gonna make you an offer you can't refuse!"
gotta problem with dat?"
Initial Screenshot Comparisons Complete
I have added a new Gaming Visual Quality
comparison section to the guide, (accessible from the contents frame on the left.)
There are Quake2 (OpenGL) and Incoming (Direct3D) screenshots for several chipsets, with
more to come soon!
There have been several changes in the ratings. MOP-Bench
has also been upgraded to version 2.0 (to take into account the new evaluation and
selection criteria data.) Here's the skinny on the most important changes in the
ratings, and the guide in general:
- nVidia's Riva TNT has gone to "reliable
data" stage: The first nVidia TNT based products are fhitting the
streets now. For several weeks, product previews based on final silicon have been
circulating the 'Net, and there's enough data out there to move the TNT into the reliable
data stage. Important standings implications? For the PII user, the TNT is
- ATI's Rage 128 debuts in the ratings:
Last week, ATI announced both the Rage 128 family of chipsets and three accelerators based
on the product. The chipset looks like a winner, but will ATI deliver?
- NEC/VL's PVRSG has been removed from the ratings:
In accordance with my new ratings policy (see below), I have removed the PVRSG
products from the ratings. They still appear in my Chipset Overview, of course, but
the lack of any evidence of a real product announcement has forced me to take this action.
- Pricing changes: The 3D accelerator war is prompting some pretty
spectacular pricing. Prices have been continuing to plummet, and the ratings reflect
this accordingly. The most astonishing news since the last updates in this regard
- Number Nine announced a 32 MB Revolution IV which will be sold for approximately $220
- 3dfx's Voodoo Banshee, rumored to de $150 for an 8 MB configuration, will be $150 for a
16 MB configuration.
- nVidia Riva TNT, originally estimated to be $300 for a 16 MB configuration, is debuting
for as little as $180.
- Performance / Quality confirmation: I have personally tested the last
of the "first-gen" chipsets, the Intel i740. Next-up, the
"next-gen" chipsets like the Ticket-to-Ride IV, Matrox MGA-200, S3 Savage 3D,
nVidia Riva TNT and 3dfx Voodoo Banshee. Hopefully, I'll have some of these products
to test within the next few weeks.
- Ratings Forumula Changes: A couple of the ratings forulae have changed
to reflect the times. With the release of DX6 and the availability of DX6 based
games coming soon, the Hardcore Gamer is now concerned about equally for DX5, DX6 and
OpenGL support. I have also changed the "Professional 2D support" category
to a more general "Professional Resolution Support." Becuase cards are
starting to appear with 32 MB of memory, they can significant benefit to *3d*
applications, allowing for higher resolutions / color depths for 3D viewing.
- More on Unreal: This does not have a direct impact on the games
ratings...yet. However, the first OpenGL beta patch has been released, and the first
DirectX6 beta is said to be only a couple weeks away. However, if Unreal is your
game there are a few things you should be aware of:
- 3dfx Voodoo Family (via Glide) and Rendition Verite V2x00 (via OpenGL) are currently the
only accelerators that will run Unreal with intended quality.
- It is believed that nVidia Riva 128 and 3DLabs Permedia2 may have some problems with
Unreal, due to lack of certain blending modes. Little is known about Rage Pro
compatibility / performance.
- It is anticipated that the intel i740 and most next-gen chipsets (MGA-200, TNT,
Savage3D) will run Unreal just fine via OpenGL and / or Direct3D.
- S3's Savage 3D will eventually get native support for Unreal via its "Metal"
New Chipset Ratings Policy
Because of the recent activity of new accelerators reaching the market,I have decided
on a standard policy regarding the inclusion of chipsets in my overview page, as well as
chipsets included in the rankings:
- To be included on the Overview Page, a chipset or chipset technology
must be formally announced by the chipset vendor. This means that chips such as the
Rendition RRedline, NEC/VL PVRSG, and 3DLabs Permedia3 will be included in my general
analysis of all chipsets.
- To be included in the rankings, a consumer level product based on the
chipset must be announced. As a consequence, the NEC/VL PVRSG ratings are being
pulled (and Rendition RRedline, 3DLabs Permedia3 will not be rated). Once consumer
products are announed that are based on these technologies, they will be included in the
ratings. This also means that ATI's new chipset (ATI Rage 128) will be included in
the rankings, since board level products were announced (with pricing and availability
information) at the same time as the chips themselves.
- To be included in the rankings with "reliable data": (This is
not new, but it bears repeating for completeness). A consumer level product must be
available for purchase, and there must be enugh data in the public domain for me to feel
comfortable with its reliability. Better yet, my own first hand testing woul be
enough to consider data "reliable!" The Riva TNT is the only new chipset
that has gone from "unreliable" to "reliable" status.
First, a word of thanks!
First of all, thanks for being patient while I settled back into "real life"
following the wedding. Thanks to all of you who have sent me good luck wishes...it
worked. The wedding day was absolutely perfect. No
glitches, great weather, a beautiful bride...I couldn't have asked for more. The
honeymoon cruise was a blast as well...and no, I wasn't on the cruise ship that caught
There have been several changes in the ratings. MOP-Bench
has also been upgraded to version 1.1 (to take into account the new evaluation data.)
Here's the skinny on the most important changes in the ratings, and the guide in
- Matrox MGA-200 Has gone to "reliable
data" stage: With the official release of MGA-200 based products,
there has been enough data circulating on the internet to get a good idea of MGA-200
performance and quality. (I have not tested one myself yet, but hope to soon.)
