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AZTECH VGS3D Graphics 2D/3D Accelerator Review

Date: 05th March 99
by Matthew Fam Kai Liang

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

- Other video cards reviews

AZTECH launched their line of graphics cards late last year in a bid to expand their product lineup. Being a soundcard expert and now a modem manufacturer AZTECH ventures yet into another new product line with the launch of a few models including the much hyped "SAVAGE 3D" chipset based graphics card. But I guess the introduction of this card is a bit too late as other brands from the US and Taiwan have long been selling similar cards. Plus the already previewed upcoming "Savage 4" chipset makes us wonder what will make this graphics card stand out from the rest. >

AZTECH tends to compete with others in the lower end market with their "SIS" and "INTEL i740" graphics cards and their upcoming RIVA TNT based card will be the first high end card AZTECH will be producing. Hopefully we can see some unexpected suprises when it arrives for review.

The review set sent to me arrived in a retail box, fairly small but practical enough to contain the card and accessories. AZTECH VGS3D has 2 models available, either with TV-Out capability or the non-TV out model which I received. Let's just check out what S3 have installed for us with this new kid on the Sim Lim Square market.

 

 

 

Graphics Card Specifications

GENERAL

  • Patent S3 Texture CompressionTM (adopted as standard for DirectX 6).
  • 2X AGP support
  • Full AGP implementation including full side band AGP support and direct memory execution
  • 128-bit Dual Rendering Pipeline.
  • Supports 1600 x 1200 max. resolution with 32-bit color
  • 8MB SDRAM on board
  • 250MHz RAMDAC with Gamma Correction
  • Simultaneous Monitor display

Chipset

  • S3's Savage 3D (rev B chipset) 

API SUPPORT

  • OpenGL ICD 
  • MS DirectDraw 
  • MS Direct3D 
  • MS DirectVideo 

OPERATING SYSTEM & DRIVER SUPPORT

  • Windows 95 
  • Windows 98 
  • Windows NT 3.5, 4.0 & 5.0 
  • Windows 3.X and OS/2 2.1/3.0 Display Drivers  
  • DirectDraw and DirectVideo 
  • OpenGLTM ICD for Windows 9x and NT  

VIDEO/DISPLAY/BIOS

  • Multi-monitor Capability
  • Optimized for Software DVD MPEGII Decoder 
  • Feature Motion Compensation and sub picture blending to enhance software DVD playback  
  • Multiple Video Windows and image mirroring to provides ideal solution for video conferencing 
  • 60MHz VIP VMI video port allows for HDTV Resolution as well as provides low cost connection to MPEG-2 decoders and video digitizers

PACKAGE INCLUDES

  • Aztech VGS3D Graphics 2D/3D accelerator Card 
  • Installation software (on CD)  
  • Easy Start Manual  
  • Graphics Management Utiltity 

MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

  • IBM PC or compatible
  • Pentium II Processor or equivalent
  • AGP 1.0 bus slot
  • 16 MB System RAM
  • Windows 95 OSR2.1
  • Multi-frequency Monitor

Driver

  • 4.11.01.4005-6.13.05
    (Engineering Release : Dated Feb 99)

Manufacturer

  • AZTECH System Limited (SESDAQ:AZTECH)

Driver

  • Made In Indonesia

 

Here's a snapshot of the board:

VGS3D design are based on the SAVAGE 3D reference card,fairly neat and is populated by 4 pieces of 10ns OKI 2MB SDRAM. It has onefeature connector and of course a Flash-Bios. The Savage 3D chip is small in dimensions due to the 0.25-micron die. Attached is a green heatsink which prevent any over heating problems.

Plus the 'vanilla' drivers CD-ROM with the box.

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The Good

AZTECH Power........

AZTECH VGS3D are for people with a low budget. AZTECH cancelled out all the extras bundles and simply packed a what-you-need-is-what-you-get box plus card for reference. With a ultra low price-tag which competes directly with Taiwanese brands like 'Expert Color' and 'Cardexpert'.

A high performance 2D/3D graphics accelerator that features high end capabilities like z-buffering, alpha blending, perspective correction, motion compensation for enhancing software DVD playback, sophisticated single cycle Tri-linear filtering enables the highest 3D graphics performance along with stunning image quality and more. It is also the first graphics accelerator to incorporate hardware texture compression which is adopted by DirectX 6.0 as the texture compression standard. The Aztech VGS3S-AGP answers the need for extreme performance in today's 3D graphics intensive world.

AZTECH bundled a Easy Start Manual which is just a small leaflet to explain what needs to be performed when you install the card. Great enough for novices and is a usual practice of AZTECH for all their product lines. The main reason why AZTECH picked "Savage 3D" was mainly due to the low cost and the much hyped Hardware S3 Texture Compression(S3TC). So just What is S3TC?

