(By Rice-Dawg)


_____The cat is out of the bag... both the 3Dfx Voodoo 3 and the Intel Pentium III have been officially announced and both are slotted for delivery and shipment to the mainstream consumers within a month and a half. Undoubtedly, both are the flagship products for both companies, but to us, the consumers, are they really worth the fat prices they ask for and do they perform as well as they claim? Competitors? Marketing strategy? It's all here, in my first article since... hell, I don't even remember when. This is split into two categories, which are blatently obvious. We'll start off with the Voodoo 3, and continue the fun with the Pentium III. Read on, my friend.

--> 3Dfx / STB Voodoo 3-3500, Voodoo 3-3000, and Voodoo 3-2000

- Introduction

_____Let me start off with a brief introduction to the ones that are unfamiliar with what is the current industry rage: 3D acceleration. Believe me, that topic is an article in itself, but I shall summarize it in one word: kick-ass-games! Well, that's more like 3, but what the hell, I got my point across, right? And the current king of 3D acceleration is by the name of a chip manufacturer known as 3Dfx. Quite an appropriate name for the company that owns the lion share in the 3D market. 3Dfx makes the chips (like how Intel makes the chips) for the 3D accelerated graphics board that you buy at Best Buys / Comp USA... the more popular ones include the Diamond Monster 3D and the Creative 3D Blaster. There are also other ones such as Guillermot Maxi Gamer 3D and Obsidian Quantum 3D. All of those 3D video cards hold the prized chip made by 3Dfx known as the Voodoo 2.

_____Before the Voodoo 2 there was the original Voodoo 1, and the Voodoo Rush, but we won't get into that very much. The Voodoo 2 chip completely revolutionized the 3D acceleration industry, which, before the introduction of 3Dfx's flagship, was run by cheap S3 virge or Permidia 2 or some crap like that. 3D gaming hardly used the video card much at all, and relied on software rendering (which its power is proportional to the power of your CPU). The Voodoo (and subsequently, the Voodoo 2) changed all that with a simple game known as Quake. Quake programmer John Carmack re-wrote a separate executable that took advantage of 3D acceleration in his game Quake, and when someone stuck a Voodoo-based graphics board into their system and ran GLQuake (the name of 3D-accelerated Quake), the graphics displayed on their monitor totally blew people away. Gone were the choppy pixels and the ugly colors of the software engine. The 3D accelerated not only made the game 100% kick-ass graphically, it increased the smoothness of the game! Needless to say, a new boom began, and 3Dfx made so much money that they created the Voodoo 2. The Voodoo 2 made the games even prettier, and smoother, and once again, 3Dfx cashed in like Captain Kangaroo.

Ugly Software Rendered Image
Pretty Voodoo Rendered Image

_____Let's get one thing straight before I continue. When you ask your parents to buy you a new Voodoo-based 3D board, don't tell them you're going to use it for games. Tell them it'll enhance your computer graphics in Microsoft Office or Internet research, even though you'll only use it for games. Because the Voodoo is good for nothing when it comes to work... it's only for play! =)

- The Juicy Meat (no pun intended)

_____As you can see from the pictures posted above, the software rendered image is just utterly butt ugly, while the second image, the Voodoo rendered image, totally kicks mega-ass. The new Voodoo 3 has garnished a lot of hype, but does it live up to it? The answer is: Yes... but no.

_____In an attempt to gain grounds on the OEM (Compaq, Dell, etc...) market, 3Dfx acquired the video card maker STB. What that means is that companies such as Diamond, Creative, and Obsidian, that has previously made video cards in reference to the Voodoo chip, have been given the cold shoulder, and only STB will manufacture the Voodoo 3. So don't be looking around for a Diamond Monster 3D III, 'cause there won't be one. The Voodoo 3 comes in 3 different flavors, the 2000, the 3000, and the 3500. The 3500 is the mega-performer out there, clocking the chip in at 183 MHz, and will be limited in their supply. The 3000 clocks at 166 MHz, and the 2000 clicks at 143 MHz. Check out the benchmarks I 'nicked from Tom's Hardware Guide:

_____Oh, for those of you that were expecting 100+ frames per second (FPS), this benchmark was clocked using the Quake 2 demo known as "CRUSHER", which was created by Brett "3-Fingers" Jacobs. CRUSHER is a demo that indicates the worst possible conditions in which a battle can get, with rockets flying all over the place, it's a much tougher demo than plain-ol' demo1. As Tom says, "The frame rate in Quake2 should hardly ever drop underneath the result scored in ‘Crusher’. This makes ‘Crusher’ the best benchmark for the hard core gamer, who doesn’t want to know how high the frame rate can go, but how low it can drop."

