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ASUS V3200 Banshee AGP Review

Date: 21st February 1999
by Anurax Lian

- The Good
- The Bad
- Test System Configuration
- Conclusion
- Rating

- Other video cards reviews

Asus relatively known for their top quality motherboard has entered into total new arena, the multimedia zone. Already in the past, Asus has been known to be one of the best motherboard's manufacturers. However, when it came down to the Video display adapters, they never seem to be a mentioned party. Generally sticking to OEM chipsets from either ATI or S3, their VGA cards were only sought after for their value, never a serious threat to the main VGA manufacturer's like Diamond Multimedia or STB, for they only ventured the OEM markets. However, for the past one and a half years or so, they have been quite adventurous, first targeting home with higher-end chipset like the ATI Rage Pro and moving on to gamers with the Nvdia Riva 128, not forgetting the hard-core gamers with their latest range of chipset like the Nvdia Riva TNT and the 3Dfx Banshee.

3Dfx has always been a very good 3D engine and with their first mass marketed chipset, the Voodoo, it was a success which yielded performance that could not be matched by any competitor for a quite a while. Wanting to fulfil the 2D and 3D market, they then slightly modified the original Voodoo and named it the Voodoo Rush. This was tagged with another chipset vendor for 2D, which they used as Alliance Semiconductor's chipset. Unfortunately the 2D not up to then user's expectation and somehow the 3D was not up to par with the original Voodoo. They were unable to play some of the games available for the 3Dfx graphics chipset. This time round, 3Dfx Interactive has tried again, to make a board that can not only do 3D, but provide users with outstanding 2D without any compromise. With that in mind they have succeeded very well by totally coming up with a new 128-bit 2D core and combining it with a 3D engine based on the Voodoo2 all in one core logic chipset - THE 3Dfx BANSHEE chipset.

 

Video Card Specifications

Interface AGP 1x
Chipset 3Dfx Voodoo Banshee
Ram IBM 16MB 100Mhz SDRAM 10ns
Data Path 128 bit
RAMDAC 250 MHz
TV-Output NA
Video Playback MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DVD, Indeo, & Cinepak
Supported Resolutions 640 x 480 - 1920 x 1440
Supported Refresh Rates 60 - 120 Hz

These are the contents of the box:

 

Here's a snapshot of the board:

The board is fairly spacious mainly housing the Banshee chip behind the big black heat sink and is populated by 8pc of Elite 2MB SDRAM of 10ns type. It has 1 feature connector and of course a Flash-Bios. The Banshee chip is large because of its 0.35-micron die. And its after-effects will be seen in the Bad-section later. Also check out the Heat-Sink combo ASUS has provided.

There is only one game, Incoming, which I'm getting sick of! No demos or anything else given.

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The Good

The Banshee Showdown

ASUS seem to be fairly interested in the 3D arena lately and seem to be doing quite a good job. The V3200 is fairly simple in its design with no additional fancy full things. Keeping the cost down. Also with additional features users then to get lost and end-up not knowing what to do and at some point getting even frustrated.

The manual is small, simple & straightforward with lot of planning done to ensure smooth installation in the most common Operating Systems + has a very valid FAQ. The reason I highlight these points are that in many other video cards, their FAQ is far too simple to help in trouble and is almost never needed. The manual pain-stakingly outlines the installation in every common OS, the card was intended to be used.

One of the best selling points of the Banshee is of course its support for OpenGL, Direct3D & Glide based games, therefore it can run about any game on the market. Plus the fact that it's sold in AGP (the Banshee only use AGP 1x mode) & PCI format quite a lot of old & new PCs can support it. Therefore the Banshee has a huge marketing field.

All Banshee cards have an integrated 250MHz RAMDAC & when I push up my resolution to 1024x768 or 1280x1024, my NEC 17" screen is quite sharp at refresh rates of 75 or 85Hz. A marked improvement from other chipsets especially when you're working at high resolutions. So this is one more reason besides games to buy a new Banshee video card. Even the S3 Savage3D has an integrated 250MHz RAMDAC but it looks plain compared to the Banshee.

3D Quality & Features

The 3D quality looks like that of a Voodoo-2, but it's good (Of course the G200 & TNT are better!). I tested games like NFS3, Star-Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Quake-2, Ultimate Race Pro & I ran the games at 800x600 and was very enjoyable.

These are the 3D Features as dictated on Creative's web-site:


The Benchmarks

I have benchmarked the ASUS V3200 in Windows98 with DirectX-6.

So here they are:

ASUS V3200 Banshee Driver Ver 1.02

CPU Type

ZD 3D Winbench 99

WinTune 98 Wintune98 Video (2D)/ Mps

Wintune98 Direct3D / Mps

Wintune98 OpenGL / Mps

Quake-2 Timedemo1 / fps

Quake-2 Timedemo2 / fps

Intel Celeron A 300 MHz 64 MB

3D Winmark : 469

69

82.4

7.5

34.3

35.2

The results from WT98 for OpenGL are alarmingly low because it has no full OpenGL ICD yet and currently 3Dfx provides a Mini-OpenGL for games that use OpenGL. The drivers at the ASUS Web-site are not so updated as the reference Banshee drivers at 3Dfx, which is better, tweaked for performance. Overall the Performance is very good in all areas considering it's running on an Intel Celeron. Performance will still improve as the Banshee is young and has yet to have a full OpenGL ICD.

