Just about as unique as a cloned sheep, the Diamond Viper V550 brings very little to the table that hasn't already been provided by the competition. It may be that Canopus ruined the competition for everyone else by releasing a truly spectacular TNT product for the same price (see Spectra 2500 Review), however for most people, it will end up being a war of drivers, software bundles, and RAM, yes, RAM. Looking for an explanation? Look no further as we attempt to "Uniquify" the Viper V550.
One thing that is obvious with all TNT cards, you definitely want to do some priming on your system before making the upgrade. If you happen to be building a new system from scratch using a clean install of Windows 9x/NT then this won't apply to you, however if you are one of the many computer users out there who lives in a constant state of upgrading then you will want to remember these key steps to installing the Viper V550 properly.
Out of the box, you have the normal goods packaged with any Diamond Video product: a dinky Installation Guide, a few CD's comprising the card's "software bundle," a driver's CD, and a warranty registration card. Tossing all of that into the corner of the AnandTech testing lab and focusing on the well-wrapped Viper V550 wasn't a problem as the test bed for the video tests was being prepared for its installation tests.
The AnandTech compatibility test system consisted of an installation of Windows 98, previously installed graphics drivers for a Matrox Millennium G200 AGP video card, on an ABIT BX6 with a Pentium II 450 (no point in running compatibility tests at a slower clock speed, right?). Simply replacing the G200 with the Viper V550 produced instant problems as the card's drivers attempted to replace those of the G200. Before installing the Viper V550, or any TNT card for that matter, be sure to remove all previous installations of graphics drivers before even installing the card. Once that was completed, a simple reboot and reinstall of the Diamond drivers provided for on a CD, resulted in a number of new desktop resolutions and color depths.
The initial reboot of your system after the drivers have been installed will give you a welcome warning to will out your Viper V550's warranty registration information. This annoying little screen can be a bit startling at first, personally, its absence wouldn't have been a major downer, however after ALT-F4ing away from that the test system was ready and waiting at the good ol' 640 x 480 x 8bpp color resolution.
A quick trip to the Display Properties Control Panel revealed that very little was modified, actually, there are no visible modifications to that control panel. Only after entering the Advanced Display Settings window can the Diamond-specific modifications be accessed. Diamond allows for the normal settings to be manipulated, V-SYNC can be disabled from within the control panel, unfortunately the drivers don't provide for any overclocking capabilities which can be a bit of a downside if you don't want to use any third party utilities. Diamond also included a benchmark program with the Viper V550 which resides in one of the new control panel tabs, unfortunately this 3D benchmark just adds to the load time of the panel window and can get a bit annoying if you accidentally give it a click. If you're in to showing off your new system then by all means, give it a try, however replacing that with at least a memory overclocking slider tool would've been a better idea in this editor's mind.
If a manufacturer isn't going to make a bold statement that separates them from the competition, as consumers, we are given the right to be picky, so let's get to the nit-picking.
The Viper V550 is based on the reference Riva TNT design provided by none other than nVidia themselves. While the design was modified to support TV-Output, the quality of the TV-Output on the Viper V550 isn't even remotely in the same league as the TV-Output on the Canopus Spectra 2500, so if you're looking for good quality TV-Output, grab a Canopus.
The SDRAM used on the Viper V550, although officially stated as being 125MHz SDRAM, doesn't work at 125MHz to a reliable enough degree for that to be considered a viable option. The default setting for the SDRAM speed on all TNT cards is 110MHz, and although the Hyundai SDRAM used on the Diamond cards does seem to work better at 115MHz than the Hyundai SDRAM used on the Spectra 2500, it is still no match for the overclocking monsters from Fujitsu which can be found on the Creative Labs and STB boards. If you're looking to overclock your TNT, then the Diamond Viper V550 may not be the one you're looking for.
Update: According to Diamond Multimedia, the Viper V550 does feature a socketed Flash BIOS chip on the board.