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V3 3000 AGP Review

Who Do That Voodoo Like STB Do?

I have been playing with the Voodoo3 3000 for about a month now. It shares the quality build of it's little bro, the Voodoo3 2000 AGP, that we reviewed earlier. But what is the real smackdown here? Well, with the market being the way it is, you can now sink your teeth into a V3 3000 for as little as $130 if you are willing to give up the game bundle and go for some OEM action. What does that mean to you? Means you get a much less shocking box and no games. I honestly have never loaded any of the retail games that came with the retail package, and don't really remember what they were. I am pretty sure a full version of Unreal came with it, which if you don't have it yet, runs like a screaming banshee (no pun intended) on a V3 chipset.

Another bi-lingual card this time round? You bet, once again STB has gone South of the border to get some cheap labor rates and to circumvent all kind of EPA standards! Just kidding!! PCB processing is probably one of the most environmental friendly industries around. This way you can think of yourself as a big tree-hugger next time you grab some video card action. VIVA STB!!!!

These V3 chipsets produce an amazing amount of heat, as do most high performance video cards nowdays. For the first time, a video card manufacturer has done something correct in the name of heat dissipation when it comes to overclocking. I gotta give some serious props to STB for the factory installed heat sink they use. This thing kicks ass. Not the regular mamby-pamby unit found on sooooo many others. I knew when I opened the box and saw it that the V3 was not simply a weenie board in an ugly ass box. Of course any good heatsink needs a little more air moving across it if possible. Take a gander at this mutha.

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This Gamma28 blower from NIDEC worked out pretty good for a project that took about 3 minutes. A little double-sided tape is all you need. You do have to wire these blowers for either a 3 pin or PS plug because they come with a plug that will not adapt to a computer system board. If you want the ultimate in blowers, the guys at OutsideLoop Computers still have a couple of the Gamma30's. Now that we KNOW it is cool, lets see if we can burn it up!!

When it comes to speed, nothing is going to catch this badboy V3 at the moment. That is right, if you want frame rate, then you had better be looking at buying a Voodoo3. This is the fastest single video accelerator I have ever seen. What is strange though is that a 12megger SLI setup still comes damn close to smoking a V3. So if you think you are gonna chunk the SLI and step up to the V3, I say you had best hang onto your panties a bit longer. Even 2D performance seemed flawless to me although I have had a couple folks that run extremely high resolution say it was kinda choppy. Then again, how many of us run 1600 res???? (less than 2% of the peeps that hang here) But bottom line, in my opinion, you will not find a FASTER chipset out there now that is easily available at a decent price like this....

OK, speed is one thing, but visual quality is another. Let me draw on experience with some of the newer games on the market here. Recently at an undisclosed location on the Eastern Seaboard, I had the chance to run the V3 through the marks while playing a little Unreal Tournament. The visual quality is dazzling and made the gaming experience pretty close to orgasmic. Yep that's right, it gave me wood! :P We gotta remember here that Unreal Tournament is a Glide native game that was pretty much MEANT to be run on a 3dfx chipset so to expect mediocrity would be pretty stoopid. Overall the V3 ran faster and much smoother than the TNT2 on the UT engine.

But what about Quake 3 Arena visuals? Well, there just aint any easy way to say it. Nvidia simply blows the doors off 3dfx on this particular platform. The Voodoo3 is dry and lifeless in side by side comparisons with the recent TNT2 and TNT2 Ultra chipsets on this platform. I am sure someone out there knows how to tweak the living hell out of the V3 to bring the quality up a bit and if you do I would like to see the config please.

Kinda like drawing a line in the sand eh? You play this game, you need this card. You play this other game, you wanna use this card.

Here is a little rumor I heard recently in the back alley at a local software house. (It was actually a rumor when I wrote this a week ago) Unreal Tourney is VERY close to going gold and I have to say I think it is very possible that UT will dwarf Quake 3 Arena in playability. I think Q3A has a little more eye candy and is better polished, but let's get down to brass tacks here. Eye candy does NOT make you play a game until 6am.....

