It was close to one year ago that 3dfx invited us all to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Among the more than 100 wax statues, 3dfx announced what would most definitely be their rendition of the comeback kid, the Voodoo Scalable Architecture. In its first incarnation, the VSA-100 chip proved to be a solution that addressed all of 3dfx’s shortcomings with the Voodoo3. While still not offering AGP texturing support, a feature we have yet to see truly influence performance, the VSA-100 gave 3dfx the 32-bit color support that it had been lacking ever since. With 32-bit color rendering slowly becoming an accepted standard, its support was deemed necessary for 3dfx’s upcoming line to even have a chance of being accepted by the market.
Just like they had done at the previous year’s Fall Comdex, 3dfx quietly stole the limelight with a very impressive product lineup. However this time around, there was much more than three different clock speeds of a Voodoo3 to talk about. Instead, 3dfx showed off the true meaning of the word “Scalable” by introducing a line of VSA-100 based cards that featured one, two or even four VSA-100 chips. These cards were named the Voodoo4 4500, Voodoo5 5000, Voodoo5 5500 and the Voodoo5 6000. Both the Voodoo4 4500 and the Voodoo5 5500 were supposed to have PCI counterparts, while the 5000 was supposed to be introduced as a PCI-only card.
But if we fast-forward to the present day, you’ll quickly realize that only two of the four models made it to the market. The Voodoo4 4500 and the Voodoo5 5500 are currently the only VSA-100 based cards that are available; fortunately, both are available as an AGP or PCI form factor. The card we were originally looking forward to was the Voodoo5 5000 since it was supposed to be marginally more expensive than the Voodoo4 4500 yet boasted the same fillrate as the Voodoo5 5500, the only downside being its smaller 32MB frame buffer.
Unfortunately, the 5000 never made it to market, leaving 3dfx’s product line with only a high-end and a low-end offering. We’ve already seen what their flagship Voodoo5 5500 can do, in both AGP and PCI flavors, now it’s time to take a look at the Voodoo4 4500 in greater depth.
This is the card that will undoubtedly be compared to NVIDIA’s GeForce2 MX and ATI’s recently announced Radeon SDR, since these are the cards in its price range; however, with the Radeon 32DDR selling for $180 with a $30 rebate, it may be too difficult for the Voodoo4 4500 to compete this late in the game.
Let’s take a look at those chip specs and benchmarks before we decide the fate of 3dfx’s latest release.