Singapore Hardware Zone!

HERCULES TERMINATOR BEAST 99 Review

Date: 27th Aug 99
by Phoenix

- The Good
- The Benchmarks

- The Bad
- Test System Configuration
- Conclusion
- Rating

- Other video cards reviews

The newly released Hercules Terminator BEAST 99 integrates S3’s Savage4 PRO chipset with 300 MHz DAC and up to 32MB of RAM. It supposedly supports digital flat panel display support up to 1280x1024 (unfortunately I don't have a flat panel monitor to try this on), and hardware accelerated DVD playback. Offering 32-bit true color 3D rendering, large 2048x2048 texture support, complete DirectX 6 support in hardware, AGP 4x and optimization for Intel Pentium III and AMD K7 processors. Other than that, it's a rehash of the Terminator Beast released awhile back.

S3 has always been a budget chipset manufacturer but at times it comes out with an industry first. The S3 Savage4 Pro chip set is the first 128-bit super pipelined AGP 4x graphics engine on the market. Built around Savage4’s new 128-bit super pipelined 3D engine, the Hercules Terminator BEAST 99TM integrates the complete Microsoft DirectX 6 3D feature set in hardware as well as optimized support for Intel Pentium III and AMD K7 processors. The advanced 3D features in hardware, include two texture engines for single-pass multi-texturing, stencil buffering to enable real-time shadows in games, and support for large 32-bit textures up to 2048 x 2048 pixels (16 MB/texture) in size. To complement this technology, the S3 Savage4 Pro also provides the industry's only simultaneous single-pass multi-texturing and single-cycle trilinear filtering capability for even better performance and image quality.

 


Video Card Specifications

Interface AGP 4x (AGP 2x compatible)
Chipset S3 Savage4 PRO
Ram 32MB Winbond SDRAM
Data Path 64-bit
RAMDAC 300 Mhz
TV-Output None
Video Playback MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DVD, Indeo & Cinepak
Supported Resolutions 640x480 - 1920x1440
Supported Refresh Rates 60 - 160 Hz (Vertical Refresh)

These are the contents of the package:

These are the utilities & software that are given on the installation CD:

  • (1) Hercules Terminator Beast 99 without TV-out card
  • (1) Installation guide
  • (1) Driver/Utility CD
  • Hercules Terminator Beast 99 Drivers
  • MS DirectX-6.1
  • Hercules Entertainment Center 2000
  • Worms Demo
  • Tritryst Demo
  • C&C Demo
  • Zone Raiders Demo
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Wordview
  • QuickTime for Windows
  • Intel Indeo Video 4 & 5
Back to top

The Good

Beauty in the Beast

Inside the usual huge box, ever wonder why they use such a big box when all it contains are the usual manual and the card wrapped in an electrostatic bag? Anyway, regardless of which end of the box you open, it's always the wrong end. Murphy's Law. 

The Beast 99 comes without a fan. Instead there is this nouve designed heat sink that reminds you of the Construction Yard for Tiberan Sun. Set in a L shaped alignment are 4 slabs of Winbond Ram.

The heat level for this card is surprisingly substantial even after running the PC for only a short period of time. Mind you I run my PC with the casing open in aircon environment. The inclusion of a fan here will be really useful especially when you are planning to use the card in a gaming rig. 

The card itself is of average size as graphic cards go. It is about the same size as my Spectra 2500.

 

Installing the Beast

The installation of the Beast was a definite no-brainer, the initial hardware detection and driver installation went through smoothly. By clicking on the setup program, the whole software installation process was self-automated even to the point of it rebooting the PC on your behalf. This installation process is novel and useful for newbies as it cuts down on the number of steps for these newbies to follow.

Watching a VCD on the Beast 99 is a wonderful experience, the resolution and playback is even better than that of my Realmagic Hollywood Plus. Unfortunately the version of the card I have here doesn't have the TV-Out function so I can't test it's functionality.

Back to top


Benchmarks

Benchmarks were done in Windows 98 (Ver 4.10) and using the default drivers from the installation CD. 

The Hercules Touch utility bundled with the card isn't as intuitive as either Canopus' or Diamond's. The performance tweak would cause fuzzy images around the fonts in Windows when tweaking it anywhere above 140hz of the memory range. Much more than 150 will cause the PC to crash. This leads me to think that the Tweak could be nothing more than just a token addition to the bundle. 

The results below are compared with the Creative Labs TNT 2 running on a similar system. As you can see, the results for the Beast 99 doesn't speak much for the card.

