 graphics chip. The Voodoo3 boards deliver outstanding 3D and 2D performance, offer support for the new generation of ultra-high resolution displays, and display exceptional system compatibility with both non-Intel and Intel chipset-based system boards. The Voodoo3 2000 comes in both PCI and AGP flavors and is designed for the mainstream user looking to upgrade their graphics subsystem and could well be the best $129.00 you spend this year. The Voodoo3 3000/3500 AGP boards are designed for game enthusiasts or anyone seeking the ultimate visual experience available on a PC. With optimized software drivers for 3dfx Glide, Direct 3D, and OpenGL, PCs equipped with Voodoo3 can run more than 500 enhanced games developed for the Voodoo Graphics family.

Built for excellent visual quality and just pure speed, the Voodoo3 2000 PCI and AGP feature an internal core and external SDRAM clock rates of 143MHz. The Vooodoo3 3000 AGP features an internal core and external SDRAM clock rates of 166MHz, and the Voodoo3 3500 AGP features an internal core and external SGRAM clock rates of 183MHz. The Voodoo3 3500 also includes 3dfx's proprietary flat-panel support, LCDfx. In this review we focus on only the Voodoo3 2000. Our Voodoo3 3000 review will be posted in about a week.

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Voodoo3 2000 3D Feature Set

  • 6 million triangles per second
  • 286 megatexels per second fill rate
  • 128-bit 3D acceleration
  • 2.29GB per Second Peak Bandwidth
  • Dual, 32-bit texture rendering architecture
  • True multi-texturing. 2 textures per-pixel per-clock
  • Full hardware setup of triangle parameters
  • Support for multi-triangle strips and fans
  • Single Pass, Single-cycle bump mapping
  • Single Pass, Single-cycle trilinear MIP-mapping
  • Sub-pixel and sub-texel correction with 0.4x0.4 resolution
  • Per-pixel atmospheric fog with programmable fog zones
  • Floating point Z buffer (W buffer)
  • True per-pixel, LOD MIP mapping with biasing and clamping
  • Highly accurate LOD calculations
  • Texture compositing for multi-texture and special effects
  • Support for 14 texture map formats
  • 8-bit palletized textures with full bilinear filtering
  • Texture compression through narrow channel YAB format
2D Feature Set
  • Fully integrated 128-bit VGA and 2D engine
  • High-speed 128-bit Windows GUI acceleration
  • Hardware acceleration for Bresenham line draw, 2-edge polygon fill, scissor/rectangle clippers and full 256 ROPs
  • Internal 256-bit data path
  • Source and destination chroma-keying for DirectDraw
  • Color expansion and single-cycle block writes
  • Accelerated 8, 16, 24 (packed), and 32-bit modes
  •  

    Video Subsystem

    • Support for ultra-high resolution displays on PC monitors
    • Resolutions of up to 2046 x 1536 at a full 75Hz screen refresh rate
    • YUV 4:2:2 and YUV 4:2:0 planar support
    • 30 frames per second DVD playback with no dropped frames
    • Supports the latest MPEG2 software CODECs via DirectShow
    • De-interlacing using Bob and Weave
    • Separate gamma correction for video and graphics
    • Auto page flipping using VBI smoothes video motion
    • 300MHz integrated RAMDAC
    • Up to 24bpp (16.7 million colors)
    • Sub-pixel image scaling technology

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At the heart of the new Voodoo3 boards is the Voodoo3 chip. Debuted at COMDEX in November of last year, the much-anticipated Voodoo3 is one the most advanced graphics processor technology available in PCs today. With 8.2 million transistors and manufactured in an advanced .25 micron CMOS process, Voodoo3 is designed for optimal performance and graphics processing power on both Pentium II/III, Celeron and future CPUs from Intel, as well as the AMD K6-2 and K6-III processors featuring 3DNow! technology.

The latest in 3dfx Interactive's long line of highly acclaimed 3D and 2D accelerators, Voodoo3 provides complete compatibility with the largest library of enhanced 3D entertainment titles available: more than 300 titles are currently available, with over 500 expected by the end of 1999. Voodoo3 is optimized for Microsoft's DirectX APl, as well as other standard API's including Glide from 3dfx and OpenGL from Silicon Graphics.

The key strengths of Voodoo3 are exceptional graphics memory bandwidth and high pixel fill rates. In other words, you can still achieve high frame rates at high resolutions. Leading triangle setup and pixel fill rates mean Voodoo3 will rarely be the bottleneck to gaming performance. Indeed, the faster your PC's CPU, the more you will be able to witness the extent of Voodoo3's graphics power.