Matrox's product has now earned a top recommendation in three categories, the casual gamer, moonlighting Pro and Strict 3D professional categories based on it's reported
performance and quality. Note, however that full OpenGL drivers are not yet
available for the MGA-200, so keep that in mind!! Until the competition starts
releasing products (like Riva TNT, Ticket to Ride IV, Banshee, Savage 3D), the MGA-200 is
simply the best all-around 2D/3D solution you can buy today.
- Introduction of Number Nine's Ticket to Ride IV:
The announcement of the Ticket to Ride IV chip (Revolution IV Accelerator product)
from "quiet" Number Nine surprised many people, and I've been asked more about
this chip in e-mail than any other. I have posted preliminary ratings based on very
early data gathered from the internet. This product should be a direct competitor to
the Matrox MGA-200. There is virtually zero quantitative information concerning
performance, but "smooth" is often used from independent testers. To me,
the most astonishing thing about this accelerator is price: Sub $150 for a 16 MB card.
I have been promised an evaluation unit by Number Nine..let's hope I get one soon!
- Pricing changes: Prices have been falling like mad since the last
update, and all the new prices are reflected in the ratings and on the overview chart. All 4 MB cards can now be
had for sub $100 prices, and 8 MB cards are in the $100 to $150 range. Voodoo2 has
also seen significant price drops, with $150 - 175 being a typical price for a 8 MB card.
Riva TNT has been confirmed to be $200 estimated street price for a 16 MB
product...initial estimates were $300. Perhaps the most drastic price cut has been
on the NEC/VL PCX2 -- I have seen it myself for $9 (that's NINE dollars)
after a $20 mail-in rebate. Hey, if you want to play accelerated Unreal on a shoe
string budget, how could you go wrong?
- Performance / Quality confirmation: Now having personally tested
Voodoo1/2, MPact2, V2200, Rage Pro, Riva 128, Permedia2, and PCX2 based accelerators, the
performance and visual quality ratings have been confirmed, with very little change from
the initial evaluation. I will be getting an i740 very soon, and hope to have the
MGA-200 and Ticket To Ride IV under my belt within the next few weeks. Quake2
screenshot comparisons are up for many of these cards, and Incoming shots will be up
within the next week or two.
- Goodbye Rendition V2100: I have removed the Rendition V2100 from
the ratings / evaluations, because I don't believe OEMs are making products based on it
any more. The price difference between a 4 MB V2100 and a 4 MB V2200 is a few
dollars at best, so I figured..."what's the point?"
- Introduction of Unreal: This does not have a direct impact on the
games ratings...yet. However, the word is that the Unreal engine will pose some
unique stresses on 3D accelerators, so we may see a shake up in the ratings depending on
the results. Currently, Unreal currently runs accelerated only on PowerVR and Voodoo
architectures (PCX2, Voodoo Graphics, Voodoo2, and Voodoo Rush), but an OpenGL version of
Unreal is due out soon, and a DirectX 6 version is planned. With many games being
planned using the Unreal, you should start to consider Unreal support an important factor.
This should do two things: 1) Help identify which current OpenGL ICDs are robust,
and 2) Which (if any) hardware architectures will have trouble with the Unreal Engine.
I have had some e-mails that asked me why is "proprietary API support
important?" (with Direct3D or OpenGL support being common). The Unreal
situation is a classic example. Unless you own a Voodoo or PCX2, you're going to
have to wait a while to play accelerated Unreal. Voodoo technology is currently the
only card to accelerate Unreal properly (with all effects enabled and properly rendered.)
No, I'm not getting married again, but I do have a business trip that is going to take
me to San Jose, CA for a week. You should all have enough to chew on for a while,
though! :) I'll be back in town on Sunday, August 9. See you then!
Some of you may know that TOMORROW is the big day. I marry the girl of my dreams at 10:15 AM.
I hope you understand now why updates have been infrequent the past month, and I
haven't responded to e-mail for the last week...there have been many details
to cover, out of town guests to entertain, etc. All the plans are finally coming
together, and the weather is suppossed to be fantastic for the outdoor ceremony
tomorrow. (Clear, dry, and in the low 80's...not bad for a mid July day in New
Jersey!) Wish us luck!
Rating Update Status
Nevertheless, I have been testing a varitey of accelerators over the past month, I just
haven't had time to do the formal updating of the guide (with the wedding and all).
However, here's the skinny:
- I have tested most of the accelerator chips listed below (June 11). However, the
i740 card the I have has a BIOS that is currently too old to work properly. I will
be receiving a new i740 card to test when I get back. Also, I will be receiving a
new Matrox MGA-200 based card as well. Finally, many of you have asked about the
Number Nine Revolution IV, and I'll be getting one of those as well!
- The ratings themselves won't change very much. First hand testing has confirmed
much of what I have in the guide already in terms of performance and feature support (for
- Visual Quality Comparisons -- Click here to visit the overview
page which now has links to Quake2 screenshot comparisons of several chipsets. I
will also have a Direct3D (Incoming) screenshot comparison, but it is not complete yet.
When I return from the honeymoon, I will more fully integrate the visual quality
comparison into the guide, but for now, please accept the "hack"!
Screenshots are up for 3dfx
Voodoo2, 3dlabs Permedia2, ATI Rage Pro, Chromatic Research MPact2, NEC/VL PCX2, Rendition Verite V2x00.
When I return, I'll have Riva128, i740, and hopefully Matrox MGA-200 and Ticket-to-Ride
(Revolution) IV up as well.
That's it for now...I return from vacation on July 20th. You'll hear from me soon