3D Accelerator Review Step One - 3D Performance, the Real Deal

Discussion Of The Rendition Verite 2x00 Family Of Graphic Chips

When the new generation of graphic chips started shipping last year, it took quite a while until the first cards with Rendition's Verite 2x00 turned up on the market. 3DLabs and NVidia were a lot more successful in marketing their chips and opposite to these two companies, who got a lot of vendors using their chips, Rendition had first only one, Diamond, and only now the Thriller 3D of Hercules starts shipping. If you listen around large graphic card vendors, you wonder what the future of Rendition looks like, since I hardly came across any vendor that is planning future graphic cards with Rendition chips. This seems pretty sad to me, because the current Verite 2k chips are far from uninteresting and I think that Rendition certainly deserves a lot of respect in the 3D chip market still. Let's hope that they'll get a better reputation soon, because I think that the current products with Rendition chips are far from unattractive and I can take pride in saying that I was one of the first who published that.

As mentioned above, there are currently only two mainstream graphic cards with Rendition's Verite 2x00 chips available, Diamond's Stealth II S220 and Hercules Thriller 3D. They don't use the same chip, the Stealth uses the cheaper V2100 with only 170 MHz RAMDAC and Hercules uses the more expensive V2200 with 220 MHz RAMDAC. This is not the only difference between the two cards, because whilst Diamond puts the Stealth II S220 into the low market segment and sells it for practically only $99, the Thriller 3D comes with a lot of fancy additions and is placed into the mid to higher market segment. I don't want to talk about the nice video in/out and the stereo glass feature of Thriller 3D, because I'll do that on the dedicated review page for this card. Rather than that is this article meant to discuss the 3D performance aspects of these two cards.

First of all, what's the difference between V2100 and V2200? It's actually less than you might think. Due to the different RAMDAC speeds, the V2200 enables higher refresh rates. This can be a performance advantage in case you have a monitor that supports 160 Hz refresh rate at 640x480, because the 3D performance of the V2x00 is depending on the refresh rate due to the well known 'flip at vsync' issue. This 'flip at vsync' means that the graphic chip may only draw a new page into the screen buffer memory when a whole picture has been displayed on the screen. The lower the refresh rate, the more often the graphic chip has to wait until it can transfer a new picture into the frame buffer and hence the fps go down. This issue is well known from the 3Dfx Voodoo cards, where almost everyone has switched off this feature with the special Glide setting 'SET SST_SWAP_EN_WAIT_ON_VSYNC=0' in the autoexec.bat or in the batch that starts the game. Hercules also allows you to switch off this feature, but the game becomes unplayable by that, which does not happen in case of a Voodoo. The 'flip at vsync' is a specification in Direct3D which was modified by Matrox' Mystique for the first time last year, which upset a lot of people that said Matrox is cheating. Nowadays it's pretty common to switch off this rule as long as you can still play the game decently. Anyway, the performance of a game running under the Rendition V2x00 increases with higher refresh rates and hence the V2200 can have an advantage here, the V2100 is limited to a maximum of 120 Hz at 640x480. The 200 Hz setting on my Thriller 3D doesn't work, although my 21' monitor would be able to display that, 160 Hz works though. The other advantage of a faster RAMDAC is the ability to have a faster 2D engine, just because the memory is not used as long by the RAMDAC and hence free for the graphic chip.

There are a little bit more advantages of the Thriller 3D however, its SGRAM can be clocked higher than that of the Stealth II. This is quite surprising, because both are using the same kind of SGRAM, only 10ns one. Since the memory usually runs at double the Verite's clock, it's very surprising that it survives almost 140 MHz. This should normally take 7 or even 6 ns SGRAM. Anyway, my Stealth II could only be clocked up to 62.6 MHz, the Thriller runs up to 69.8 MHz. By default the Stealth II is only running at 40 MHz, which is very little and that's why you can get a significant improvement in 3D performance by overclocking it to at least 60 MHz. The Thriller already starts off with 62.6 MHz and so the increase isn't quite as high as what you can reach with the Stealth II. The interesting thing is in any case, that the Stealth II at 62.6 MHz is just as fast as the Thriller 3D at standard settings. This is so impressive, because the Stealth is about half the price of the Thriller 3D.

