3dfx Voodoo 3 3000 PCI
3dfx's PCI graphics card reviewed
- 3dfxPrice - about £100
3dfx have lost their way in the 3D market place recently, and competitors such as NVIDIA have all eagerly jumped in to take the crown that at one time deservedly belonged to 3dfx. Without any major new product 3dfx continues to take a second place in the 3D speed stakes.
Despite this potentially crushing defeat, 3dfx have had the foresight to hedge their bets. Many chip makers have wisely utilised the resources available through AGP, and as a result have produced some very impressive products. They have, however, forgotten about the lower end of the market.
Strange as it may sound, not everyone is endowed with AGP, and this AGP divide isn't just limited to older systems. A case in point is Intel's AGP-less 810 chipset - boards based on the 810 (and its associated flavours) are perfect for the most budget conscious of users, but should a user want to upgrade from the rather weak i752 graphics controller they have a somewhat limited choice.
In step 3dfx.
V3 3000 PCI
Despite not being 'the fastest card on the market', the Voodoo 3 3000 PCI is still a reasonable performer, and certainly a good card for lower end platforms.
The V3 3000 PCI slightly varies from the original AGP version as it is significantly larger, which is undoubtedly a result of it being converted to PCI. It is also missing the TV encoder chip, which (on the AGP version) allows you to plug the card into a TV for some big screen gaming. Ultimately many users would never use this feature, but for the sake of a couple more dollars...
Other than that the board is virtually the same though. The same 16Mb of SDRAM occupies the board, as does the rather substantial heatsink attached to the chip. It's curious that 3dfx don't have a fan in addition, as the board does get very hot, and after only minutes the heatsink becomes literally too hot to handle.
On the driver side, 3dfx have implemented their ubiquitous control panels, so any one used to other 3dfx cards will feel right at home, and even those who have very little experience will have no problem tweaking the options.
One thing I must note though is that installing the drivers isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, as 3dfx seem to have made their CD slightly less than user friendly. This is a shame, as they do include a very nice video on the CD which shows the user how to install the card itself. Oh well...
3dfx have also included some extra software in their bundle - EA's FIFA '99 and Epic's Unreal, both of which are good games and would certainly show off some of the prowess of the Voodoo 3 chip. There is also a voucher to redeem a copy of Unreal Tournament, although this is likely to be replaced soon by the actual game, now that it has been released.
One question that has to be asked is whether the transition from AGP to PCI has harmed the performance of the board.
Due to the way in which 3dfx have designed the Voodoo 3 chip, it doesn't use any of the advanced features of the AGP bus, such as AGP 2/4x, Side Band Addressing, or DME [That's enough - jargon Editor]. It effectively acts like a PCI 66 device anyway, so there are no real issues to deal with when creating a PCI version of the card.
Due to the fall in bus clock speed there is the potential to lose some performance, but because of the way which 3dfx chips work there isn't quite as much of a penalty as one could expect.
As you can see from these results, the PCI version of the Voodoo 3 3000 is not noticeably slower than its AGP cousin. In some ways this is a good thing, but it does show the total lack of commitment to AGP in general from 3dfx...
While it is no speed demon, the Voodoo 3 3000 PCI can at the very least hold its own at the lower end, and it does represent reasonable performance for a good price.
Of course, while the user is getting a fairly cheap graphics card they are also buying one that is missing some useful features, most notably the lack of 32 bit colour rendering. 3dfx don't have the only PCI 3D graphics card available, and it may be worth investigating some of the others, such as the PCI version of VideoLogic's Neon250 product.
Overall though, the Voodoo3 3000 PCI is a great little card for those who require a PCI graphics solution.
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