Singapore Hardware Zone!

Diamond Viper 770 TNT2 Ultra 32MB AGP Review
Reviewed by Alan Kuik (9 August 99)


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

- Other video cards reviews



You will never miss a Diamond Product. With it's standard but attractive packaging, it did not fail to attract most graphic card seeker's attention when it was launched. Being one of the first few graphic cards to make use of the much hyped NVidia's RivaTNT2 Ultra core, it was a card that I had longed for to review. Would it be faster or at least comparable to the ultimate Spectra 5400? Or would it just be another TNT2 ultra card out there?? The answer lies in this review as I set forth to test out this fine card made by Diamond Multimedia System.When diamond V770 came out into the market, there were not much competitors to compare it with. The fact that there were no other TNT2s out there coupled with the immaturity of the Voodoo3 drivers made Diamond V770 on everybody's wish list. (*that is before they heard of Spectra probably*)

From Diamond's perspective, the V770 was thrust into the position of the company's graphics flagship. 3dfx left Diamond, along with a handful of other companies in the cold as they merged with STB. Diamond isn't any better off now that 3dfx has left their Voodoo3 wishes unfulfilled. Diamond's primary goal here is to make sure that they aren't any worse off without the backing of 3dfx's high powered chips. This obviously puts a lot of pressure on NVidia to succeed, and ultimately inspired NVidia to drop the originally speculated clock speed of the TNT2 Ultra down to 150MHz for the core frequency and 183MHz for the memory frequency. Diamond has however, willingly changed the specs on their two TNT2 based cards to reflect the changes. The top of the line Viper V770 Ultra card now weighing in at a 150MHz core setting with 32MB of 183MHz SDRAM.

With the card now selling at Sim Lim Square in Singapore for slightly less than SGD$400, it definitely makes it in the more reachable hands than the coveted Spectra 5400 which is still at a high tag of $520!!!. Bundled with several game titles like EASports' SuperBike, Need For Speed III, this is surely a card not to be left out in any reviews site.


 

Video Card Specifications

Bus Type
AGP 4x (AGP1x/2x compatible)
Controller
nVidia Riva TNT2 Ultra
Ram
32MB SDRAM
Data Path
True 128 bit
RAMDAC
300 Mhz
Video Playback
MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Multitap X Y Scaling & filtering, color space conversion
Supported Resolutions
640 x 480 - 2048 x 1536
Supported Refresh Rates
60 - 200Hz

These are the contents of the package: These are the contents of the package:   Software & Drivers included
  • (1) Diamond Viper V770 Ultra card
  • (1) Installation guide
  • (1) Diamond Installation CD
 
  • Superbike World Championship from EA
  • Wild Metal Country from Gremlin Interactive
  • Diamond InControl Tools 99
  • Fremont SE by Portola Dimensional Systems
  • Zoran SoftDVD
  • CrystalGraphics 3D Sensations for presentations
  • Need For Speed III

Back to top


The Good

The Video-Card Inspection section

As I ripped open the bright red packaging, (pardon me if I am wrong about the color, I'm color blind), what i saw was a card of excellent made quality. Compared to the previous Gigabyte GA660 that I just reviewed, the card looks and feels more solid. It is not of NVidia's reference design TNT2 and by that, brings about a few new pathways that can be beneficial to us, consumers, in the end.

click to enlarge

 

As we can see from the picture, the board is cleanly designed, typical of other Diamond products. The board I received was with sixteen 2MB EliteMT 505nb 183MHz SDram chips, divided into 2 groups of 8 chips, one on each side of the board. As with all TNT2 ultra boards, the V770 ultra features an active heatsink/fan combo designed to keep the temperature from boiling.

However, it is strange for the card not to come with TV-out port or any features covering digital flat panel. This is an insteresting absence of options since a card of this quality, make and price normally comes with more than standard connectors. However, since TV-out and digital panel ports are not really sought after items in the local context, it makes no difference to making a decision on whether to throw in a couple of hundred dollars to get this baby.


The Installation, Driver features and Programs

Installation of today's modern graphic cards are chicken-feet to most of us since 90% of them come with almost automated installation or idiot-proof manuals. In the Diamond V770 ultra's case, things were still the same. Bundled with diamond's InControls 00 software, configuration is easy and straight forward. In fact, this is one of the easist installation steps that i have done compared to other numerous graphic cards. (good news for those amatuers who want to do their own upgrade)

Here are some Screen captures that you will see.

 

The inclusion of InControls 99 means that one can easily overclock a TNT2 card without fiddling with messy jumpers or dip switches or whatever. Diamond obviously realised that one might try to use their software on another manufactuer's card. To prevent this from happening, Diamond took extra steps to make sure that the software works only with V770ultra card. It would be extremely disappointing if there was no way of overclocking this card and therefore, although clocked at a default of 150/183, you can use InControl Tools 99 driver utility to push the board to its limits.