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The Voodoo3 incorporates many features to optimize the image quality of 3D content. The impact of Voodoo3's per-pixel trilinear mapmaking and accurate LOD calculations can be easily visualized by looking at a polygon in perspective, You won't see any mipmap bands (caused by bilinear or poor trilinear filtering) as you move slowly forward/backward in Quake II. Neither will you find aliening or sparkling (caused by inaccurate LOD), or mipmap "popping," which is an abrupt change in sharpness or blur (per-polygon mapmaking will cause this).

As to image quality, the Voodoo3 is quite outstanding. Screen captures, however are hampered as 3dfx has a unique way of converting data in the frame buffer before it's sent to the screen to be displayed. As a result, "unfiltered" data is stored in the frame buffer - and the filtering is performed at scan-out on the way to display. This improves the quality of the picture displayed on the monitor, but doesn't actually change the data in the frame buffer. Typically when you are doing a screen capture, you are just grabbing data directly from the frame buffer, which is "unfiltered" so the quality of raw images captured from the frame buffer is actually lower than what is actually displayed.  3dfx has recommended the use of Hypersnap DX for screen captures but I haven't as yet been happy with the results.  Perhaps in our upcoming V3-3000 review...

Packaging
The Voodoo3 2000 ships with an excellent installation CD-ROM that makes setup a breeze.   3dfx has included a brief install guide and an online presentation that can walk even the most fumble-thumbed through the easy set up procedure.  All of the necessary drivers including DirectX 6.1 and the MiniGL driver are ready for you to install and the CD also includes the 3dfx Tools Control Panel Applet for the adventurous among you.   Also included is an game demo CD from EIDOS with demos and video presentations for Tomb Raider (et.al,), MotoRacer, Thief, etc. so that even if you don't have games to play, you can witness the power of the Voodoo3 through the demos.  3dfx Tools is a utility to tweak your system settings for performance, quality or both...

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Performance
Before we go into that, I just want to make clear that the Voodoo3 2000 worked extremely well on every system board I tried it on.  We ran it over 8 different super7 mainboards ( even early models with the VIA CD version chipset and had no problems except when trying to return from Sleep Mode, no matter what other devices (e.g. sound cards - PCI, ISA; modems - PCI, ISA, Winmodems, Network Cards - PCI, ISA  and a variety of IDE and ATAPI drives, etc) we used.   STB/3dfx included an errata file that covers all of the known problems with ver. 1.0 of the Voodoo3 and we will post that a bit farther down.  We experienced no lock-ups at all and were, overall, very satisfied with the stability of the V3 2000 card.   We put the card through it's paces using Ziff-Davis' 3D Winbench 99 ver. 1.01, Futuremark's 3DMark MAX 99 graphics subsystem benchmark application, and took real world frame rates using Quake II and Unreal.  You will find the scores below reflect average scores over 3 runs of each benchmark at 1024x768 with Vsync enabled...

Test Systems for Voodoo3 2000 AGP 16MB

  Intel Based Super 7
Mainboard EPoX EP-BX3 EPoX EP-MVP3G-M rev 0.2
Chipset Intel 440BX VIA MVP3
Processor(s) Intel Pentium III 450
Intel Celeron 400MHz
Intel Celeron 300A
AMD K6-III 400MHz
AMD K6-2 400MHz
AMD K6-2 350MHz
Memory 2x64MB PC100 (CLK2) 2x64MB PC100 (CLK2)
Hard Drive Western Digital AC36400
6.4G Ultra ATA/33
Quantum Fireball EX
12.7 G Ultra ATA/33
Operating System Windows 98 Windows 98

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Errata-
This is a list of problems that have been experienced with the v1.00 Voodoo3 product.


Conclusion
As I stated before; if you are the typical super7 user, this may be the best $129.00 you spend this year.  While hard-core gamers may opt for the 3000 or even 3500 version of the Voodoo3 chip, the fabulous image quality at even high resolution, ease of installation, adequate software bundle notwithstanding, the pure performance and compatibility of the Voodoo3 alone make this a sure fire winner in every respect.   Even if you're not a gamer, the video and excellent 2D performance should provide all you need to slap this card into your system.  You may even be so impressed with this cards 3D abilities that you'll - all of a sudden - find yourself hurrying home for a quick session of Quake II or Need For Speed III before supper...
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To find out more about 3dfx and STB's Voodoo3 - Check out their web site at http://www.3dfx.com
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