iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






September'2001 3Digest - Single VSA-100 (3dfx Voodoo4 4500)

By Andrew Worobyew

This chip is presented by 3dfx Voodoo4 4500 32 MBytes, AGP videocard.


  • 3dfx VSA 100 chip, 166 MHz clock rate;
  • 32 MBytes SDRAM memory in four Hyundai 6ns microchips, 166 MHz clock rate, 128-bit bus;
  • Peak speed of scene drawing in multitexturing mode is 166 megapixels/sec and 333 megatexels/sec.

Overclocks to 188/188 MHz (see summary diagrams).

For the 20th of September'2001 the latest drivers version from OmegaDrive is 1.02a and from Iceman is 1.07.01.

To all appearances there will not be any drivers support from ex-3dfx from now on. This verifies the moral death of the whole Voodoo3/4/5 line. The analysis of tweaked drivers from various enthusiasts has shown the absense of anything new, except for just few.

Due to the fact that these cards cost less than $120 now, new drivers were tested on PIII-600 MHz testbed instead of PIII-1000 MHz, below are some screenshots to estimate previous drivers.

And here are latest drivers results:

Speaking about drivers from x-3dfx, I shall mark that they turned out to be rather good and sometimes even more productive than 1.07.00 from 3dfx, therefore we used them for calculating usability coefficients. But WickedGL 3.00 mini-driver wasn't good.

There's some criticism about 3D quality. It shows up on both single and several chip variants. Voodoo4 4500 lacks only hardware FSAA due to a single chip. There's 2x FSAA support in drivers for this videocard, but it can remain undemanded due to low speed of the card.

You can compare screenshots taken on this card with reference ones taken on NVIDIA GeForce3.

Games / Cards 1 2 3 4 5 6
3dfx Voodoo4 4500

Games / Cards 7 8 9 10 11 12
3dfx Voodoo4 4500

Games / Cards 13 14 15 16 17 18
3dfx Voodoo4 4500

Games / Cards 19 20 21 22 23 24
3dfx Voodoo4 4500
Games / Cards
3dfx Voodoo4 4500

Game list:

  • 1. Quake3
  • 2. Unreal
  • 3. Unreal Tournament
  • 4. No One Lives Forever
  • 5. Serious Sam
  • 6. Colin McRAE Rally2
  • 7. American McGee's Alice
  • 8. Mercedes Benz Truck Racing
  • 9. Sacrifice
  • 10. F.A.K.K. 2
  • 11. Need For Speed V (Porshe 2000)
  • 12. Real MYST
  • 13. Blade of Darkness
  • 14. Giants
  • 15. 3DMark2001: Game1
  • 16. 3DMark2001: Game2
  • 17. 3DMark2001: Game3
  • 18. 3DMark2001: Game4
  • 19. 3DMark2001: Dot3
  • 20. 3DMark2001: EMBM
  • 21. 3DMark2001: Vertex Shaders
  • 22. 3DMark2001: Pixel Shaders
  • 23. Black & White
  • 24. Undying
  • 25. Anachronox
  • 26. Max Payne

I must note the fact of absence of true trilinear filtering, that was officially confirmed by 3dfx. In the articles about 3dfx Voodoo3 2000/3000, I have already noted that trilinear filtering has disappeared in drivers from 3dfx.

You can see a proof of this in Quake3 with the help of r_colorMIPLevels "1":

NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS shot is to the left, 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 - to the right, Voodoo4 4500 produces the same.

So we must state that 3dfx Voodoo4-5 cards don't support trilinear and anisotropic filtering. But there are some positive moments like the appearance of correct approximation in 1.07.02 version from Iceman. It doesn't differ much from real trilinear filtering, and doesn't cause perfomance falloffs.

Let's take a look at LOD Bias settings. It is set to 0 by default. Let's observe what happens after setting it to boundary (-2,+2) and to medium (-1,+1) positions.

LOD Bias = -2

LOD Bias = -1

LOD Bias = 0

LOD Bias = 1

LOD Bias = 2

As you can see, the best is something about -0.5. But you'll have to do such operations for every other game and that's not good. In addition, it's hard to get a good detail level along with good scene geometry on Voodoo4-5. Here's GeForce2 with LOD Bias set by default:

Above is Unreal (Direct3D) on NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS with trilinear filtering enabled. Below is the same but with Glide on 3dfx Voodoo4 4500 with default settings:

LOD Bias is lowered and it spoils the floor. It changes to better only with LOD Bias +2, but this spoils walls:

To the left is 3dfx Voodoo4 4500, to the right - NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS.

Picture quality of 3dfx Voodoo4 4500 is good enough though this card works bad with some new games.

I want to note that there's a hidden feature in 1.04.01 drivers (and newer) concerning HSR (Hidden Surface Remove) technology that deletes some hidden surfaces in the game to free the GPU, but as there's no hardware support for this feature, this is done by the drivers and CPU.

This feature seems to work (unlike Voodoo3), but how? Here are some diagrams of perfomance boost in percentage with HSR set to various levels:

See that boost? It rules. But don't hurry to switch this feature on. Let's look at quality with HSR enabled:

Aggressive Tiling: Semi-Aggressive Tiling:

Non-Aggressive Tiling: Conservative Tiling:

I shall say that only Conservative level is good enough, higher levels spoil the picture. But even 27% boost is very good. Still HSR works only with OpenGL, i.e. Unreal has no reaction for it and Direct3D has no such feature at all.

2D quality is just perfect, and it stands on NVIDIA GeForce2 level. You can observe a very clear picture in 1600x1200 resolution.

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