The most important things you have two know about both cards are that they produce a very good image quality. Also are cards with Rendition's Verite 2x00 chip the only ones that can do anti-aliasing currently. This is mainly a very fancy feature and hardly ever used in any game due to its performance impact, but it shows how seriously Rendition takes the implementation of as many 3D features as possible. A special thing of all Verite chips is that it can be programmed with a special microcode. This enables the Verite to easily understand OpenGL when needed, you just have to load the correct OpenGL microcode. The Verite 2x00 is just as the V1000 using Rendition's RRedline graphic engine, which is supposed to be very powerful as well, however, there are hardly any new games that support this particular engine right now. Another advantage of the V2x00 is the ability to run with up to 8 MB of onboard memory, which enables 3D at a resolution of up to 1024x768 and more. The typical 3D performance of the V2x00 is pretty good in systems with lower CPU 3D performance, but it doesn't scale as well as e.g. the NVidia RIVA 128 chip. This means that it's not the greatest choice for high end systems, although it's definitely scaling better than the Voodoo Rush chip from 3Dfx. Socket 7 systems benefit greatly from it though and that's currently still the majority. Altogether can't you go too wrong getting a Stealth II or a Thriller 3D if you have got a Socket 7 system. You will get good 3D performance at very good image quality. However, the 2D performance of the V2x00 is a different story and I couldn't see any impact of the overclocking on 2D performance at all.

Specification Of The Rendition Verite 2x00

This is the specification of the V2200:

  • 55 million pixels per second fill rate (high quality pixels)
  • 2 million triangles per second (edge walk)
  • 550,000 triangles per second (fully setup, high quality triangles)
  • Over 50M WMs 2D acceleration (WinBench'96)
  • 100 MHz SGRAM / SDRAM memory (up to 16 MB)
  • Exceeds Microsoft "Entertainment PC 97" requirements
  • Exceeds Intel "Graphics Controller 97" requirements
  • Complete on-chip triangle setup
  • Asynchronous rendering with seperate setup, triangle and pixel engines
  • Richest set of advanced 3D features
  • True per-pixel perspective correctionSub-pixel / sub-texel positioning accuracyFlat and Gourad shadingZ-buffering(optional)Anti-aliasingComprehensive texture mapping support inc. video texturesMIP-mappingBi-linear and tri-linear filteringSupport for texture animation, morphing and other special effectsComplete set of blending functions including alpha blending, fog, chroma-keying
  • Outstanding video features
  • 60 fps full-screen MPEG-2 video playbackVideo input portDigital video output port"SofTV" for flicker-free TV output
  • Complete 2D acceleration support including VESA2.0 and VGA
  • AGP-66 / 33 MHz PCI bus interface
  • Asynchronous DMA support
  • Windows(R)95 (DirectDraw, Direct3D)/Windows NT 4.0 drivers

If you want more in depth information about the V2x00 chip from Rendition, why don't you just read what Rendition has to say about their product .

For all those of you who went crazy already, because you don't know how to overclock your V2x00 card, here the downloadable V2x00 overclocking program and I can also explain how you can do without it:

You need to create a text file called 'verite.ini' and put it into the Windows directory. If you've got the Thriller 3D, it's already in there. It should have the following lines:[display]
MClkP=2x is the only variable you want to change, the rest is responsible for the settings of the ratio between chip and memory clock, which is 1:2 by default.x = Chipclock / 14.318 * 8,where 'Chipclock' is the clock frequency in MHz at which you want the chip to run at. Due to the odd 14.318 (typical clock quartz) you'll have to round x up and down a bit. This calculation stuff is all done by the above mentioned Win95 program, so you may as well get it.

There is something I almost forgot, because I tend taking this for granted, which is certainly wrong. Overclocking the Verite is something you do at your own risk and there is definitely a variation amongst the cards with V2x00 chips regarding how far you can overclock them. This depends on the used SGRAM chips as well as on the V2x00 itself. My experience also showed that it differs from motherboard to motherboard, which is most likely due to variations in the PCI voltages. I don't think you take a big risk in damaging the card, but it can happen that your system simply freezes and you'll lose your data. Hence I'd recommend overclocking the V2x00 only for playing games, especially since the 2D engine does hardly benefit from the overclocking at all. It also makes sense putting a flat heat sink on the chip and especially using a 3Dfx Cool Fan , which works just as well as for Voodoo cards. Please be careful with the overclocking and increase new clock frequencies slowly step by step when testing it out.

For the ones that haven't got the latest miniGL port for the V2k yet, download it here


After running all these game benchmarks on all these cards and this on two different systems I feel that I know well, which 3D accelerator I would recommend. Sure, in a few months the Voodoo 2 will rule the world, but what's the beef right now?

