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VIDEO CARDS

3dfx Voodoo5 5500
By: Jim Miller
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    2003-10-09

    Table of Contents:
  • 3dfx Voodoo5 5500
  • Conclusion

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    3dfx Voodoo5 5500


    (Page 1 of 2 )

    You know where you are??? You're in the JUNGLE baby!! Ok, ok, either I'm a big G-n-R fan or I'm trying to make a point. Well, both actually but more the latter this time around. Every time I'm around a group of hardware junkies and mention 3dfx or nVidia, I inevitably get a long lecture about why this one or that one sucks big hairy moose balls. I figured instead of taking the word of these subject matter experts, I'd do my own investigation. Here's what we did, we ordered and reviewed the 32mb and 64mb flavors of the GeForce2, and we wanted to get a Voodoo 5500 card in so we can truely see the whole picture and form our own opinion.

    You know where you are??? You're in the JUNGLE baby!!  Ok, ok, either I'm a big G-n-R fan or I'm trying to make a point.  Well, both actually but more the latter this time around.  Every time I'm around a group of hardware junkies and mention 3dfx or nVidia, I inevitably get a long lecture about why this one or that one sucks big hairy moose balls.  I figured instead of taking the word of these subject matter experts, I'd do my own investigation.  Here's what we did, we ordered and reviewed the 32mb and 64mb flavors of the GeForce2, and we wanted to get a Voodoo 5500 card in so we can truely see the whole picture and form our own opinion.  

    Without going into TOO much detail, here's how we came to get our Voodoo 5500 for this review.  If you are HardOCP readers, and you should be, you may remember a while back that Steve mentioned that an online vendor had the 5500 for $179.  Well we put our order in faster than a sailor coming off a six month boat ride gets off in a whore house.  What did we get for our quick order?  We got NOTHING!!! Nothing until five weeks later that is, five weeks after we placed our order (and send a really nice letter (sarcasm)) we got an email saying that they would indeed process our order.  So $187.75 of our hard earned jack later, we did indeed get our board to review.  So if you're wondering why the hell those clowns at OCA are reviewing this board sooo long after its release, there's your answer.

    With all that drivel out of the way, I can move on knowing you are now informed readers....well...you know what the hell I mean!

    Is there a better place to start than what I got in the box?  Nope, I didn't think so either.  The card was in there, a standard Molex "Y" adapter, and a black and white 3dfx manual, and.....wait...THAT WAS IT!  For $188 to the door did ya really think it WASN'T OEM??  Damn straight it was!

    The first thing I thought upon seeing the board was what I am sure is the first thing that anyone who ever saw this thing thought:  DAMN this card is HUGE!  With not one, but two graphics chips on it and them being mounted on a full length AGP card, there was no doubt that this was the biggest damn video card I've ever seen, by far.  To get this point across, here is a pic of the thing next to our 64mb Vision Tek GeForce.  HUGE I tell you!!

    It kinda makes it hard to write a David and Goliath story when David is actually bigger than Goliath in this case!! But all the same, in the last two years nVidia has passed 3dfx as the card to have, what we want to learn today is whether or not 3dfx has released a card to begin regaining the crown they took for granted for so long.

    Physical features on this card are not exactly abundant, but they do have the necessary ones.  There is no TV-Out to be found, but then realistically, I could care less about that.  I had TV out on a Voodoo3 3000 I owned and used it all of one time. And that was just so I could say I used it.  

    I will give credit to 3dfx for including active cooling on these chips, but it is a weak attempt in my eyes.  The stock heat sinks are a miserable excuse for a cooling device, especially for a card that gets this hot.  If you touch the PCB on the back side of the chips, your likely to leave a piece of skin there if its under stress at the time.  This problem is quickly remedied with the addiction of two lasagna coolers, unfortunately they did not arrive in time for this review, so use your imagination where gandering at the pictures.

    The next thing I noticed about this card was the fact that there were memory chips on the BACK of the card.  I guess when you have 64mb of ram to fit onto a card you utilize any space you can find!  Check out the pic:

     

    Let me get onto the next page before you dial up readers have me hunted down and shot for cruelty.  Got something TOTALLY new to show ya...Let's go.

    Glad to see ya made it. Let's take a gander at that unique thingamajig I mentioned:

     

    What you'll notice in the red square on the pic is a full fledged honest to God four pin molex connector.  Now the purpose of this connector is pretty obvious, so obvious in fact, I have to wonder why the hell the other card makers haven't started doing this.  With the massive amount of memory (64mb) this card has, the TWO fans it has to power, and two graphics chips, there is obviously a need for a power source other than the AGP slot.  I'm sure that the AGP slot could probably do a decent job of powering this beast, but why bother when you can draw directly off of the power supply and avoid all that stress on you AGP and motherboard?

     

    With the straight up size and physical features of the board out of the way, lets mosey (can non redneck people mosey?) on over to the software controls that are available on the 3dfx card

     

              

    On the left you see the AGP properties screen, that allows you to set personal preference settings on the card, and on the right you see the FSAA settings screen.  I'm not going to get too in depth here, what you see are basically the same controls we've had for any flavor of video card since accelerators came out.  

    The FSAA controls are as simply laid out as it gets.  You have four choices when it comes to the FSAA.  You can chose single chip, fastest performance, 2x FSAA, or 4x FSAA.  You have these choices for both Direct 3d and OpenGL/Glide.

    Now that you've seen the control you have over full screen anti-aliasing, lets take a look at what it can do for ya.  Unlike the Geforce cards, the Voodoo 5500 offers hardware FSAA,  which simply put it doesn't require your system CPU to do the work, all of it is handled by the two chips on board and their 64mb of SDRam.  

    In layman's terms, FSAA removes all the jaggies from your screen and makes everything look smooth.  This may sound simple but the truth is that it is one of the best graphical improvements I've seen in a while from either of the major players in the graphics race.

    Below are two pics, one with FSAA 4X and one with 2X FSAA.  Unlike normal reviews where they have to tell ya what you are looking at to see a difference, that is not necessary here.  The 4X is remarkably cleaner, there is no doubt about it.  I know you peeps aren't into clicking on 1000 thumbnails, but PLEASE, take the time to check these things out side by side, it's worth the time.  They aren't exactly dial up friendly, but they are worth the time.

     

              

     

    Now if you've taken the time to actually look at these, you KNOW which is 4x and which is not, but for those of you who were too LAZY to click the images, the one on the left is 4X.  If you look at the wall, the air spoiler, the grass in the distance, and the car ahead the difference is amazing.  I did not include a "no FSAA" pic for the simple reason that I felt it looked A LOT like the 2x and was not worth your time to bother looking at. 

    We have compared this against the in house Geforce 2 cards, and just being honest and fair here, their 4x AA was struggling to look even as good as the V5500's 2x.  When maximum graphics quality is at stake, the 5500 really shines.

    Ok, before you get all crazy and start calling me a 3dfx whore, lets take a look at the cold hard facts.... BENCHMARKS!

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