Product Type: other graphic cards
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3dfx Voodoo 2
Member Name: rob_writer
3dfx Voodoo 2
Date: 20/03/02, updated on 20/03/02 (3463 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap, Still decent
Disadvantages: Old and sometimes it shows
You may well wonder why I'm writing a review on such an ageing video card, the 3dfx Voodoo 2, after all 3dfx aren't even a company anymore after they were bought by NVidia. However, I still use my old Voodoo 2 in one of my PC's and find that even after all these years it still has its uses.
The Voodoo 2 was one of the first 3D graphics cards available, obviously not the first, as it's called number 2, and was (you'll not believe this) the sequel to the popular Voodoo graphics card. At the time the Voodoo 2 was amazing, held in the same light as a GeForce 4 would be now. It wasn't even a real graphics card, just a dedicated 3D card that worked alongside your normal graphics card. It was only used when you played games! It cost quite a bit of money at the time, but I picked mine up for about £13 in at an auction site. The reason I wanted one was that I was building a cheap second PC to take to Uni, and while I wanted to play some games I couldn't afford a new flashy graphics card, and as the PC I was putting it in had no AGP slot I needed something that was PCI. So I got one of these.
The cards came in 8Mb and 12Mb flavours, obviously the 12Mb version was a little better. The chipset was used by a variety of different companies to release their own branded boards. All were pretty much the same, although some later boards did come with fans and heatsinks on the processors to allow them to run a little faster. The card itself uses 3 processors to do it's stuff, and has to be one of the longest PCI cards I've ever seen. It doesn't actually fit in to some PCI slots because the processor on most socket 7 motherboards gets in the way, so it has to be positioned in one the slots nearer the PSU (if you haven't got a clue what I'm on about don't worry, it just means you may need to swap your soundcard or something to a different slot!). As it's not a dedicated graphics card it works in unison with what
you have already, and plugs in to this via a small pass-thru cable. Basically you plug your old graphics card in to this one via the normal monitor socket, and then the monitor plugs in to the Voodoo 2. In normal windows usage the Voodoo does nothing but let the signal from your normal card through, but when the Voodoo 2 comes in to use in a game it takes over. The Voodoo 2 works independently of your existing card, so no matter how crap your original card is it will still work just the same.
One neat feature of the Voodoo 2's is that you can link two of them together in what is known as Scan Line Interleave (or it could be Interlace) mode, known as SLI for short. The two Voodoo 2's must be identical in terms of manufacturer and memory, or at least that's what the manual says. As it turns out it isn't quite this strict, and all over the web you can find drivers and guides on how to make not so similar Voodoo 2's work together. Anyway, if you want to use SLI I would recommend getting two of the same card, otherwise you're relying on luck to get them to work! SLI modes doesn't quite offer twice the performance of a single card, although depending on the game in question you should see an improvement. If nothing else you should see an improvement simply because you have double the video RAM that you used to.
Before I get on to how the card performs I have a couple more technical points to detail. First off the card can easily be overclocked. Overclocking may be a modern buzz word in computing but it happened even a few years ago. By default the card runs at 90Mhz (or 95Mhz if you have the most recent, fan cooled version). Most Voodoo 2's should run happily at 95Mhz with no added cooling, and if you want to add fans and heatsinks you could add another 5Mhz to this. Some games are a bit dodgy with an overclocked Voodoo 2, Unreal Tournament amongst them, but the cards so cheap and it's so easy to do (search the web f
or a program, there are loads) that it's worth trying. Of course, I accept no responsibility for any fried cards, and I myself just run mine at the normal speed because my PC gets rather hot anyway. I plan to add more cooling when I get round to it, so I may have a fiddle at a later date.
The next (and for you thankfully last) piece of technical stuff I have to moan about is that the Voodoo 2 card can only render full screen, and not in a Window. This doesn't matter for games at all, because you're gonna play them full screen. Most people wouldn't care about that at all, but I do for one simple reason - I play emulators, and emulators like Gens can render the graphics on the fly (basically make a Mega Drive game look nicer). It isn't possible to get the Voodoo to do this at all because it only renders in full screen (and even if I run emulators in full screen it still isn't possible in most of them). This means that these emulators fall back on my old graphics card for rendering, a 2Mb Rage Pro, and let me tell you - it isn't a pretty sight!
