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Voodoo3 vs. Voodoo2 SLI 

originally posted 9-19-2000 on 3dfx.products.voodoo2 newsgroup 

For those who care, I have finally finished my V2 SLI vs. V3 tests. But  let me do a little background first.  Let me first state that I am by no means a current "Professional" computer technician, although for a period of 4 years during the late 80's/early 90's I was. Neither am I a regular video card reviewer. I am just your average geek who loves this computer crap, and has been building and setting up computers for myself, family, and friends since about 1987 (back in the day when the Tandy 1000 was king of the games with amazing 16 color graphics and 3-voice sound! Wow! =)

Okay, so I have been recently following some of the threads here and on the V3 newsgroup in reference to the V2 SLI vs. the V3 as far as which one is the better game solution. I was the proud owner of a Pentium2 450 with an SLI rig back in 98-99, and was initially disappointed when I upgraded to my current P3 650 and V3 card. I really felt like the V3 was inferior to my old faithful SLI rig, and have staunchly maintained this opinion - up until this last week. Let me explain.

I scoured the web in months past, looking up old reviews that showed the V2 SLI was indeed just as fast as the V3 3000, and even a little faster in the benchmarks with GLIDE applications. This seemed to reinforce my theory that the Voodoo2 SLI was simply a superior, albeit older and less convenient (need 2 pci slots and additional 2d card) setup. But nearly a year and a half had passed since those reviews, and with the ever evolving product line and improvements and tweaks to existing old hardware drivers and what-not, I felt like it was my obligation to find out for sure.

Not being one to want to fork out another $300 + (like when the V2's initially came out, holy cow that first SLI rig set you back!), I am a big believer in tweaking and overclocking the next best thing. In this case, that would mean the Voodoo3 since the Voodoo5 is here. So this is what I did - took my computer system with my V3 2000, and did some testing at the stock 143 and 166Mhz (o/c to 167 actually). But that leaves the little matter of no longer having any V2's, so what do I do? I get this huge hair up my arse, and I go on Ebay and win me an SLI rig, naturally. $50 for both cards on Ebay, can you believe that? Unbelievable that we spent so much 2 years ago for em. All of this in the name of science, knowledge, and the lack of anything better to do but screw around with old friggin hardware! So here goes nothing, for your viewing and flaming pleasure:

Computer System Specs:
Tyan S1854 Trinity 400 VIA Apollo Pro 133a and Award BIOS v1.07 [newest 4in1]
Pentium3 650 @ 728Mhz (112 FSB)
128MB Corsair 100MHz RAM (single stick)
13GB WD Harddrive (5400 RPM)
50x Mitsumi CD-ROM (IDE)
4x4x16 Yamaha CDR (IDE)
3.5" Mitsumi floppy
SB128 PCI (newest drivers)
Rockwell 56k V.90 ISA Modem
Samsung 700b 17" monitor (good up to 1280 x 1024 res @ 60HZ)
Cambridge Soundworks Microworks Speakers
Windows 98SE with IE5.01 SP1 and all service updates and patches

3Dfx Voodoo3 2000 AGP @ 143
3Dfx Voodoo3 2000 AGP o/c @ 167 (using Gary Peterson's Voodoo3
Overclocker and a PCI mounted 3" fan)
Drivers: 3Dfx V3-1.05.00

Diamond Monster Voodoo2 12 MB SLI rig (24 MB total Video Memory) & Matrox G200 for 2D
Drivers: 3Dfx V2-3.02.02, newest WickedGL, Tweak It! (for turning VSync Off)

Lets get down to the numbers:

Quake3 - Demo1 which I ran 3 times per resolution and average FPS, max
detail settings, VSync Off, dynamic lighting, bilinear (no trilinear
w/voodoo2/3), high quality sound on, all bells and whistles turned ON.

V2 SLI @ 90MHz (factory clock speed)
a.. 640 x 480: Regular = 50.4, Hi-Res = 49.2
b.. 800 x 600: Regular = 43.4, Hi-Res = 44.0
c.. 1024 x 768: Regular = 29.8, Hi-Res = 31.2

V3 @ 143 & 167MHz
a.. 640 x 480: 143 = 70.2, 167 = 69.8
b.. 800 x 600: 143 = 54.3, 167 = 60.9
c.. 1024 x 768: 143 = 37.5, 167 = 42.0
d.. 1280 x 1024: 167 = 26.1 (just for reference)

