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

Supplied by ICI Computer


The Only Thing That Counts: Frames per Second

I know that's stretching it a bit, but you get the idea... There is no denying the fact that, although the announced specs are somewhat lacking, this is a fast card for the price.  You'll be able to enjoy 32 bit rendering at somewhat nice speeds because of the 32mb of ram, and overall, the image quality was right up there with a TNT2 or GeForce, when it worked right.

First let's look at the test system:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 3 550e @ 770 MHz (140 Mhz FSB)
  • Motherboard: Tyan s1854 (Via Apollo Pro 133a)
  • Sound: Diamond MX300 (Aureal Vortex 2)
  • Hard Drive: Maxtor 7200 RPM 13.8 gb (ATA/66 Enabled)
  • Ram: 128 mb Micron PC133 SDRAM

First, we ran Quake 3 in High Quality and Normal modes.  We ran separate benchmarks with S3TC turned on and off; The red score signifies the score with S3Texture Compression ON.  The latest beta drivers were used for both cards, the 5.16 Detonators were used.  The only settings we changed were the resolutions.  A3D was also disabled.  I'll also include the Rage Fury Maxx benchmarks from our recent review, just to show you that this $100 card can whip a card that is nearly three times the price :)

We ran Quaver.dm3 (courtesy of The Reverend) because it's quite a bit more taxing than the default Q3 demos.  You can download the Quaver demo right here.

Quake 3 Quaver, High Quality / 32 bit S3TC OFF / S3TC ON

Diamond Viper II Rage Fury Maxx GeForce DDR
800x600 58.4 \ 61.7 50.6 72.1 \ 78.2
1024x768 38.3 \ 41.9 37.3 52.1 \ 65.3
1280x1024 23.1 \ 25.2 24.5 31.6 \ 38.1

Quake 3 Quaver, Normal Quality / 16 bit S3TC OFF / S3TC ON

Diamond Viper II Rage Fury Maxx GeForce DDR
640x480 71.9 \ 69.8 54.3 81.6 \ 82.2
800x600 66.8 \ 65.8 53.9 81.4 \ 82.0
1024x768 47.8 \ 48.6 48.6 70.4 \ 78.5
1280x1024 30.5 \ 31.4 34.6 47.9 \ 57.2

3DMark 2000. 1024x768.  Pentium 3 Optimizations ON by default
(I also turned on T&L on the GeForce for reference).

Diamond Viper II Rage Fury Max GeForce DDR
16 bit 3259 3558 4553
16 bit w/ T&L 5232
32 bit 1855 3685 3858
32 bit W/ T&L 4635

Isn't it cool to see a video card that is one third the price of another whoop some serious ass? Of course, comparing to the GeForce DDR isn't fair, but that's just for reference.

Interestingly, while the use of S3's own proprietary Texture Compression (which they license to other card manufacturers, like NVidia and ATI) increases scores in 32 bit, it is not nearly as well utilized as the GeForce's.  It even lowers framerate in 16 bit! Now, I wouldn't expect it to increase framerates in 16 bit (which you can see on the GeForce scores) but the fact that it decreases performance is interesting, if not ironic!

As you can see from the 3DMark scores (brought to you by MadOnion), the Viper II excels in 16 bit, almost matching the score of the dual processor Rage Fury Maxx.  In real world apps, such as Quake 3, the Viper II actually beats the Maxx in most aspects, especially low res! Way to go S3!

This was a tough card to give an overall score for... Diamond isn't really marketing to we Hardcore Gamers (Though the box does declare that it is 'tweaked' for us).  It was interesting to see that my predictions were right, and the Viper II killed the ATI Rage Fury Maxx (has anyone actually bought one of those?).

If you want an alternative to a Voodoo3 that allows you to run in 32 bit (albeit in lower resolutions) and may benefit from Hardware TnL if S3 ever gets around to getting it to work (and if game developers actually start making more use of it), this is definitely a great buy.

There were some slight problems with it, which I guess you can expect from something that is semi budget.  I'll give it an above average score, but keep the negatives in mind... It is an excellent card for the price, but once in a while you'll see the "you get what you pay for" factor come into play.

  • Awesome Drivers, in terms of features
  • Great Bang for the Buck
  • Should eventually be a good card once TnL works
  • SVideo and Composite TV-OUT ports

  • Drivers suck in terms of software compatibility
  • TnL doesn't work yet
  • Various small problems just make for a bad experience overall

Final Score: 77%