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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Which Voodoo3 Card Is Right For You?
December 17th, 1999

There sure has been a lot going on in the video card market lately, and 3dfx has played no small role there, having released Mac drivers regularly for their Voodoo products. With that, I've had quite a few people ask me the same question... you guessed it - "Which Voodoo 3 Card Should I Get?" There are a lot of factors to consider, so read on!

While 3dfx's drivers are officially in a beta cycle, the more recent releases have certainly been extremely fast and stable. They are compatible with MANY games, and are now offering OpenGL support internally, so there's no reason not to consider going this route. The question is, of course, should you get the Voodoo 3 2000 or the Voodoo 3 3000 model? The 3000 has a faster clock speed, but does it make a difference?

I locked the doors, unplugged the phone, and spent some quality time in the "Ask Dave! Labs" to see what would happen!

Games being the first priority with ANY good 3D card, I broke out copies of a few different versions of Quake. Quake I, however, gave me too much trouble and wouldn't run with this card (I hear there are ways to make it work, but I was not successful). But Quake 2 and Quake 3 ran just fine. In the lab I used a Power Computing PowerCenter machine with an upgraded 400MHz G3 processor as well as a regular 400MHz Blue & White G3. Here's what happened (all tests were performed at 1024x768 at Thousands of Colors):

As you can see, the cards DEFINITELY perform better in a machine with the 100MHz bus (the B&W G3). Strangely enough, things got slower with the 3000 card when playing Quake 2 on the PowerCenter. As far as user experience went, though, there was little difference between all 4 scenarios -- game play was just as smooth and satisfying with the Voodoo 3 2000 in the PowerCenter as it was with the Voodoo 3 3000 in the Blue and White. This is fairly typical of all the games I, um, "tested."

Since I need to write off the "Ask Dave labs" come tax day, I figured I should use something else in addition to games during the testing process, so I fired up Microsoft Word 98. I opened a 44 page software manual with inline images and tables, etc. I tested this on the same two machines. For a baseline, though, I also used the built-in video to the PowerCenter just to see how much faster things could be. The answer? Take a look for yourself.

To say that I didn't notice the speed of this card when I put it in the PowerCenter would be a big fat lie! The 2D acceleration with these cards is worth it alone, and things worked very well. In this capacity, just as it was with the 3D tests, the difference between the PowerCenter and the G3 was quite noticable. This makes sense, of course, since applications tend to run faster on the 100MHz bus of the Blue & White G3 than they do on the 50MHz bus of the PowerCenter.

So to answer your question of "Which card should I get?," I would say go for the 2000. It's a bit cheaper, it's easier to find on the shelves, and thus far there's not a whole lot of difference, speed wise. Make sure you get the latest drivers from 3dfx, and don't be afraid of the ROM flashing process -- it's pretty quick and painless, and I've never had a single problem with it! Enjoy!

That's all for this week, folks. Feel free to discuss this or anything else you have on your mind in the Ask Dave! Forums. Of course, you can e-mail me directly at [email protected], and I'll try and help you out!

P.S. Have a Nice Day.

is President and CEO of The Mac Observer, Inc. He has worked in the computer industry as a consultant, trainer, network engineer, webmaster, and a programmer for most of the last 10 years. During that time he has worked on the Mac, all the various Windows flavors, Be, a few brands of Unix, and it is rumored he once saw an OS/2 machine in action. Before that he ran some of the earliest Bulletin Board systems, but most of the charges have since been dropped, and not even the FBI requests that he check in more than twice a year.

Ask Dave is here to answer all the Mac questions you have. Networking, system conflicts, hardware, you ask it, he can answer it. He is the person from whom all Mac knowledge flows....

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