S3TC stands for "S3 Texture Compression", it is a standard feature in DirectX 6.0 licensed by Microsoft. It allows software developers to compress their texture data by one-fourth to one-sixth its normal size while maintaining the image quality of the original artwork. Newer games that utilize DirectX 6.0 and S3TC will benefits greatly in performances with this AGP Graphic Card in terms of faster texture fill rates, improved image quality and lower CPU load.

Supported Display Modes

Resolution

Colors

Vertical Refresh Rate (Hz)

Monitor Scan Range (kHz)

1600x1200

65,536 256

60-85 60-85

78-110 78-110

1280x1024

 16.7M 65,536 256

60-75 60-100 60-100

64-85 64-110 64-110

1152x864

 16.7M 65,536 256

60-100 60-100 60-100

57-100 57-100 57-100

 1024x768

 16.7M 65,536 256

60-85 60-130 60-130

48-75 48-110 48-110

 800x600

 16.7M 65,536 256

56-160 56-160 56-160

35.5-110 35.5-110 35.5-110

640x480

16.7M 65,536 256

60-160 60-160 60-160

31.5-85 31.5-85 31.5-85

3D Quality & Features

Below are the exciting and up-to-date 3D features for Savage 3D.

  • Single Cycle Trilinear Filtering
  • S3 Texture Compression
  • Transparency and chrome-key with dedicated color mask
  • Void and Cluster Dithering for 16-bit Modes
  • Specular Lighting and Diffuse Shading
  • Edge Anti-Aliasing
  • Dithering
  • 16- or 24-bit Z-buffering
  • Anti-aliasing
  • Full hardware setup of triangle parameters
  • Fog (Vertex & Table)
  • Alpha Blending Modes
  • Sprite Anti-Aliasing, Reflection and Environment Mapping, Texture Morphing, Shadows, Procedural Textures, and Atmospheric Effects


The Benchmarks

I have benchmarked the ASUS V3200 in Windows98 with DirectX-6.1 @ 800x600 by 16-bit colours.

So here they are:

3D Mark 99TM Lite Results

Area Tested Celeron 300A
( 66x4.5 )
C-338A
24MB AGP memory (75x4.5)
C-338A
16MB AGP memory (75x4.5)
Celeron 450MHz
(100x4.5)
P-II 450MHz**
(83x5)
3D Mark Result 1,667 3DMark 1,731 3DMark 1,741 3DMark 1,992 3DMark 2,443 3DMark
CPU Geometry Speed 4,174 4,592 4,600 6,156 6,156
Rasterizer Score 927 940 867 1047 1189
Game 1 - Race 28.9 FPS 30.1 FPS 30.2 FPS 34.8 FPS 39.0 FPS
Game 2 - First Person 26.7 FPS 27.6 FPS 27.8 FPS 31.6 FPS 42.4 FPS
Fill Rate 75.9 MTexels/s 76.1 MTexels/s 76.1 MTexels/s 79.3 MTexels/s 77.5 MTexels/s
Fill Rate with Multi-texturing 76.6 MTexels/s 76.7 MTexels/s 76.7 MTexels/s 79.8 MTexels/s 141.6 MTexels/s
2MB Texture Rendering Speed 144.2 FPS 144.9 FPS 144.9 FPS 165.7 FPS 195.6 FPS
4MB Texture Rendering Speed 145 FPS 147 FPS 146.4 FPS 167.6 FPS 144.4 FPS
8MB Texture Rendering Speed 122.2 FPS 125.6 FPS 126.2 FPS 154.7 FPS 94.4 FPS
16MB Texture Rendering Speed 91.3 FPS 98.2 FPS 0.6 FPS 137.4 FPS 52.6 FPS
32MB Texture Rendering Speed NA* NA* NA* NA* 26.9 FPS

* Graphics card experience "Out Of Memory".System must equipped with 96MB and above to do 32MB texture test.
**Comparsion system with DIAMOND Viper V550 16MB 2x AGP(drv : 4.10.01.0255) using Pentium II 450MHz processor,128MB SDRAM (90MHz/100MHz core/memory clock)

The results from 3DMark 99 surely produces several suprises for me regarding the S3TC technology.From the comparsion chat using a similar clocked Celeron 450MHz against the Pentium II 450MHz processor.AZTECH's VGS3D managed to edged out the Viper V550 in 4/8/16MB texture rendering speed.It definitely answers anyone as to why Microsoft decided to incorporate this into the DIRECT X 6.0 core; simply because the technology is so amazing.

