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Hercules 3D Prophet III
on NVIDIA GeForce3

September 24, 2001



There are a lot of materials of the middle of 1999 where the famous Hercules Dynamite TNT2 Ultra is much spoken about. But on the one hand, this card takes the lead among accelerators of those days (1999). On the other hand, sellers of these cards had enormous problems with irregularity of supplies and too high prices for Hercules production.

But why 1999? Because today, in autumn of 2001, we celebrate the second birthday of Hercules rebirth. Hercules which was a pioneer in development of video subsystems for PC computers ceased to exist two years ago. And this poor video card on the Riva TNT2 Ultra was the last straw in such an irresponsible management which resulted in the bankruptcy of that giant.

Yet in 1998 such a brilliant company as Hercules Computer failed to manage its business, the deliveries weren't in time, the paid-up goods were in 5-6 (!!!) month delay! Nevertheless, this company was always proud of its products. And the new product on the Riva TNT2 Ultra announced in spring 1999 delighted many. That Hercules card had an excellent design and worked at higher than rated frequencies! But the cost of that wasn't little. When a company uses selected components, there is a problem of what to do with the rest. The Riva TNT2 Ultra chips were to be carefully selected to provide Ultras with those which worked flawlessly at 175 MHz (not at the rated 150 MHz). Thus the company had a lot of Riva TNT2 based cards when the Ultras were in great demand and Hercules couldn't manage supplies. At last, the company decided to sell unpopular goods as obligatory supplements of goods in increased demand.

But those measures didn't help the company to survive. Hercules went into bankruptcy. A month later Guillemot, a French company, purchased the remains of Hercules (it was, in fact, an office in the USA and trade marks) at an absurd price. Besides, the company also acquired the marketing outlets of Hercules in the USA. And since that time all Guillemot produced video cards have been released under the Hercules trade mark. It was the rebirth of the company, but now as a department of Gullemot.

Of course, such marks as Dynamite and Terminator disappeared as Guillemot had it own one Prophet, that is why the card from new Hercules were marked as 3D Prophet. Earlier we examined some cards from this series. The family based on NVIDIA graphics processors was named 3D Prophet II, Prophet II Pro etc. (the cards, therefore, were based on GeForce2 GTS, GeForce2 Pro etc.).With the release of the GeForce3 we acquired the 3D Prophet III card.

Before we turn to the card in question I should remind you that the whole theoretical base connected with this GPU is concentrated in the following articles (here you can also learn the peculiarities of certain cards and find out how they operate in the latest benchmark tests).

In the ABIT Siluro GF3 VIO review we studied operation of the new driver from NVIDIA - Detonator XP (v21.81 for Windows 9x/ME). Today I will concern problems of 3D quality which can arise with this version in use.

Now let's turn to the Hercules 3D Prophet III.

Card

The Hercules 3D Prophet III has AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right side of the PCB.

EliteMT produces memory chips with 3.8 ns access time, which corresponds to 260 (520) MHz. Like all other GPU GeForce3 cards, this one works at 200/230 (460) MHz. The memory modules are covered with heatsinks that is why it is impossible to look at them.

This card is based on the reference card from NVIDIA (look at the photo below).

On the left you can see the Hercules 3D Prophet III, and on the right is the reference NVIDIA GeForce3 (represented by the ELSA Gladiac 920). You see that Hercules doesn't deviate from the reference design.

The difference consists in the PCB color (it is traditionally sky-blue) and in a cooler construction. Here we has a Thermaltake's device for cooling the memory and the chipset:

This device consists of highly effective pinned heatsinks which are glued to the memory chips and a Blue Orb cooler.

Above all, the Hercules 3D Prophet III card is equipped with TV-out and DVI.

The card ships in a Retail package which includes:

  • User Manual;
  • CD with software and utilities;
  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter.

Overclocking

Being cooled, the Hercules 3D Prophet III card reached 250/280 (560) MHz.

Note:

  • in course of overclocking you must provide additional cooling, in particular, for the card (first of all, for its memory);
  • overclocking depends on the definite sample, and you shouldn't generalize the results of one card to all video cards of this mark or series. The overclocking results are not the obligatory characteristics of a video card.

Installation and drivers

Test system:

  • Athlon based system:
    • AMD Athlon 1200 (133*9);
    • Chaintech 7KJD (AMD760);
    • 512 MBytes DDR SDRAM PC2100;
    • IBM DTLA 45 GBytes HDD;
    • Windows 98 SE;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors.

During the tests we used NVIDIA drivers of v21.81, VSync was off, the S3TC technology was enabled.

For the comparative analyses we used the ABIT Siluro GF3 VIO (GeForce3, 200/230 (460) MHz, 64 MBytes).

Test results

Let's start with 2D. It was already much spoken about, that is why for the detailed information see the MSI GeForce3 card (VIVO) review.

For estimation of 3D quality we used the id Software Quake3 v.1.17 a game test which demonstrates operation of a card in OpenGL with a standard demo benchmark demo002.

Quake3 Arena

demo002, standard modes

The tests were carried out in two modes: Fast (16-bit color) and High Quality (32-bit color).

This brief test shows that the Hercules 3D Prophet III doesn't fall behind its competitors.

Max Payne

When I examined the new Detonator XP in the ABIT Siluro GF2 VIO review I found out that a good performance was coupled with worse 3D quality. First of all, this concerns 3DMark2001. The Max Payne game is based on the same engine, so I checked the quality with the v21.81 drivers.

V. 14.61

V. 21.81

Both 3DMark2001 and Max Payne feature fog problems. The haze has disappeared after we installed v 21.81, but its greenish shade unpleasantly covers some objects. It is interesting that such unpleasant effects take place only in a number of games. I remember the bugs in the Mercedes Benz Track Racing caused by the new drivers from v10.*, and they were cured by a release of a new patch for the game. That is why I doubt the next versions of the Detonator XP will fix the bugs. NVIDIA acknowledges that the new driver has a lot of imperfections and the company will do its best to fix them. But it is unclear whether these fixes will concern the above mentioned bugs.

In closing, I'd like to advise you to read also other reviews of GeForce3 based video cards. Besides, in our 3Digest you can find thorough information on the 3D performance of GeForce3 cards on different platforms.

Conclusion

The Hercules 3D Prophet III was rumored and gossiped a lot. For a certain time these cards disappeared from the market, and NVIDIA and Guillemot were said to break their relations. But later both companies exchanged compliments and the situation changed for the better.

The complete characteristics of video cards of this and other classes can be found in our 3Digest.

Highs:

  • Excellent performance in 3D graphics, primarily in the 32-bit color;
  • High quality of the card;
  • Effective cooling device.

Lows:

  • Not widely available.

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