Although a whole lot hasn't changed since we took a look at the competition, I have managed to get a little more information on upcoming competition. Let's take a look.
We're all waiting to see how well the 3dfx Voodoo5 series of chips are going to do when the finally come out but it's not clear just how well this card will do being that it has been released so late and it lacks hardware T&L. 3dfx speculated that 32-bit color wasn't ready yet way back but the demand was there and companies like NVIDIA, Matrox, S3 and ATI capitalized on their mistake. The same mistake could possibly be happening with the Voodoo5 line lacking hardware T&L. However, until this release, the flagship product is the aging Voodoo3 3500 product that isn't cutting it with today's competition.
Recently ATI has taken the plunge into the high-end graphics scene with the ATI Rage Fury MAXX product. Although ATI is doing well in the OEM market, they decided to offer their customers an enthusiast level of hardware with the MAXX. An improved MAXX should surface sometime in the summer with rumored higher clock speeds and hardware T&L support.
Diamond/S3 has also been busy working on their latest creation, the Viper II that has drawn much attention but has also let quite a few people down. Promises of super high fill-rates and hardware T&L were in the minds of the masses but when the product came out with slower fill-rates than expected and drivers lacking T&L support, many have lost faith in S3's promises. In the next few weeks we might be seeing the T&L enabled driver appear in a limited form and we can expect an enhanced Viper II this quarter with higher clock speeds and a larger memory pool. Things had better come together for their own sake or they will have trouble selling these boards.
Matrox has been very quiet still with what's going on in their future product line and although they're selling a decent amount of G400 based boards, they'll need to have something a bit more competitive in the future if they want to stay on top of things. Don't get me wrong, the G400 MAXX is an expensive, but ok card. However in the few months, it'll be uncompetitive as a high-end graphics board.
Lastly we have upcoming chipsets from NVIDIA themselves. Recently NVIDIA had crucial product information leak about their upcoming products and many of us were able to find out about the upcoming chipsets that will be surfacing sometime next quarter. After seeing some of the statistics, the notion that 3dfx would be blowing the doors off the competition in the fill-rate area no longer mean as much now that we know what NVIDIA has up its sleeves. Not only will NVIDIA have fill-rate and memory performance backing them, they'll also be ahead in the T&L area. Unfortunately we cannot go into much detail about these upcoming chipsets but we can say that the threat that once loomed over NVIDIA is no longer a big deal.
Looking at what's coming in the near future, the obvious chipset of choice is the GeForce 256 coupled with a DDR memory solution. The hardware, software drivers and feature set that it offers is leading edge and most likely will be the card to have for the next couple of months until 3dfx and/or NVIDIA releases their new chipsets.
As we've seen with previous GeForce DDR reviews, the Erazor X² should blow the doors off the competition. I would expect the performance of this board to be second to no one but an overclocked Erazor X². The CPU will limit the low-resolution performance, but at medium to high resolutions coupled with 32-bit color, we'll see the Erazor X² lunge ahead of any competitor.
Unfortunately I didn't have as much luck overclocking the core speed of my Erazor X² as I did with my Leadtek WinFast GeForce DDR or Outrageous DDR GeForce. I did manage to get the board to run stable at 135 MHz core and 355 MHz memory speed. I was able to get a few runs at higher clock speeds but the quality would fall off or the tests would freeze. If you're overclocking and the video quality gets "grainy" or discolored you're probably beyond what the card can be clocked at. Overclocking will vary from card to card and you most likely will experience unstable performance if you take things too far. Remember, it is possible to damage your card permanently if you're not careful about adding additional cooling for those extreme settings.
A few small notes about the drivers used in our testing. We used the latest stable and bug-free drivers. If a driver was fast in most of our testing, but crashed in one application, we resorted to the next newest version. This was the case with the Matrox G400 driver.
|Motherboard (BIOS rev.)||ABIT BX6 2.0 (BIOS date 7/13/99)|
|Memory||128 MB Viking PC100 CAS2|
|ELSA Erazor X²||4.12.01.0104-0020|
|3dfx Voodoo3 3500||4.11.01.1213|
|ATI Rage Fury MAXX||4.11.7925|
|Diamond Viper II||4.11.01.9001-9.01.10|
|ELSA Erazor X||4.12.01.0100-002|
|Matrox G400 MAX||4.11.01.1410 w/TurboGL 1.00.001|
|OS Version||Windows 98 SE 4.10.2222 A|
|Quake 3 Arena||Retail versioncommand line = +set cd_nocd 1 +set s_initsound 0|
|Shogo||V2.14Advanced Settings = disable sound, disable music, disable movies, disable joysticks,enable optimized surfaces, enable triple buffering, enable single-pass multi-texturingHigh Detail Settings = enabledFortress Demo|
|Descent III||Retail versionSettings = -nosound -nomusic -nonetwork -timetest|
|3DMark 2000||16-bit settings = 16 bit textures, 16-bit Z-buffer, triple buffering32-bit settings = 32-bit textures, 24-bit Z-buffer, triple buffering|