Hercules Terminator Beast 99 32MB SDRAM (AGP)
CPU Configuration
(Video Card)
3DMark 99 Max - 3DMark Result
3DMark 99 Max - Rasterizer Score
3DMark 99 Max - Game 1
3DMark 99 Max - Game 2

3DMark 99 Max - Fill Rate Multi-Texturing

PII-400 (Beast 99)
3432
971
33.8
34.8
106.3
PII-400 (CL_TNT2)
3475
1418
33.6
36.0
187.6
Done @ 800 x 600 for all tests running at 16-Bit Color

Hercules Terminator Beast 99 32MB SDRAM (AGP)
CPU Configuration
(Video Card)
3DMark 99 Max - Bum Mapping 1 Pass
3DMark 99 Max - Bump Mapping 2 Pass
3DMark 99 Max - Bump Mapping 3 Pass
PII-400 (Beast 99)
99.1
55.2
58.1
PII-400 (CL_TNT2)
88.1
55.2
42.4
Done @ 800 x 600 for all tests running at 16-Bit Color

Benchmark Comments

3D Quality & Features

The 3D quality on some of the games I tested it on is passable, as in the results were nothing much to shout about. Examples of the games I tested the card with, Quake Arena, Heavy Gear, Mechwarrior 3, Tribes and Force 21. All games ran at 800x600. Comparing the side by side results of the tested games, the Beast 99's display was slightly sharper and crisper than the CL TNT 2 but once again, it wasn't enough. The games ran smoothly and game play was fluid but I had problems with the last 2 games.

The 3D Features for the Beast 99 are :

·         Single-cycle multi-texturing architecture

·         Tri-linear filtering in a single pass

·         32-bit true color rendering for unmatched 3D image quality

·         32-bit Z/Stencil buffer for increased 3D performance and real-time volumetric shadows

·         S3TC Texture Compression for up to 6x texture memory storage capacity

·         Full Microsoft® DirectX 6 Hardware support/Texture compression

·         True color rendering

·         Spectacular lighting and diffuse shading

·         True color dithering for 16-bit modes

·         Alpha blending modes

·         Multiple textures

·         Full scene anti-aliasing

·         Vertex and table fog

·         MPEG-2 video textures

·         Hardware-assisted bump mapping and anisotrophic filtering

Sprite anti-aliasing, reflection and environment mapping, texture morphing, shadows, procedural textures, and atmospheric effects.

Back to top


The Bad

The manual that came with the Beast 99 had installation instructions for 4 different cards in 2 different languages. >Sigh< I guess it saves cost and trees in the long run but I'm sure those newbies lost in the woods wouldn't think of it in that sense.

Playing games on the card was a beast (pun intended), besides Quake 3 Arena, I tried Tribes with the latest patch installed but each time I try to select it for Opengl use, Tribes kicks me back to Windows. To be fair, it could be argued that the Opengl drivers in Tribes is a bit flaky to begin with but I don't have this problem with my Spectra 2500. Not to loose heart, I installed my latest game, Force 21, on the test machine to allow the Beast 99 to regain it's hurt pride. The game started and I smiled when I saw that the graphics for Force 21 wasn't too bad and maybe the Beast wasn't as bad as I feared. Then my Comanche fired a salvo of anti-tank missiles followed by a trail squarish smoke. Hmm...

The Hercules Entertainment Center included didn't include any software DVD. It would have been really useful if Hercules had added in this feature since the Beast 99 is able to support hardware DVD playback and DVD drives are a pretty inexpensive accessory these days. Then again, not many companies include software DVD programs anyway. As for the rest of the bundled software, they are all pretty old software that will hardly be missed if left out.

Back to top


Test System Configuration

Processor(s)

Intel Pentium II-400

Ram 192MB 100MHz Hyundai 10ns SDRAM
Motherboard Microstar 6163
HardDrive(s) Quantum 6.4GB
Operating System Windows 98 (Build 4.10)
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 6.1
Video Card(s) Hercules Terminator Beast 99
Video Card Drivers Hercules Terminator Beast 99 Ver 0.62.80303

Back to top


Conclusion

The Hercules Terminator BEAST 99 is not exactly one of the cheapest video card in town, it's retail price of $209 beats the other Savage 4 offerings in cost. Also the mediocre 3D performance doesn't justify its cost and the fact that you can easily get the lowest grade Voodoo 3 2000 retail at $190 with better 3D performance or a Creative TNT2 at $145. Granted that all Savage 4 cards come with 32MB Ram and the cheaper TNT2 and all the Voodoo 3 cards don't, you can see that the performance of the Beast 99 above wasn't helped much by the increase of 16MB ram. Personally I'll give this and the other Savage 4 cards a pass and save my money for the TNT2 Ultra or the cheaper TNT2s/Voodoo 3 cards.

Back to top


VIDEO CARD RATING

Overall Rating
(Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

Installation

****

Performance

***

Price

**1/2

Software Bundle

**1/2

Material Quality

****

Overall Rating

***


Any comments/remarks/questions? Click picture below.


Back to top


This product is provided courtesy of

No part of the above is to be reproduced, copied or
modified without the permission of the WebMaster.
Copyright © 1999, Singapore Hardware Zone. All rights reserved.

Comments or suggestions, please direct to us, and check out how you can
advertise with us and target your products and service to computer buyers.

Click Here!