Well, I can't sugar coat it. The Voodoo2 SLI was a big disappointment in Quake3 at maximum detail settings. What the benchmarks don't show is the awful game play with these settings - battling Xaero in "The Very End of You" (the last arena), the slowdowns were so bad that often I went into the single digits FPS! When you lowered the detail settings two clicks below maximum, there was very little difference in the capabilities of the V2 SLI when compared to the V3. The only thing that makes sense is that the limited amount of texture memory (8MB on the SLI) was really handicapping the SLI rig in this game with max detail. I did not try the game with the standard 3Dfx drivers, since those drivers are much older, and it is generally agreed upon that the WickedGL is faster for this game. I used the V3 3Dfx drivers because they are new, and I wanted to compare the V2 with newest drivers with the newest factory drivers for the V3. The V3 at both clock speeds was very liquid and smooth. It actually played better at 1024 x 768 resolution than the V2 SLI at 640 x 480 with all the bells and whistles turned on! There was also a noticable improvement in visual quality. It was hard to put my finger on why this was so, but the colors seemed a bit richer, and the textures more detailed with the V3. The V2 SLI looked good, but just seemed slightly "washed out" in comparison to the detailed and pleasing display provided by the V3. This trend of better visuals with the V3 continued for me throughout the testing at all resolutions. I can't very well explain why the V3 @ 143MHz was faster at the lowest resolution than @ 167MHz. Rather interesting, eh?

Unreal Tournament - opening "Flyby" which I let run through 3 times and took average FPS, "high" detail settings for both World Texture and Skins, VSync off, all bells and whistles on including high quality sound.

V2 SLI @ 90MHz
a.. 640 x 480: 57.76
b.. 800 x 600: 56.39
c.. 1024 x 768: 49.19

V3 @ 143 & 166
a.. 640 x 480: 143 = 60.62, 167 = 59.93
b.. 800 x 600: 143 = 58.54, 167 = 58.83
c.. 1024 x 768: 143 = 49.70, 167 = 54.04
d.. 1280 x 1024: 167 = 26.1 (just for reference)

For GLIDE, it looks like the V2 SLI was nearly every bit the equal of the V3 in speed. Gameplay was virtually identical, with very smooth graphics and minimal hiccups or slowdowns with heavy fire fighting. Although the V2 SLI didn't win any of the categories, it was within 5 FPS of the V3 @ 167MHz at 1024 x 768, and was every bit as fast at other resolutions. The only real difference I noticed between V2 and V3 was the display quality with the V3 - images were again more defined, and had less of that "washed out" look. And also of note was the very obvious "image tearing" that occured with the V2 SLI with the VSync turned off. With VSync on, this was not an issue, but the FPS suffered accordingly. This was not a problem with the V3. Still in all, the V2 SLI was excellent playing this game, and the display looked much better in 16bit GLIDE than even the very high quality Matrox G200 in D3D. Once again the V3 was faster at a lower clock in 640 x 480 resolution.

Unreal - opening "Flyby" which I let run through 3 times and took average FPS, "high" detail settings, VSync off, all bells and whistles on including high quality sound.

V2 SLI @ 90MHz
a.. 640 x 480: 79.88
b.. 800 x 600: 64.70
c.. 1024 x 768: 50.33

V3 @ 143 & 166
a.. 640 x 480: 143 = 86.43, 167 = 89.5
b.. 800 x 600: 143 = 68.52, 167 = 76.34
c.. 1024 x 768: 143 = 48.66, 167 = 57.14

Why did I use Unreal in this testing? It was a game that came out with the V2, and I thought it would be interesting to see how the different generations of Voodoo cards did against one another. Of some interest here is the V2 SLI beating the V3 @ 143Mhz. Once again, however, gameplay wasn't significantly different with one card from the next, and the V2 SLI was every bit as fast in the big firefights as the V3.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any really good, newer Direct X titles to compare the two sets of cards with, but I'm betting the benchmarks would be very similar to what I've listed. It really looks as if the Voodoo3 has come into it's own as it has matured, and the newest driver offerings from 3Dfx have put it a half step above the V2 SLI, especially in Quake3 engine games at maximum detail settings (in which case there is absolutely no comparison). Due to the limited amount of texture memory for the V2 SLI, I'm betting that gameplay with the newest up and coming GL and D3D titles will continue to deteriorate unless lower resolutions and minimal detail are selected. In GLIDE, the V2 is very respectable, and is certainly still a contender when it comes to any Unreal engine game. This is good to know, since if you can use a different card (Geforce, G400, etc.) in the AGP slot for D3D and GL titles, and the pair of SLI's for GLIDE.

I hope this was informative to those who were wondering about the difference between the V2 and V3 generation of cards.  I know that I will keep my V2 SLI just in case for all my GLIDE games down the road when support is dropped in the newer offerings. I would get you a pair now on Ebay while the getting is good! =)

Copyrightę 2002 Nightstormer Productions