April 1999 Super7 3D Video Accelerator Comparisonby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 10, 1999 1:15 AM EST
- Posted in
Chipset Compatibility Comparison
Heres the killer, it doesnt matter whether or not a manufacturer has the fastest video card on paper, unless it is 100% compatible with your system, youre not going to be enjoying that speed as much as you can. This has unfortunately been the case with a number of AGP accelerators and Super7 chipsets for the same reasons discussed earlier. Which cards boast the best compatibility and which require a little elbow grease to get rolling?
If you recall, the problem with Super7 chipsets doesnt lie in the hardware, rather the drivers put together by their manufacturers. Remember what the drivers are used for? Properly enabling the AGP functions of the chipset in the software. So wouldnt it make sense that those video cards that rely the most upon the functions of the AGP specification as well as those that have problems with some functions of the specification would be the most problematic? Makes sense, right? Well, that happens to be the case.
The cards with the worst AGP implementation, all 3dfx cards, which dont really use the AGP bus for texture storage/retrieval at all, happen to be the most easy to install and problem free of the graphics cards on Super7 systems. Of course PCI cards would be the easiest to install, however out of the latest batch of 2D/3D accelerators, very few are available in PCI versions, and those that are happen to be available in very limited quantities. Its ironic that the very feature 3dfx is mocked for not having in the Slot-1 market is the very feature that gives them the edge in the Super7 industry.
The cards with the best AGP implementation, particularly the nVidia TNT and the Matrox G200, happen to be the cards with the greatest set of problems with Super7 chipsets. Although Matrox has considerably improved their driver support for Super7 users, nVidias TNT continues to plague many Super7 users as there are still a number of complaints about TNT/Super7 compatibility surfacing on BBS and News Groups all over the net. Once again, compatibility has been improved significantly since the first release of the Super7 standard, however there are still cases where users are left without a clue as to what to do next while setting up their Super7 systems.
By far the worst out of all of the cards compared was ATIs Rage 128 whose flawed implementation of the AGP specification (the drivers dont seem to enable GART/AGP texturing properly resulting in poor performance with large textures) was amplified by the barely compatible drivers. The Rage 128 seemed to work much better on AnandTechs MVP3 based FIC PA-2013 test bed after disabling AGP Turbo Mode, however on the ALi Aladdin V based ASUS P5A test bed the Rage 128 was not nearly as reliable as the rest of the cards. The setup of the card required the disabling of AGP Turbo Mode as well as the VGA Frame Buffer option in the BIOS Setup, followed by a reinstall of ATIs drivers. The card refused to work at all on AnandTechs IWill XA-100Plus Aladdin V based test bed whose BIOS did not feature the AGP Turbo Mode setting, so be very careful if youre pursuing the Rage 128 as an option for your Super7 system. When AnandTech first looked at the card in 1998, it seemed to be a very promising solution for Super7 users as it offered an excellent combination of performance, quality, and features. Unfortunately, now, 4 months later, ATIs poor driver support is more than disappointing and keeps all Rage 128 based cards on the "beware of" list for Super7 users, at least until ATI can iron out their driver issues.