As the idea of 3D graphics is not old, it’s very useful to find out what product or which manufacturer to choose if you’re about to buy something from this new breed in the graphics 3D card market. In this test, there were 9 cards tested and they came from 7 different manufacturers. Three others were able to take part because of being in process of developing their new products. Some cards tested offered both 2D and 3D acceleration, while others were dedicated 3D-only cards. The question is Why? – why there is a need for 3D acceleration? The screens are two-dimensional, but scenes they represent in games and CAD applications are often created in 3D, and the processing power to handle them is immense.
Although today s PC processors are fast, they aren’t able to cope with both usual and 3D graphics processing – and this is a reason for the advent of 3D graphics cards. There is no doubt that the appearance of action games has improved considerably with the introduction of dedicated 3D accelerators – taking a look at recent titles such as Unreal or Forsaken proves that. 3D graphics cards are being developed for use not only in games – 3D graphics design programs can render complicated objects much faster using 3D accelerators, but still, you must ensure that the card you choose supports the operating environment that your graphics application requires. There is, however, one area of the PC market in which 3D acceleration is useless – that is for standard corporate PC s, as they usually are being used for E-mailing, word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, or image processing applications.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $10
There are two main graphics interface types – Peripheral Connections Interface (PCI), and Advanced Graphics Port (AGP), as such one as VL-BUS is too paltry to pay attention to. At the time of writing this annotation the question which interface to choose? is unnecessary, but at the time when this article was issued, AGP was on its advent, so there were not many graphics cards based on AGP on the market. PCI offer 33MHz bandwidth, which is more than adequate for 2D acceleration, but insufficient for 3D processing. As game developers paid more attention to 3D objects to look more real, textures in 3D games were getting a lot larger. Since they were normally applied as uncompressed bitmaps, the memory capacity of graphics cards was to rise considerably. AGP implementation allows 3D graphics cards to store 3D textures in the PC s main memory due to high bandwidth (the second generation of AGP offers a bandwidth of 133MHz).
There is no doubt that AGP reduces the level of silicon on board, hence 3D graphics card price crash during the last six months. AGP graphics devices can use all of their memory for 2D, while PCI is dedicated to cards that are only 3D and need 2D output signal from other, PCI, graphics cards. Four of the cars tested had a voodoo2 chipset backed up with 12Mb of memory. All of them were PCI devices. They are not stand-alone cards as they need a second, dedicated 2D card, from which they intercept the signal. To compare with other cards tested, they are heavily populated – having 3 chips and 24 memory modules on board each, they don t seem to be the neatest cards… But their performance does seem to be at the top of the notch. ATI s All-in-wonder Pro was the card with the largest number of features incorporated on a single chip. Based on PCI or AGP 2X interface, it features 2D and 3D acceleration, onboard tuner and output sockets for connection to a TV set, as well as video capture capabilities.
It s a pity, but this card, together with Diamond Stealth, stood at the bottom of the table in all tests which were performed. Matrox came to tests with their brand new product – G200, based on Matrox s own controller. Equipped with 8Mb of memory and being an AGP device, this card really hits the highest point. Intel i740 chipset we had in two cards – Real 3D StarFighter and Diamond Stealth G460. Both of them didn’t perform as well as leaders, so Intel should do more work to develop its graphics chips. The last and one of the most versatile cards tested was STB s Velocity 128 based on Nvidia s latest chip Riva 128. There is only an AGP version available, as there were no claims about Nvidia s efforts until this year. And they started well – Velocity 128 seems to be the best of all 9 cards tested, being available at the price of half of those based on the voodoo 2 chip. To conclude, I must say that you don t need a 3D graphics card at all if you are not prepared to spend 150$ at least. These tests showed us that particular cards work best on particular games or applications, which are written especially for them. While we don t have several standard API s, we won’t be able to judge these cards without any doubt.