After running a few D3D games, I found the Banshee really meet all aspect of what a 3D accelerator should be. On Fifa 99 and NBA 99 the quality of the image was just as good as the G200 and Voodoo2 if not better. Game play was smooth and jerkiness was not visible even with full 3D features were turn on and set to full. People complain that 3Dfx set the limit to only 16Bit while other provide up to 32Bit color rendering, however, these games move so fast that they actually don't make a difference at all. First person games like Quake2 were pretty smooth when set to 800 X 600, this resolution is quite acceptable to games standard. If you are a true hardcore game and require at setting of 1280 X 1024 or higher, then you should be willing to pay the premium of an SLI configured Voodoo2.

The Banshee regardless of which manufacturer is catered towards the home user gamer, brining in solid 3D performance and good 2D graphics. Between manufactures there really is not much difference in performance the human eye can actually catch. However, as an end user it is the features and package that should catch your eye. If you need the additional features like TV-OUT and hardware DVD/TV Tuner add-ons paying the extra premiums might be justifiable if not my advise is not to squander off the extra dollar but rather invest in other peripheral that actually bring in more value. However, this is not to tell you to get a low-end Taiwanese manufacturer board that is of low quality. Remember that a card may be only as good as it last, and if it fails so is your investment. This is where ASUS V3200 Banshee comes in, it has the entire quality feature a peripheral need but abstains from accessories that most users do not require, this brings down the cost and the V3200 is one value for money peripheral any user should consider.

The Banshee can perform better than a V2 when the games do not use or take advantage of multi-texturing because the Banshee is clocked higher than the V2. But in games that do take advantage of multi-texturing, e.g. games like Quake-2, the V2 & TNT win hands down because both of them have twin-texel engines where as the Banshee has only 1. Currently only few games support multi-texturing, but in the future, more games will and the Banshee might suffer then. But for time being it does it's job well.

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The Bad

The installation method was straightforward but the given drivers on the CD are old & buggy. Definitely one has to get the newest drivers from Creative's web-site. But since the Creative drivers are not as updated as the Banshee reference drivers on 3Dfx web-site, people who want best performance must either wait for Creative to update their drivers or forgo the extra options and get the reference drivers from 3Dfx for more performance.

Since the Banshee is a 0.35-micron chip the heat dissipation is rather high. ASUS has done a good of adding a heat sink and fan, this does help in cooling the chip down considerably but I think it is of a rather poor quality when compared to the Canopus Spectra 2500's one. When over-clocking the card to over 124MHz the heat is kinda high compared to the default 100MHz.

Although it worked very well on my system, there is word that the drivers are still not matured enough and may cause some problems in running games for some unlucky systems. So just beware although most of the time it works.

Also all Banshee cards may need some fixes or patches to run games reliably or else games might hang. Games like NFS3 for e.g. need a tiny but simple work around before the game works well.

All Banshee cards can't use the DIME function offered by AGP, hence they can't use system memory for texturing if the texturing requires more than the local memory available on the card. This will be a real drawback for games that use large amount of textures in future as it will really slow down game-play. However, with on-board 16MB this should satisfy most gamers least the hard-core Quake (or other first person games) gamers.

The 2D quality of the Banshee is good up to 1024 X 768. Anything higher the quality of the image output is pretty bad. Lines are kinda blur and overall image tends to be fuzzy at 1600 X 1280. Most home users will find that 800 X 600 or 1024 X 768 quite comfortable so this is not a big issue. However, high end graphic user should be fore warned that this card, even though it is capable of 1600 X 1280 configuration, the quality is not quite up to par. A good alternative is the Matrox G200.

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Test System Configuration

Processor(s) Intel Celeron A 300MHz
Ram 64MB 100MHz Hyundai SDRAM Dimm
Motherboard ASUS P2L97 ver 1.05
HardDrive(s) IBM Deskstar-4 4.3Gb
Operating System MS Windows 98 Build 4.10.1998
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 6
Other software used 3Dfx Banshee Mini-OpenGL 1.43
Video Card(s) ASUS V3200 Banshee AGP
Video Card Bios Ver: NA
Video Card Drivers ASUS ver 1.02

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Conclusion

This is THE card for home users who want to work on any application and play 3D games with great performance. Priced at a price of $175, it's a well-recommended card for many people who need to have really fast 3D, and 2D at the same time, looks as good as the G200's performance in games. It plays any game and works in many systems and it offers good value. But the future doesn't look that good due to lack of 32-bit Z-buffer, multi-texture support & no AGP texturing.

Targeted at : Home User / Gamers on a tight budget (willing to sacrifice a bit of quality for the extra $$)


VIDEO CARD RATING

Overall Rating (Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

Installation ***
Performance ****1/4
Price ****
Software Bundle ***
Material Quality ****
2D Quality ****
3D Quality ****
Overall Rating ****

award_2d_4star.jpg (8295 bytes)

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Copyright 1998, Singapore Hardware Zone. All rights reserved.
Last updated February 22, 1999.

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