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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [02.29.00]
Manufactured by: Creative Labs 


Is Bigger Better?

It's very hard to find a gamer (hardcore or otherwise) who doesn't have at least one Creative Labs product in their PC.  I'm sure you at least know about this Behemoth company, which was first made famous by being pretty much the only sound card manufacturers that marketed towards a specialized group of any sort.  They marketed to several, including midi music composers with their AWE cards, and gamers with their SoundBlaster cards (and others following that).

Creative had to rethink their plan though, since Aureal, with the selling power of Diamond Multimedia, jumped onto the scene with their Bad-Ass Vortex audio chipset.  Creative could no longer sit on the fact that they were the only gaming sound card manufacturer.  What we got was the SoundBlaster Live! family of sound cards.

In addition to sound cards, Creative Labs sells many other PC upgrades: CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, DVD decoder cards, PC Cameras, portable MP3 players, speakers, modems, etc etc etc...

Moving on to video cards, Creative has been in the game for quite a while.  While they never had their own chipset, they were successful in selling video cards based on chipsets from both 3dfx and NVidia.  The thing is, Creative had to share their position as one of the largest video card manufacturers AGAIN with Diamond.  When Creative had their Graphics Blaster TNT, Diamond had its Viper v550.  When Creative had their 3D Blaster TNT2 cards, Diamond was right there with the Viper v770.  There were also 'niche' type of companies who manufactured cards directed to the hardcore crowd.  This included Canopus, with their unbelievably awesome Voodoo1 and Voodoo2 cards, and Guillemot & Hercules with their TNT2's that came clocked higher than anyone else.

But last summer the whole scenario changed.  In a news bit that surprised many people, S3 bought out Diamond Multimedia.  You'll probably still be able to find a Viper v770 here and there, but Creative immediately broke their ties with S3 (after all, why would they want to sell chips that were now owned by their biggest competitor?) and began focusing solely on NVidia based video cards.

That brings us to early 2000, where NVidia's awesome "GPU" graphics chipset, the GeForce 256, is the fastest chipset around.  Creative is loving their position; they are the biggest makers of the GeForce card.

What does this mean to you? Basically, not a hell of a lot.  A quick look for "GeForce 256" on any search engine reveals that the Creative Annihilator Pro's (CLAP) price is actually a little higher than the DDR offerings from Asus and Elsa.  The thing is, if you prefer to buy in stores, you will NOT have a problem finding the Annihilator Pro;  it is everywhere! The Asus, Elsa, and to a lesser extent, Guillemot cards are a little harder to find.

What do we get?

Not much... The Creative Annihilator Pro is about as vanilla as gaming cards get.  There's no TV-OUT, and if it weren't for the "© Copyright Creative Technology 1999" stamped on the end of the card, you wouldn't even be able to tell this from any other reference GeForce.

The good thing about that is, we don't have to worry about stability, as the reference design proves that the card has been tested thoroughly, and should be as stable as possible.  Also, with no physical changes to the reference design, driver compatibility will never be an issue.  You'll be able to choose from using NVidia's reference Detonator drivers, or Creative's tweaked driver package.  If you've ever had a Canopus Pure 3D II card, you'll know what I'm talking about.  Canopus had to wait for 3dfx to custom design drivers for them (they never explained why they couldn't do it themselves), and it often took months to get new drivers out, and the Canopus card had compatibility issues with 3dfx's reference drivers.  This eventually led to one of the best video card manufacturers leaving the U.S. market.

As you can see from the picture above, you get the same heatsink/fan combo that you've seen on almost every other newer video card.  You'd be surprised at the overclocking results this heatsink/fan offered, though! I'll talk about that in a bit.  For now, have a look at the specs (from Creative Labs' site)

Architecture Highlights
256-bit graphics architecture
32MB high-performance DDRRAM
350 MHz Palette-DAC
AGP 4X with Fast Writes Peak fill rate of 480 million bilinear filtered, multi-textured pixels and more than 3.8 gigatexels per second
Up to 15 million triangles per second at peak rates
Integrated transform, lighting, setup and rendering engines
Four 32-bit 3D rendering pipeline 4 texture mapped, lit pixels per clock cycle
Single pass multi-texturing support (DirectX®6.X and OpenGL® ICD)

3D Features
Transform and Lighting (T&L) Engine Graphics performance scale with Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) not CPU
Render with geometry instead of texture
Four rendering pipelines capable of delivering four pixels per clock
Cube environment mapping in hardware, fully supported by DX7 and OpenGL
Complete DirectX 7 support 100% hardware triangle setup
Texture Blend support: Multi-texture Bump map, Light maps, Reflection maps, Detail textures
Backend blend 32-bit ARGB rendering with destination alpha Point sampled, Bilinear, Trilinear and 8-tap Anisotropic filtering
Per pixel perspective correct texture mapping: Fog, Light, Mip mapping
Full scene, order independent anti-aliasing 32-bit Z and stencil buffer

2D Features
Hardware acceleration for all Windows GDI operations
Fast 32-bit VGA/SVGA support
Multi-buffering (up to quad buffering) for smooth animation and video playback

Video Support
Video Acceleration for DirectShow and, MPEG1, MPEG-2 and Indeo
X and Y smooth up and down scaling with filtering
Per-pixel color keying
Multiple video windows with hardware color space conversion and filtering (YUV 4:2:2 and 4:2:0)
Video port supports ITU- R 656

Card Specifications
AGP 4X with Fast Writes
Single slot 2D, 3D graphics, and video accelerator
NVIDIA GeForce256
Classic graphics engine
Integrated 350MHz RAMDAC supporting up to 2048X1536 in true color
MPEG1, MPEG2 and full-motion video
Motion Compensation for MPEG-2 decoding
Full Plug and Play compliant Drivers Windows 95 and 98 display driver (DirectDraw, Direct3D)
Drivers for Windows NT40 (DirectDraw)
OpenGL ICD for Windows 95 and NT 4.0
VBE 3.0 compliant

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