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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [05.07.00]
Manufactured by: Diamond/S3
MSRP: $179

Supplied by ICI Computer


Want Cheap TnL?

So far in our short career, hardCOREware has looked at two very expensive video cards, the Creative Annihilator Pro, and the ATI Rage Fury Maxx.  They both sit at the exact opposite sides of the video card spectrum, one offering awesome performance for quite a lot of dough, and one offering awful performance for quite a lot of dough.  This time, we'll look at the Diamond Viper II, which if you look at the specs on paper, offers quite the bang for your buck.  It goes for a suggested price of $179 USD, but you'll find it for just over $100 on an internet Search Engine.

Diamond Viper 2: Want cheap TnL? Look Elsewhere...

Looking at the spec sheet, you can see that the Viper II wants to give you a lot for your money.. Have a look... These are the "Key Features" from the S3 Product Page:

  • S3 Savage 2000 controller
  • True 128-bit 2D, 3D and video engine for the ultimate 3D experience
  • 32MB high-speed SDRAM memory
  • Full AGP 4X/2X support
  • 350MHz RAMDAC
  • Industry's First Single pass QuadTexture engine
  • Integrated hardware texture compression (S3TC) for stunning realism
  • S3TL Transformation & Lighting
  • 32-bit rendering of smoother, crisper 3D gaming scenes at high resolution
  • Hardware accelerated DVD Playback
  • Third generation motion compensation engine
  • 32-bit Z-buffer
  • TV-Out for big-screen gaming
  • Enhanced InControl Tools 99

So for approximately $100, you get S3TC, TV-Out, 32mb ram, AGP 4x, and a Hardware TnL engine, all features that you'll see on the much more expensive GeForce cards...

This all looks good "ON PAPER" but does it actually deliver in the Real World?

Be Careful What You Ask For....

The first problem I'll talk about is the Hardware TnL Engine promised on the box...

Sure, this card has a Hardware TnL Engine! The thing is, for as long as this card has existed, Hardware TnL hasn't been supported! There were some registry tweaks you could do, but the TnL engine was largely buggy, and since it wasn't officially supported, we can't really blame Diamond for that...

Just a couple weeks ago though, Diamond finally released drivers that allow you to turn on/off the Hardware TnL engine! (These are also beta drivers, and are available on our Beta Drivers Page, along with all of the latest drivers for most video cards out there!)

Although the latest drivers enable hardware TnL, they are beta, so it still isn't officially supported.  As you'll see in our test results, there is a reason why.  Turning on the TnL engine in OpenGL games such as Quake 3 (which makes use of one half of hardware TnL) produced nasty redraw bugs, and low benchmark scores.  Worse though is the Direct3D TnL support: it wasn't there!!! Not one TnL enabled D3D game would detect it, and neither would 3DMark 2000.

So yes, on paper, TnL sounds like a great deal at this price.  A lot of people are still saying Hardware TnL is a waste of time, and that is debatable, since the P3 does such a great job with it in software, and there aren't many games that make use of it.  The programs we tested TnL with are Messiah, Soldier of Fortune, Quake 3, Test Drive 6, and 3dMark 2000; a nice little mix of OpenGL and D3D games.

More Bad Stuff

Now that hardware TnL is out of the way (and out of reach) we'll talk about some bad stuff, some good stuff, then I'll show you some benchmarks, and the final score.

How are some of these for examples of "Bad Stuff":

- Severe control lag in D3D games, such as Drakan and Test Drive 6.  The control was lagged sometimes by as much as several seconds!!! I contacted Diamond about this, and they gave me the "We've never heard of this happening before" so I'll assume that's what is supposed to happen.  I thought it might be a hardware conflict, but after pulling every other part out of the box, except the CPU, Ram, Hard Drive, and Video Card, the problems still existed.  So, to this day, I can't play Drakan or Test Drive 6, or God knows how many other games with this card.

- There was a nasty artifact going across the top of the screen in many games as well.  There was an option to fix this in the game settings, but it didn't fix it completely.

- Texture corruption in some games, including Messiah and Motocross Madness 2 Preview.  If you've ever tried to enable TnL on your GeForce in Messiah, you'll get the idea of what I'm talking about.  Background textures work fine, but the characters look like T-1000 from Terminator 2.  Still don't get it? Here's a pic of MCM2, showing how things SHOULD look (using a GeForce) and how they DO look (with the Viper II):

Can you notice the 'liquid metal' look of the helmet on the Viper II? In case you're wondering, yes, Motocross Madness II is VERY good... Get it as soon as it comes out (which should be soon; it went gold last week).

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