The 3DMark tests were run serveral times to ensure accuracy.I decided to include 3 different clocked Celeron processors ranging from the default 300MHz (4.5x66) to 338MHz (4.5x75MHz) and finally the 450MHz (4.5x100) to test out the Savage 3D chip. The AZTECH board was built based on the reference design by S3 and therefore will accept any latest Savage 3D driver directly from S3. I updated the driver to the latest "BETA Engineering Release" built 4.11.01.4005-6.13.05. After installing the new driver desktop look much brighter and the fonts looks slightly sharper.

S3TCTM definately will prove S3 is better when Savage4 is launch in the next few months. While this board will go into the bargain hunter's wish list, but it has several edges over the ultra low priced i740 based board. By setting the AGP system memory under S3dometer of Display Settings, you can select a range of AGP memory sizes for the graphics engine. This is extremely useful when the program requires large texture memory. The default is set at 24MB, I have tried setting it to 36MB, 40MB and finally revert back to 16MB. You can find the benchmark under the chart for 16MB. Unless the particular program requires such large texture setting it to a high value will not necessary mean better performance. And it might slow down your system if it is not equipped with minimum 96MB system memory. In this case, due to the limited 64MB system memory, I am unable to complete the 32MB texture test.

While running OpenGL games, you will notice the weak ICD as compared to nVIDIA's ICD. Though it is definitely a plus point compared to the utterly disappointed MATROX OpenGL driver. Overall feel is moderate and definately on the high side if you stack it against similar priced cards from other chipset manufacturers.

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The Bad

By limiting the memory to 8MB S3 simply killed off the Savage market in the middle to high-end market. When comparing the Savage with the RIVA TNT, it simply loses its glimmer when running the Multi-texture test. AZTECH did not bundled any extra software or games with this package due to the fact there were not any recommended software from S3. Consumers definitely will like to see some high tech display utilities like those on MATROX or DIAMOND cards. Other than the rather useful S3dometer and S3 Refresh flip the rest are standard features which you get even with a S$40+ card.

The card I received does not come with the TV-out feature, sad to say, so I was unable to test its quality, neverthless the card still comes with fairly reasonable quality 100MHz OKI SDRAM from Japan. The user selectable AGP memory is not quite useful as well since adjusting higher or lower values does not yield much results and the standard 24MB is consider the best on real time applications. I guess S3 still have to work on this for the upcoming Savage4.

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. The main reason for this is perhaps due to the BETA driver which have some bugs in it. Rest assure that if you are using the standard driver, this problem will most likely be rare. S3's very own OpenGL ICD has a lot of room for improvement as the colours for QUAKE II are just too dim.

I received a shock when I plug this card into the system and run it using 1024x768 resolution in 16-bit colours gone were my razor sharp fonts on my old and trusty Diamond Viper V330 based on the RIVA 128 chipset. The desktop fonts are just too light on high resolution, but are reasonably pleasant on 800x600 or lower resolutions.

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Test System Configuration

Rated CPU Speed Pentium II : 400MHz / 412MHz / 448MHz / 468MHz / 496MHz / 516MHz / 532MHz
Celeron : 300MHz / 450MHz / 464MHz / 504MHz
Processor(s) INTEL Pentium II 400MHz
INTEL Celeron 300A - 300MHz
Ram 64MB SAMSUNG '-G8' PC-100 SDRAM Dimm
Motherboard ABIT BX-6 Revision 2.0 (Bios : HJ)
HardDrive(s) IBM Deskstar-4 8.4GB
Operating System MS Windows 98 Build 4.10.1998
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 6.1
Other software used Savage 3D Driver
Video Card(s) AZTECH VSG3D 'Savage 3D' 8MB AGP
Video Card Bios Ver: NA
Video Card Drivers AZTECH ver 1.02

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Conclusion

In short, if you are looking for a rather low budget board but of high quality with plenty of advanced 3D features. The AZTECH's VGS3D AGP card will be a ideal choice for your one and only AGP slot. AZTECH card are among the cheapest you can find for the Savage 3D based graphics card, by supporting AZTECH it will mean that you are confident of a quality made in Singapore. It is a well-recommended card for many people who need as many features he can find and offer superb value when using large texturing games like 'Unreal', beating even the supreme RIVA TNT (see benchmark score). If you do not mind the lack of lack of higher memory than the standard 8MB, multi-texture support and no AGP 2x side-banding support even thought it is stated in the chipset specification then what are you waiting for ?

Targeted audience : Home User / Gamers on a tight budget (willing to sacrifice a bit of quality for the extra $$), great for Novices.


VIDEO CARD RATING

Overall Rating (Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

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

award_2d_3star.jpg (8295 bytes)

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Copyright 1999, Singapore Hardware Zone. All rights reserved.
Last updated March 14, 1999.

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