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3dfx Voodoo 3 3000
April 9, 1999
by Eric van Ballegoie

3Dfx becomes 3dfx

3Dfx is back in the arena with a new look. Not only did they change their logo, but they also changed their name from 3Dfx to 3dfx, loosing the capitalized "D". But all that is just the outside, the inside of 3dfx has undergone some more serious changes. In the fourth quarter of 1998 3dfx merged with graphics board company STB. By doing so 3dfx became a all-in-one company holding the entire production line from the chip design right down to the design of the retail boxes. By acquiring STB, 3dfx said goodbye to major OEM's like Diamond and Creative who will not get any Voodoo 3 chips to make boards with. STB will be the sole supplier of Voodoo 3 products.

Voodoo 3 3000 reference B3 board with 16 MB 6ns SDRAM

All Voodoo 3 boards made by STB will be sold under the name 3dfx, hence we won't see "STB" on the retail boxes. There will be three major flavors of Voodoo 3 cards, the Voodoo 3 2000, the 3000 and the 3500. The main difference is the speed at which the cards will run. Unlike many other chipsets out there, the Voodoo 3 chipset runs both core and memory at the same clockspeed, avoiding timing problems. The Voodoo 3 2000 will run at a clockspeed of 143 MHz, the 3000 does its work at 166 MHz, and the 3500 is shaking it at no less than 183 MHz. As you can imagine this requires top of the line SDRAM, as 183 MHz requires parts rated at 4 nano seconds (FYI: PC100 SDRAM in normal PC's is rated 8 ns). This is probably the main reason why 3dfx is still holding back the 3500 version of the Voodoo 3 chipset. I was given a 3000 sample which is equipped with SDRAM rated at 6 ns, running 166 MHz.

What's the beef ?

When we take a look under the hood of Voodoo 3 we don't see really stunning new features. Basically what 3dfx did was pack the best of both worlds into a single chip. The base 2D core of the Banshee chipset is found back in the Voodoo 3, and the 3D part is pretty much equivalent to a Voodoo II SLI, at least performance wise. Unfortunately 3dfx didn't care to support 32 bits rendering claiming that it costs too much performance. But with a chipset that can crunch polygons at this speed, I would have liked to be able to choose for the slower gameplay in return for the superior image quality. A hangover from the Banshee chipset is the memory limit which is set at 16 MB. Together with the lack of AGP Direct Memory Execution support, this gets one wondering about the performance in games with large textures... Only time will tell if this is really a problem.

One of the most interesting features is the 350 MHz RAMDAC which enables 75 Hz at 2046x1536. Not that you will find any CRT monitor that can cope with that kind of force, but it's cool anyway.The Voodoo 3 chipset has a dual pixel pipeline which enables it to process two pixels per clockcycle, leading to the following performance specs:

  • 8 million triangles per second (Voodoo3 3500 at 183 MHz)
  • 7 million triangles per second (Voodoo3 3000 at 166 MHz)
  • 6 million triangles per second (Voodoo3 2000 at 143 MHz)
  • 366 megatexels per second fill rate (Voodoo3 3500 at 183 MHz)
  • 333 megatexels per second fill rate (Voodoo3 3000 at 166 MHz)
  • 286 megatexels per second fill rate (Voodoo3 2000 at 143 MHz)
  • 100 billion operations per second (Voodoo3 3500 at 183 MHz)

So what does all that mean in real life? Well, earlier this year Tony Tamasi told me that the performance we could expect form Voodoo 3 would be about the same as Voodoo II SLI. Let's have a look at what I got on my good old Pentium II 400 / 128 MB / Soyo SY6BA / Win 98 / Dx61 :

 

 

3dfx Voodoo 3 3000

Diamond Monster II SLI

Diamond Monster II

Hercules Dynamite TNT

Guillemot MG Phoenix AGP

Cooling

Heatsink

none

active

active

heatsink

Bus Type

AGP

PCI

PCI

AGP

AGP

Chipset

3dfx Voodoo 3 3000

3Dfx Voodoo II

3Dfx Voodoo II

nVidia Riva TNT

3Dfx Banshee

Ram Type

6 ns SDRAM

25 ns EDO

25 ns EDO

8 ns SDRAM

8 ns SGRAM

Ram Amount

16 Mb

24 Mb

12 Mb

16 Mb

16 Mb

Price

$ 178 US

$ 250 US

$ 125 US

$ 130 US

$ 110 US

3D Benchmarks

Quake II 640

108

101,9

90,5

80,9

68,4

Quake II 800

103,4

97,8

69,1

65,3

47,9

Quake II 1024

81

75,9

x

42,6

27,8

Turok 640

(* 182,9 / 125,6

(* 188.0 / 136.1

(* 99.7 / 101.0

127,5

(* 123.3 / 109.7

Turok 800

111

118

65,4

93,6

79,8

Incoming 640

105,5

103,4

87,3

104,5

91,8

Incoming 800

101,5

102,3

61

77,9

68,6

Incoming 1024

74.7

76,6

x

48,5

44,1

Forsaken 640

160,4

163,4

139,4

153,5

156,3

Forsaken 800

154,5

160,8

99,6

124,6

124,6

Forsaken 1024

119,7

122,1

x

75,3

78

2D Benchmarks

BapCo Corel 8

171

x

x

170

182

BapCo Excel 97

158

x

x

158

171

BapCo Netscape 4.01

157

x

x

150

171

BapCo Photoshop

161

x

x

158

173

BapCo PowerPoint 97

169

x

x

170

184

BapCo Word 97

190

x

x

193

209

 

Performance

As you see the performance is about the same as that of a Voodoo II SLI setup. The main advantage which the Voodoo 3 has over Voodoo II SLI is the increased resolution. Voodoo II SLI tops out at 1024x 768 (or 1024x1024 with certain drivers), while Voodoo II goes up as high as 1600x1200 in 3D modes...

K6-2 performance is also quite interesting. In 640x480 the card is usually outperformed by TNT cards. When we move to 1024x768, the difference is the other way around. The graphs below were initially meant to be included in my CPU scaling article, but now I'll publish it here:

k6-2-incoming.jpg (74704 bytes)

Hot Item

When I opened up the packaging of the Voodoo 3 card I was stunned by the enormous heatsink which covers the Voodoo 3 chip. It's a heatsink-only solution, meaning that it doesn't have a built-in fan or anything. This way the size of the heatsink is definitely needed. When you run Quake II for about half an hour, it reaches a temperature of 55 deg C, and that's on a bare mainboard which isn't built inside a computer case... I personally think an active cooler would have been a better option.

Conclusion

Even though there's always something we can complain about, I have to give it to 3dfx for getting on stage with the fastest 2D/3D card to date. The incredible fill-rate guarantees top performance even in very high resolutions. The performance is about the same as that of a Voodoo II SLI combo, which has been the top performance solution for about a year now. Until S3, Matrox, Videologic and nVidia will come out with their new products, 3dfx holds the top spot. And even then we have to see if any of them can get past Voodoo 3...... A definite recommendation for anyone looking for the best 2D and 3D.

FastRecommended.jpg (45998 bytes)
3dfx Voodoo 3 3000

suggested retail price Voodoo3 2000 is $129.99
suggested retail price Voodoo3 3000 is $179.99
 suggested retail price Voodoo3 3500 is $249.99.

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