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Blue Wonder? The Guillemot/Hercules 3D Prophet II GTS

Blue Wonder? The Guillemot/Hercules 3D Prophet II GTS
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The color blue seems to be the latest fashion with graphics cards. Besides Gigabyte, Guillemot is now using this optical clue to differentiate their product from all the other manufacturers. There is another unusual thing: the memory modules are equipped with a heat sink. Under the hood of the 3D Prophet II GTS works nVidia's latest GeForce2 GTS chip. The latter we already described extensively in Tom's Take On NVIDIA's New GeForce2 GTS . In this test we compare the 32 MB version of the 3D Prophet II GTS with the competitors Aopen PA256 Pro, Asus AGP-V7700 Pure, Elsa Gladiac and Leadtek Winfast GeForce2, that are all based on nVidia's newest offspring.

A few readers have already informed us about the somewhat different brand names of this graphics card. The retailers offer this product under the brand Guillemot, but you will also find the brand Hercules. In general: Whether it is Hercules or Guillemot, this graphics card only has one name. The confusion is actually caused by the Guillemot Corporation, since it sells the Hercules brand. We have observed similar inconsistencies with 3dfx as well. Their Voodoo graphics cards also surface under the brand STB at individual retailers - mainly because in each case the manufacturer failed to explain the details of the acquisition to the distributors.

So what actually is the deal with Hercules graphics cards from Guillemot? Hercules used to be an independent company with financial problems, that filed for bankruptcy in August 1999. In October Guillemot purchased the Hercules leftovers for a symbolic price of only $1.5 million - including the outstanding debts from the bankruptcy. Guillemot decided to continue the Hercules brand in November 1999. They probably wanted to acknowledge Hercules' achievements as a pioneer in the graphics industry. The relatively old company, founded in the small town Hercules near San Francisco in 1982, had established a standard for monochrome monitors in the 80's, that consequently was named after the company. From the mid 90's until the end Hercules concentrated on producing graphics cards - but never owned a fab. During this time Hercules tried very hard to distinguish itself from the other manufacturers of graphics cards. For a few individual chips this strategy succeeded, but the other chips received harsh criticism from various test labs and customers. The company had shipped graphics cards with chips that often were tuned above the specifications. Now and then their products suffered from instabilities and a bad picture quality due to so-called pixel noise.

The newest flagship 3D Prophet II GTS seems to follow this tradition. By default the GeForce2 GTS is clocked at 210 MHz and thus operates 10 MHz above nVidia's official recommendation. Guillemot also sets the memory clock to 340 instead of the usual 333 MHz. The heat sinks give an encouraging impression, but this does not necessarily mean that this product is the ultimate candidate for overclocking. You will find out later on whether the heat sinks really make any sense.

Markets And Competitors

If you are interested in the GeForce2 graphics cards that we already tested in an earlier article, just click on the links below.

Despite the high price of GeForce2 graphics cards, the first manufacturers are now even offering luxury versions. For example the suffix "Deluxe TV" denotes Asus' first GeForce2 card with TV tuner onboard , and thus competes with products covered in Multitalented All-in-One Graphic Boards . AOpen only defines a TV out connector for the PA256 Deluxe, but no TV tuner. Currently it only supports the NTSC standard - which means it is useless in Europe. The features of the cards from Elsa and Creative are a little disappointing. Both cards do not come with any video input or output. Therefore the MPEG capabilities of the GeForce2 chip are barely utilized. At least Elsa is offering an optional video module. If you want to get it, and spend some extra cash, you should ask your retailer. In case of Creative the only consolation is that the lack of features saves the consumer some money. Creative cards are currently the cheapest on the market. Unfortunately we cannot say this about Elsa, despite the lacking features.

For power gamers who feel absolutely no pain, Hercules and Elsa offer a 64 MB version of their GeForce2 graphics card. For a hefty surcharge you can then play your game with True Color, 32 bit textures and 24 bit z-buffer at a resolution of 1600x1200. However, you might encounter a few bandwidth problems. Despite the relatively high memory clock of 333 MHz, the large video memory is not necessarily capable of meeting all the demands - and this can slow down the games. Hercules is the only company utilizing the new integrated digital interface for flat panels, and ships the 3D Prophet II GTS 64 MB with a DVI connector . This is an advantage for owners of an expensive LCD monitor with digital connector. It may be necessary to buy a DVI-to-DFP or DVI-to-PnD adapter, offered by companies such as Foxconn or Molex . Below is a table containing the most important characteristics of all GeForce2 graphics cards.

Feature Table For Current GeForce2 Graphics Cards

Product Memory Video Connectors DVI for digital flat panels TV-Tuner
AOpen PA256 Pro 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM optional TV-Out no no
AOpen PA256 Deluxe 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM TV-Out no no
Asus AGP-V7700 GeForce2 GTS Pure 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM no no no
Asus AGP-V7700 GeForce2 GTS Deluxe TV 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM   no yes
Creative 3D Blaster Annihilator 2 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM no no no
ELSA Gladiac 32 MB 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM optional Video-In and TV-Out (module) no no
ELSA Gladiac 64 MB 64 MByte DDR-SGRAM optional Video-In and TV-Out (module) no no
Hercules/Guillemot 3D Prophet II GTS 32 MB 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM TV-Out no no
Hercules/Guillemot 3D Prophet II GTS 64 MB 64 MByte DDR-SGRAM TV-Out yes no
Leadtek Winfast GeForce2 GTS 32 MByte DDR-SGRAM TV-Out no no
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