Under both OpenGL and Direct3D, there is about a 10% drop in performance when 32-bit rendering is enabled - quite small in today's 3D accelerator market. Performance up to 800x600 resolutions is generally pretty good and quite playable, but a fairly large drop off is noticed when switching to 1024x768 and above. For the most part, the performance is quite close to that of the original TNT. The Quake 2 Crusher scores are quite interesting, especially on the Pentium II/266 where the Savage4 is at the top of the pack lagging only behind the Voodoo3 in 800x600.
Users with lower end CPU's will be happy to see that the performance with a Pentium II/266 nearly matches that of a Pentium II/400. The flip side is that users with high end CPU's should probably opt for something with a little more power than the Savage4.
It's also interesting to note that the Gainward CARDEXpert SG4 came out ahead of the higher clocked Savage4 Pro Plus used on Diamond Stealth III S540 in Shogo at 800x600 on a Pentium II/266. This is most likely due to the use of newer drivers on our Gainward card that simply were not available at the time of the Diamond review.
Our first look at a production Savage4 card gave us a good idea of what the Savage4 could do. Gainward's CARDEXpert SG4 brings no surprises to the party - just a straight up reference Savage4 Pro with decent overclockability, good 2D output, and a price that's hard to resist. And this is exactly what the Savage4 is supposed to be - a budget card for systems with not enough CPU horsepower to keep a TNT2 or Voodoo3 running optimally. However, the drivers are still a little weak, and until S3 can prove to us that they can write good drivers (by putting out good drivers), a better pick may be a TNT card - those prices are dropping rapidly in light of the TNT2, Voodoo3, and G400.
The hardest part may be finding the Gainward - often times it's considered a generic, and picking among a huge number of generics can be tricky. Fortunately for Gainward, the CARDEXpert name is becoming more and more popular, so don't be surprised if you see it show up in your local computer shop or mail order price lists.