S3 Savage 2000 (Diamond Viper II)by Anand Lal Shimpi on November 18, 1999 10:46 PM EST
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For the past two product releases, S3 has done very little to offer the market a competitive solution.
Many were surprised when S3 introduced the Savage 3D back in 1998 at the E3 Expo in Atlanta. We had all assumed that S3 had resigned from the market after a dying reign in the early 90’s. The Savage 3D was the first consumer/gaming level graphics accelerator that had addressed the topic of possibly using a virtually lossless texture compression algorithm in order to address the issue of memory bandwidth effecting texture resolutions and complexity. On paper, and even in the first few trials, the Savage 3D seemed like a true winner -- a potential candidate for the "Voodoo2 killer" throne that the video market had so intently sought out. Unfortunately, the final shipping product was nothing more than a buggy disappointment. Poor drivers resulting in poor compatibility and poor performance (notice a trend?) left the Savage 3D as one of the most dreaded video cards to own. Only Hercules, a company that no longer exists in the same form that they once did, was able to make a decent Savage 3D card, but only after hand picking the chips they would use on their boards and running extensive tests on their products before finally allowing them into the hands of the consumers. No other manufacturer would even dream of spending so much time and effort on offering a single video chipset, and thus most manufacturers dropped their Savage 3D products, including Diamond Multimedia, a name that would later hold much significance for the company.
Then came the Savage4 in 1999, just about an entire year after the release of the Savage 3D, and the market wondered if we were due for another unpleasant surprise from the once dominant S3. The specs were released and they weren’t too disappointing at all, so we all wondered if maybe S3 did manage to get their act together. The initial benchmarks looked solid, the performance of the chipset was much improved over the old Savage3D and most of the bugs the original solution were fixed in the Savage4. A key sign of improvement was in the fact that Diamond Multimedia, a major player that had dropped their original Savage 3D product, was now supporting the Savage4.
The Savage4 ended up being a pretty good OEM solution because it was inexpensive and it worked, but, for the hardcore gamer and performance enthusiast, the chip was not a viable solution at all. The driver problems were still there. Later updates helped correct some of the original problems, but the chip itself really didn’t offer much over the competition other than a low price, which was being threatened by low end parts from NVIDIA and 3dfx that were in the works.
Recently, with the acquisition of Diamond Multimedia, a key player in the company’s history, information about the Savage 2000 chipset has surfaced. And now, just a week away from the availability of retail Diamond Viper II boards based on the Savage 2000 chipset, we are able to take a look at a final production board and compare it to NVIDIA’s greatest as well as the best of the rest out there. While it has often been said that the third time is the charm, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Savage 2000.
The initial specs of the chipset indicated a 700 megatexels per second fill rate, which would put its theoretical fill rate a full 45% above that of NVIDIA’s recently released GeForce 256 (480 megatexels/s for the GeForce). At the same time, the Savage 2000 was to be the second consumer level graphics chipset of this generation to feature an on-board hardware transform and lighting engine that would help to off-load some of the transform and lighting calculations from the CPU and onto the graphics card. Once again, the product, on paper, appeared to be a very capable competitor.