In the first place you should be clear about your budget. If money isn't of importance, the Quantum3D Obsidian 100SB 4440 is the card you have got to get. This card offers Voodoo2 like performance now and blows away anything else on the 3D game accelerator market. The cheaper version 100SB 4400 does it for people that have some concerns about how much money they spend. It runs Direct3D games exactly as fast as the 4440 and Glide games that don't support the 2 TMUs of the 4440 wil also not be faster on the 4440. Only GLQuake and Quake II can take advantage of the 4440 right now. The architecture behind the Obsidian 100SB is like 2 Monster 3D with 4 MB texture and 4 MB frame buffer combined on one card, doing the now famous SLI. Add another two Texelfx chips with 4 MB each and you've got a 4440. If you've calculated correct you came to 16 MB RAM, 2 PixelFX and 2 TexelFX chips on the 4400 and 24 MB RAM with 2 PixelFX and 4 TexelFX chips on the 4440. Quite impressive, ain't it? A Monster 3D has got one PixelFX, one TexelFX and 4 MB RAM.

If you should think that money is certainly an issue, but you still want to get the best possible performance and the best quality as well, then get yourself a add-on card with 3Dfx Voodoo chip. The best bet is currently the Canopus Pure3D or in Europe the Miro Highscore 3D, which are identical. These cards offer 6 MB RAM, 4 MB texture memory and a beautiful video out for NTSC as well as for PAL. Since the above cards are hard to get, you can still go for a Diamond Monster 3D or for one of the other 3Dfx Voodoo clones. Just be particular about the pass-through cable, it should be of high quality, especially if you've got a big monitor and should do some normal work on that monitor as well.

Now people that still think that a Voodoo is too expensive or who prefer to have only one card have got the option to decide between NVidia's RIVA 128 or Rendition's Verite 2x00 chip. If you want to play GLQuake or Quake 2 the decision is currently pretty easy, go for a Rendition Verite 2x00 card. If you have faith in NVidia's ability to come up with a really decent OpenGL ICD soon, and if you want the best Direct3D performance currently available, then go for a RIVA card. The RIVA card that I recommend is Canopus' Total3D 128V because of it's nice video in/out feature and the good video capture software that comes with it. However, there's still no AGP version available, which may be an issue to you. So if you really want an AGP card with the RIVA, I'd recommend the Diamond Viper V330, just because I've got more faith into Diamond's drivers than in drivers of STB, Elsa or Asus. If your choice should be the Rendition chip, it really depends on what exactly you expect and how much you want to pay. The difference between the Verite 2100 and the V2200 is only the internal RAM DAC. The V2100 has only got a 170 MHz RAM DAC, the V2200 has got a 220 MHz RAMDAC, which enables higher refresh rates. The Diamond Stealth II S220 comes with the V2100 and it's originally clocked with only 40 MHz. My Stealth II can be overclocked to 62.6 MHz and shows a frame rate increase of over 25% in the tested games. Clocked at this speed it's exactly as fast as the Thriller3D from Hercules, which clocks its V2200 at 62.6 MHz by default. The advantage of the Thriller3D is the better overclockability, mine can be clocked up to 69.8 MHz, better refresh rates and video in/out as well as 3D shutter glasses output. That makes the Thriller3D much fancier. I personally like the 3D glasses output a lot, if you've ever tried these cool H3D glasses with a game that supports it, you won't forget it. However the Thriller3D will be double the price of the Stealth II as it seems.

If you are still not sure what you want to buy, you're probably someone who works on his computer professionally as well. For this case you may want to consider cards with the Permedia 2 from 3DLabs. This 3D chip wants some good CPU performance if you plan on playing games with it, but its professional OpenGL support and the excellent 2D performance are something that might be more important to you. As long as you don't care for video in/out as offered by Elsa's Winner/Office 2000, you should really go for the Diamond fire GL 1000 Pro. This card was giving the least trouble of all three Permedia 2 cards that I've tested. It comes with OpenGL support for 95 as well as NT, whilst the Elsa only supports OpenGL under NT and the Fire GL's drivers are offering better performance and image quality. The Hercules Dynamite 3D/GL is mainly good for trouble right now. Repeated driver problems as well as image quality issues wouldn't let me recommend this card at all.

So what's with the ATI Rage Pro chip? I can't help it, but this chip lacks in too many cases to be worth a recommendation. It does not support GLQuake's or Quake II's OpenGL engine, it has obvious problems with Direct3D, it has got only very weak support of professional OpenGL under NT, so that it doesn't leave much else than it's excellent 2D performance in combination with its video in/out features. However, if I want the best 2d performer with the best picture quality and the best RAM DAC I rather go for a Matrox Millennium II. The Rage Pro is neither fish nor meat, it's no gamer's card, but it's also not really a professional card either. So what is it?