Am I getting a bit off the subject here? Not really, but probably.... I just wanted to make an objective argument that can be looked at from a couple different viewpoints and give you something to think about if you are a hardcore gamer..

All I am trying to say is that you may find yourself playing a game very soon that will be better suited to run on a 3dfx card that an Nvidia or vice versa. I am not even gonna bring the Savage 4 and it's killer texture compresion into this discussion...... Just a couple things to think about before you buy your next vid card.

We are going to look at some benchmarks now and you will see how fast the V3 3000 really is and how OC friendly it is also. No comparison screenshots here though. I have seen too many folks get their butts reamed over screenshots with the V3 so I am staying away from that one. One thing we have done is run all these tests using the newer Q3 Certified Reference drivers form 3dfx. I did this cuz I figure most of you will be using them. It has shown though, that that performance level have dropped off a bit with these drivers. So now these V3 3000 numbers look VERY similar to the V3 2000 numbers with the older drivers. Just be careful if you compare them because it is NOT apples to apples.

Test System

ABIT BX6.2, 128Megs Azzo SDRam, IBM 10Gigger, PIII-450 and Celeron 300A (as noted), Yamaha CDRW, Generic NIC, Addtronics Case, and of course and STB Voodoo3 3000.

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Lothar's timedemo benchmark. I dont even remember where I got it. :( OC'd Refers to the video accelerator being overlclocked to 178MHz.

Frames per Second

800x600

1024x768

PIII 527

68.31

51.89

PIII 527 OC'd

70.75

53.90

PIII 450

60.03

50.38

PIII 450 OC'd

60.70

52.21

Celeron 450

61.01

51.29

Clereron 450 OC'd

62.41

54.20

As you can see the V3 3000 in my experience turns out not to be the best overclocking board we have seen in Unreal. This is not to say it did not perform totally kickass, just did not get the big performance increase we are used to seeing with knocking a card up 12MHz or so. Even so, this card is blazingly fast and smooth even in single player situations at very high resolutions.

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Massive1.dm2. OC'd Refers to the video accelerator being overlclocked to 178MHz.

Frames per Second

800x600

1024x768

PIII 527

88.4

72.1

PIII 527 OC'd

89.8

75.4

PIII 450

77.4

68.1

PIII 450 OC'd

78.1

70.4

Celeron 450

76.5

68.4

Clereron 450 OC'd

77.1

70.1

Once again we don't see phenominal increases when we overclock the video card but we do just see killer overall performance. I am not gonna blow any more smoke up your skirt about this, how bout we move on.

Now remember that MY results may not mirror YOUR results at home. I have seen several sites lately, Hothardware being the first, that have actually clocked their V3 3000's up to the 200MHz mark. This is very dependent on the SDRam that you happen to get on your card. I am hearing that the Hyndai Ram is a real butt-kicker when it comes to speed. As for my card, it was not crossing the 180MHz barrier and even coming close to being stable.

Conclusions:

Well lets just tell it like it is. Is this card a good/great video card? I think so. Would I buy one? I am not real sure. This is going to highly depend on what gaming camp you sleep in. At this point, if I was looking to purchase a decent card, or did not have a lot of dinero to spend, I think I would still go with the Voodoo3 2000 because the performance to cost curve leans so far towards the buyer's favor. Although $40 extra bucks could get you a lucky V3 3000 with awesome ram and then all of a sudden you are waxing the upcoming V3 3500 MHz levels.....

You also have the issue of no 32 bit color support which you will most likely not find as a real world hindrance if you are an online gamer. I don't know too many people that are gonna sacrifice that many FPS for a little bit more fancy colors anyway. The Voodoo3 line will no doubt get cheaper when the V3 3500 hits the market and I have already seen them for sale in Australia, so the US cant be far behind. If you have already purchased a Voodoo3 3000 or have your mind set on it, it will surely be a good investment.