_____Looking at the chart, the Voodoo 3-3500 is the king on Intel's chips, but lags behind the Voodoo 2-SLI in AMD's chips (AMD is simply a competing company against Intel). Some of you may be asking what the hell is a Voodoo 2-SLI anyway? Well, a SLI is a hookup that involves buying TWO Voodoo 2's and hookin' 'em together to deliver double the performance. Sounds crazy huh? Anyways, the Voodoo 3-3500 squeaks by the SLI in the Intel chips (since I assume this is what most of you have, I will focus only on that aspect), while the Voodoo 3-3000 is nearly identical to the SLI. The Voodoo 3-2000 is sort of in no-man's land, clocking in a performance that can't quite compete with the 3000 and the 3500, but still better than nVidia's TNT or ATi's Rage 128.

_____And for you speed-hungry freaks that are drooling to find out just how damn fast a voodoo 3 can reach, I nabbed a benchmark from Sharkyextreme that demonstrates the POWER of a Voodoo 3. The demo is not "CRUSHER", but plain ol' vanilla "Demo1.dm2". Hehe... =)

Yeah baby! Show me the speeeed!

- Conclusion

_____"Rice! Should I buy a Voodoo 3 or not?!"... Well yeah man! Why not? The Voodoo 3 offers several distinct advantages, that include speedier performance than even two Voodoo 2's hooked together, plus it doesn't take up 3 precious slots on your computer (two voodoo 2's and one 2D graphics card). The Voodoo 3 has 2D support also, which is currently better than any other right now, including Matrox Millenium G200, nVidia TNT, etc... The Voodoo 3 is the best video card out there right now, period. Expect it to debut into the market sometime in mid-March or so at $250 for the 3500, and $200 for the 3000 version. Oh, and I must say, if you're going to buy a Voodoo 3, don't buy the 2000, because it's not nearly as good bang-for-buck as the 3000 and 3500.

_____Check out the benchmarks once more, as the Voodoo 3 (3000 and above, since 2000 is not worth talking about) smokes the 100 FPS limit on the Demo1 graph. But, that's not an accurate indication on how the frames per second works in the heat of a battle, which is why CRUSHER is such a good demo to benchmark on. The voodoo 3-3500 scores about 40 FPS on a Intel Celeron 400, and the 3000 scores about 38 or so on the CRUSHER demo. The Voodoo 2-SLI scores roughly the same. Keep in mind that a typical movie runs at 24 FPS, so anything above 30 or so is really hard to tell the difference in smoothness. Even though the Voodoo 2-SLI scores about the same, it takes up 3 slots in your computer instead of 1 like the Voodoo 3. Plus the Voodoo 3 offers better image quality at higher resolutions and unparalleled 2D performance.

_____For those that are still at a loss on all this FPS mumbo jumbo, let me compare the Voodoo 1 with the Voodoo 2, and the Voodoo 3. Check out the results on the table below:

My system Pentium 100 w/ Voodoo 1 (Hercules Stingray)
Cruise's Pentium 133 w/ Voodoo 1 (Canopus Pure3D)
Wisdom's Pentium 200 w/ Voodoo 2 (Diamond Monster 3D II)
Mega Pentium II 450 w/ Voodoo 3-3500

  Demo1.dm2 CRUSHER.dm2
My System 15 FPS 7.5 FPS
Cruise's 21 FPS 9.1 FPS
Wisdom's 25 FPS 12.5 FPS
Mega 108 FPS 40.0 FPS

_____There is a catch, however, because although the Voodoo 3 is the ultimate emperor in terms of video card performance, competitors are starting to catch up. The nVidia TNT matched, and beat-out, the Voodoo 2 (although not the SLI)... only time will tell if the TNT 2 (now in development) can knock out the Voodoo 3.

Final word: The Voodoo 3 is the best once more, but its lifespan will be shorter than the success that the Voodoo 1 and 2 experienced.

Onto the Pentium III! -->