Anyway, enough mumbo jumbo, how does it perform when you want to play a game?
The answer is very well (most of the time anyway!).
You see (sorry, back to technical stuff) back when the Voodoo 2 was made DirectX wasn't the force it is today, the Voodoo series of cards were the king and they could do what they wanted. So they did. Rather than go all out for Direct3D support, 3dfx made their own standard known as Glide. Glide wasn't at all bad, back in the day, but only 3Dfx cards could do it, so when 3dfx started to go down the pan glide went with them. The Voodoo's always supported Direct3D, but they can't do it as well as they can do glide (if a game supports both it's odds on it'll run much nicer with glide). The other standard, namely OpenGL, still used today by games like Quake 3, was not initially supported by the Voodoo and to be honest
I don't know if it ever supported OpenGL in full. Still, it supports enough of it to play the games, so Quake 2 and 3 are playable. When 3dfx first made Voodoo GL drivers they were OK, but could have been better. So people made them better. By themselves. Now you can download what are known as miniGL drivers for Voodoo cards, these are subsets of OpenGL designed for a specific game, such as Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament. The best I've come across are the WickedGL drivers, although the latest version costs money so I would hunt out an older copy which is free. These claim to add 50% to the performance of the original drivers, and from what I've seen they work!!
And after that long paragraph I can finally conclude that the Voodoo 2's performance varies depending on what game you are playing. It's not going to run a lot of the latest visual masterpieces at all, for example Max Payne won't run on it. Slightly older games will be a bit hit and missy. The basic rules are as follows. If a game supports Glide (the 3dfx specific mode) then the Voodoo 2 will play it without any problems at all. Remember Deus Ex and all it's problems with new powerful NVidia cards? That game plays on the Voodoo 2 with few problems. If you have a choice, choose glide first. If a game supports OpenGL and there is a custom MiniGL driver available you're in luck too. A lot of these drivers work wonders and make games play amazingly well on such an old card. If there's no new driver available from the likes of WickedGL then try it anyway, it could well still run nicely. Thirdly if you have to use Direct3D you'll have to accept that this card is going to act it's age and not run that well. That's not to say it's always bad, but it's not as good as glide can be.
Anyway, what can you expect from the card?
Recently I've been playing some FPS games on this card. GlQuake, Quake 2 and Quake 3 all run very well indeed. Q
uake 3 ran amazingly in 800x600 mode, almost as well on my other, more powerful computer with a TNT2 32Mb card (still an old card but much newer than the Voodoo 2). All the quake games were played using the WickedGL drivers. Unreal Tournament also runs nicely using Glide. For your information only (I haven't tried all these games) the great WickedGL drivers support the following games
Quake, Quake 2, Quake 3, Hexen 2, Sin, Half-Life, Heretic 2, Daikatana, Kingpin, Soldier of Fortune, Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Rune, Starsiege, Tribes, Tribes 2, Serious Sam, 4x4 Evolution, Axis, BGII, Crime Cities, DeusEx, MDK2, KO, MindRover, Hitman, Heavy Metal FAKK2, StarTrek DS9, Parsec, Screamer 4x4, Snok, StarTrek Voyager, Team Fortress, TreadMarks
and judging from what I've seen they should all run well. Download the demo from http://www.wicked3d.com/downloads/wickedgl/wgl_dem o.exe or go to http://www.3dfxfiles.com/ and find an older version for free, as well as other drivers and apps.
Anyway, after all that I think I'll wrap it up by saying that even though it's old, the Voodoo 2 is still acceptable for quite a few of the popular but not so recent games. You could get one for a tenner from an auction site, but then again you could buy a new Geforce 2 for about £50, so unless you're really on a budget I probably wouldn't recommend you get one. I am surprised by it's high performance, but having said that at some point in the future I probably will move on to something a bit better!
A blast from the past that can still (almost) do the business today.