This is done so by having 5 different boost levels for each 3D application or game. Upeon launching of the application / game, a profile will be created within Diamonds utility. By choosing the different Boost Levels for each program, you can allow your card to have an easier time when you are doing non-graphic intensive application.

Why would a feature like that be provided and not a standard clock for all programs? After some thoughts, here are my views. Overclocking can be a tricky thing to do sometimes. Running the board at 175/183 may work in Quake2 but not in another game. The truth is that some games tend to tax the system in different ways. This depends partly on the engine design and having a feature that allows you to create a profile for each game means not having to re-clock your card everytime you start a new game.

However, one problem you might face in the long run is that when you have too many games and applications installed, it might seem confusing to have so many profiles, one for each. Reconfiguring the card to work at normal speed might have to be done to each profile. Well, there are pros and cons....

Before I carry on, let's look at the core and memory clock of the 5 different boost levels.

 
Core Frequency (in MHz)
Memory Frequency (in MHz)
Base Level
150
183
Boost 1
155
183
Boost 2
160
183
Boost 3
165
183
Boost 4
170
183
Boost 5
175
183

 

Back to top


3D Quality & Features

Have a look at the below selected screenshots taken by 3D-Mark99 test suite for comparisons (to view in full size, click on pictures):

Viper 770 ultra 3DMark99
Reference Shots
Comments
Game-1

Picture quality was near perfect except that it wasn't really as smooth as i expected it to be.
Game-2

Not much noticable difference in Picture production compared to the reference picture.

Back to top



The Benchmarks

Benchmarking was of course done on Windows98. Soon to come, i might try to get other cards to work on OSs like Redhat 6.0 if possible. Meanwhile, the results were captured below with some screen captures . Enjoy!

Final Reality Benchmark results:
Performance difference on DiamondV770 ultra matched with Voodoo3 2000 [ Click to enlarge ]

V770 Final Reality Performance

Category
Score (rips)
Reality Marks
Radial Blur
31.12
4.305
Chaos Zoomer
49.99
2.429
25 Pixel
94.97
3.035
Robots
34.19
8.858
Fillrate
178.86Mpps
38.714
City Scene
44.53
11.048
Video Card Bus Transfer
40.89Mbps
1.302
Direct3D Bus Transfer
38.86Mbps
3.321
Overall 3D
4.112 Reality Marks
Overall 2D
3.367 Reality Marks
Overall Bus Rate
1.908 Reality Marks
Overall Score
3.558 Reality Marks

V770 3D Mark99 Overall Score

All tests were ran at base level boost. This is because the test system is a Socket 7 mobo AMD K6-2 350 and therefore, there's not much i can squeeze out of the board then what it is giving now. however, surprisingly, it's 2D performance seems to be weak. This seems to be the case over all TNT2's, compared to the 128ZX chipset which could churn out faster frame rates in 2D. Overall score leaves Voodoo3 eating the dust, considering the fact that this was only at Base level, 150/183.

Here is a screenshot of Superbike @ 800 * 600 (notice the clear details even down to the rider)

Back to top


The Bad

On the whole, the Viper V770 did not disappoint. The packaged games do come in handy for me but does not make an effect locally since most people go down to SLS for hardware and half of them go there for pirated games too. However, it's always nice to have some freebies when your purchase is worth 8 pieces of $50 notes. Priced at close to $400, it's performance has yet to be fully discovered .(boost level 5 with higher memory clock) The lack of TV-out jacks seems weird for a card of this make. Simplicity does the job and that's what Diamond must be thinking of.

Back to top


Test System Configuration

Processor(s) AMD K6-2 350 w/ 3D-Now!
Ram 64MB 100MHz Hyundai 8ns SDRAM Dimm
Motherboard FIC VA503+ MVP3 w 1mb cache
HardDrive(s) Quantum CR 8.4GB 5400rpm
Operating System MS Windows 98 Build 4.10.1998
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 6.1
Other software used Final reality, 3d Mark99 Max
Video Card(s) Diamond Viper V770 Ultra TNT2
Video Card Drivers Diamond V770 drivers included in CD

Back to top


Conclusion

Finally it's over. The Legend of Diamond Multimedia has continued and they have produced yet another card with astonishing performance. Performance and User-friendly configuration won my heart. What it means is that, A diamond product will never be a wrong choice. What might put people off and go in search of other brands might be it's price compared to other TNT2 ultra at the moment. e.g. Creative's TNT2 Ultra is $60 cheaper. Still a good buy, it's main attraction will be that, it's a Diamond Product, and because of it's ease of use. the extra money you fork out will not leave you regretting. It's worth every cent that you pay.

Back to top


VIDEO CARD RATING

Overall Rating
(Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

Installation *****
Performance ****
Price *****
Software Bundle ***
Material Quality ****
Overall Rating ****


Back to top


This Product is provided courtesy of,

Copyright 1999 by Singapore Hardware Zone. All rights reserved.

None of the above shall be reproduced, copied and/or
modified without the permission of the WebMaster.