Voodoo 3: Gaming and business power

Prepare to throw away your Voodoo 2 boards. Voodoo 3, 3Dfx's next generation chipset, is set to offer another step forward in performance.
Written by Micheal Mullen, Contributor

Voodoo 3, code-named Avenger, continues the trend toward combined 2D/3D boards. 3Dfx's first combined chipset, the 'Banshee' was released earlier this year, marking a departure from the company's earlier 3D-only architectures. The new chipset will be available in the second quarter of 1999.

There will be two forms of the chip Voodoo 3: Voodoo3 2000, for the PC OEM market, and Voodoo3 3000 for retail products. The 2000 series has a peak output of 259 megatexels per second, and the 3000 weighs in with 366 megatexels per second. The Voodoo 3 3000 and will be sold as an add-on board for upgrades or for users wanting to build their own PCs or uprate 3D performance.

Both boards are optimized for Intel's LX/BX Pentium II chip-sets and AGP 2x, with an AGP 4x version due when Intel ships its AGP 4x compatible system logic. The chip will also support AMD's K6-2 with 3DNow Technology. "3D is the fastest growing segment in computing and Voodoo3's unprecedented 3D and 2D performance will enable our enthusiast gamers as well as the mainstream consumers to experience the next generation of highly complex 3D interactive entertainment," said Greg Ballard, president and chief executive officer for 3Dfx Interactive.

Power is the key focus of Voodoo3. The company claims the chip will generate more than seven million triangles per second using 100-billion operations per second -- that's more than two Voodoo2 boards in a Scan Line Interleave (SLI) configuration.

For 3D, the V3 will still use the same patented technology for single-cycle, single-pass multi-texturing, hardware bump-mapping, and trilinear mip-mapping as the current geneation of 3Dfx hardware. V3's 2D power borrows the core architecture that Banshee uses, with a 128-bit interface and an internal 256-bit datapath for memory utilization. It also borrows Banshee technology for hardware Graphics Driver Interface (GDI) acceleration.

The card can be used with multiple operating systems such as Unix, Linux, Mac, and Win95/98/2000. Another new feature is the ultra high-resolution display for monitors, LCD flat panels, and HDTVs. With a 350 MHz RAMDAC, Voodoo 3 offers resolutions of 2048 x 1536 at 75 Hz. There is also built-in MPEG-2/DVD encoding for smooth delivery of DVD movies.

No official word though on whether or not the Voodoo3 boards will have a video-out port though. 3Dfx says that Voodoo3 will be backwards compatible with current Voodoo titles in Glide and Direct3D.

Rival 3D chipset manufacturer nVidia -- maker of the Riva TNT -- said the days of the 3D-only boards were long gone. "We agree with 3Dfx, combined 3D/2D boards are the way the industry is going. With Voodoo 1 and 2, 3Dfx had good entry point to the gaming market but it's now time to change," said nVidia's European development relations manager Richard Huddy.

Huddy claimed that vendors had to broaden out from the gaming market into the corporate desktop space. "3D is becoming more influential throughout the enterprise market. For instance, in business PowerPoint presentations will go 3D. We want to enable this."

nVidia is due to launch its own new chipset that spans the gaming and corporate market by mid-1999, according to Huddy.

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