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S3 Diamond Viper II Review


S3 has done a good job with the Viper II as it's a huge leap over the Savage4 series cards that, to be frank, were not cutting it. The Viper II offers decent performance and at times saddles up with the big boys when things jump into 32 bit situations. The respectable video capabilities of the Viper II give it added value that is only bested by that of ATI. I see great promise if S3 can get their drivers fine-tuned and games continue to transition into multi-texturing engines. Without multi-texturing, the Viper II is going to be sub-TNT2 Ultra performance and if the drivers don't shape up quickly, no one is going to want to deal with this card. The past shows a not so hot track record for S3 right now so as a consumer I would be scared to trust them.

Competition from NVIDIA and Matrox is already here and is making it very tough for the Viper II to fit into the market as these cards have had time to develop drivers as well as prove themselves to the marketplace. Not only does stiff competition exist, new competition from ATI is on its way this month as well by means of the Rage Fury MAXX. Although T&L isn't offered, it will sport extremely high fill-rate potential.

There is a big cheesiness about Diamond-S3's claim for fame with its Transform and Lighting-support however, which is practically non-existent in the current product. As much as it may be true that you will hardly find any 3D-games that would be able to take advantage of it right now, as much Diamond-S3 comes close to cheating on its ViperII-customers, by still promoting the card with this shiny feature.

At this point in time, I can't give my blessing on purchasing a Viper II with so many other great cards out there. The Viper II is promising T&L and nice fill-rate performance but as we've seen already, the drivers are really holding it back. Does this mean the hardware isn't good? My answer is 'No' in terms of fill rate performance, 'possibly yes' if you are asking for T&L though. It does mean that the end product is going to come up short. We should not forget that it's easy to promise that 'future drivers will support' a feature. Once the customer has bought the product the manufacturer made its money. The extremely long delay of a decent OpenGL-ICD for Matrox' G200 should not be forgotten. Some people had to wait for almost a year. Do you want to wait a year until S3-Diamond will release drivers that enable T&L? I really hope S3 can get things pulled together for the Viper II card because it really does have the potential to be a contender. With refined drivers, the Viper II could possibly put some serious heat on the SDR GeForce. At $199 (USD), the Viper II is set at a decent price but doesn't currently offer enough for me to not justify spending a few more dollars to get an SDR GeForce. In a month or two this could change but until then, I'll stick with the reliable competition.