April 1999 Super7 3D Video Accelerator Comparisonby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 10, 1999 1:15 AM EST
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Like a childish game, the unwillingness of Intel to share their Slot-1 architecture with the rest of the industry, although for perfectly logical business reasons, has taken its toll on the quality of systems built upon non-Intel processors. The standard originally developed in 1998 by AMD is widely known among AMD supporters around the world as Super7, an extension to the formerly Intel dominated Socket-7 motherboard architecture. The differences between a Super7 based system and a Slot-1 based system are minimal in terms of the performance that one can theoretically achieve on each of the platforms. Unfortunately there is one critical differentiating factor that has stunted the growth of the AMD dominated Super7 market greatly in comparison to the Intel controlled Slot-1 market. The Achilles heel of the Super7 standard? Poor chipset support.
Since the first day of the official release of the Super7 standard, the efforts of chipset manufacturers Acer Labs Incorporated and VIA Technologies have been lack luster in comparison to their big brother, Intel, in terms of chipset compatibility. One could make the argument that due to Intels incredible size as a company, it is in the best interest of the market to make sure the best selling products are compatible with Intels chipsets; the responsibility falls on ALi and VIA to make sure that their chipsets are equally as compatible. In the past, ALi and VIA chipset solutions have been at fault for compatibility problems with the latest AGP graphics accelerators due to the nature of the AGP support provided by their two respective chipsets. Only recently have most of the "kinks" in the software drivers been ironed out and the level of compatibility of Super7 motherboards and the latest graphics cards been increased. Unfortunately there remains another limitation of the nature of the Super7/Socket-7 standard that has kept the lives of gamers who own such computers a little less happy than those running equally priced Celeron systems on the Intel side of things. The second tragic flaw of the standard? Poor 3DNow! support by video card manufacturers.
Unveiled at the E3 conference in 1998, AMD brought forth the bridge that was supposed to eliminate the gaming performance gap between Intel and AMD based systems, in the form of an extension to the processors native instruction set, AMDs 3DNow! enhancements were the talk of the town. However they never grew to be much other than just that in the eyes of most video card manufacturers. To date, there has been no independent effort by a party other than AMD, to bring a nearly complete 3DNow! implementation into the drivers of the latest in graphics accelerators, and even then, AMDs efforts are only truly seen on the graphics cards manufactured by a single company. Not encouraging at all.
If you consider all of that, the fact that the latest graphics accelerators are not all guaranteed to work on Super7 systems, and the fact that the gaming performance of a high end K6-2 or K6-3 450 system will usually barely come close to that of an equivalently configured Intel Celeron 300A, a $60 chip (3dfx based systems excluded), it makes almost perfect sense that the Super7 market is essentially ignored when it comes to comparisons of the latest in 3D accelerators. It is usually considered to be, a) too much work, and b) not worth the time, simply because of the common misconception that a true gamer would never purchase an AMD based system.
Reality Sets in: There are Super7 Gamers Out There
Just as there are Porsche owners that dont speed, the reality of the matter is that there are gamers out there that play on non-Intel systems, specifically AMD K6, K6-2, and even the newer K6-3 based systems. There isnt a law that states if you want to play a game you must purchase an Intel processor, so theres nothing wrong with fragging a few in Quake 2 or running from the assassins in a game of Half-Life TFC is you happen to have an AMD based system. This comparison is not going to deal with the technical "morality" of purchasing either an Intel or an AMD based system, rather it will attempt to tend to the needs of Super7 users. They, just like all Pentium II owners out there, want to know what the best 3D accelerator for their system happens to be, and just like all Pentium II owners out there (Celery supporters included) they deserve an answer.