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Review: Voodoo3 3500 TV AGP

November 3, 1999
Web posted at: 9:21 a.m. EST (1421 GMT)

by Danny W. Lam

VooDoo Graphics Card

(IDG) -- In the PC world, "convergence" is supposed to be the Next Big Thing. After all, why buy a bunch of separate peripherals when you can get all the same functions in a single product?

3Dfx seems to have taken convergence to heart in its design for the Voodoo3 3500 TV AGP -- a 2D/3D graphics card with a host of extras.

But there's convergence... and then there's convergence done right.

The basics

The 3500 is an AGP card with a core clock speed of 183MHz, 16MB of SDRAM and a powerful 350MHz RAMDAC for sharp graphics.

Then there's the convergence: It also has a built-in TV and FM tuner. You'll be able to watch TV, edit video, and listen to FM stations on your PC.

Installing this all-in-one card took a bit more time than your standard graphics card. You plug your monitor cable into a blue "pod" adapter that connects to the monitor via a split cable, with the other end going into the 3500. The pod also supplies three RCA inputs and outputs to connect external devices like a TV, camcorder or VCR.

After everything is plugged-in snugly, the software goes through its driver setup, as well as setting up the software TV/FM tuner. All in all, a hassle free (but lengthy) process.

The tests

We ran the 3500 through our usual video tests: Futuremark's 3Dmark 99MAX, the Expendable demo v1.0, and Q3Test v1.05. We also gauged the picture quality of the card using screens of Infogrames' Slave Zero and Psygnosis' Rollcage.

Houston, we have a problem

As a 2D/3D card, the 3500 did well. In our Q3Test the 3500 scored 72.3FPS running in 640X480 while cards like the Creative Labs' 3D Blaster RIVA TNT2 Ultra registered 74.6 FPS and the Diamond Viper V770 Ultra 74.2 FPS. And that's despite specs that fall short of TNT2-based cards. (The 3500 sports only 16MB RAM and supports only AGP 2X, while others support 4X.)

We were willing to overlook these shortcomings because it performed on par with the excellent TNT2 Ultras. But anyone picking up this card is really looking beyond the 2D/3D performance. After all, if you're paying $200-plus for special features, you should expect those features to perform.

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They didn't.

While the minimum system requirements on this card is a meager PII 266MHz, 3Dfx recommends a 500MHz computer for "optimum capture performance." We accommodated, but the results were dismal.

While the TV/FM tuner worked well (picture quality on the TV tuner was acceptable when we expanded the viewable area), the video capture was horrendous. Audio didn't synchronize correctly with the video upon playback and the choppiness was more than we could bear.

Choices, choices...

A wide selection of video cards is available in the sub-$200 price range these days. We found the excellent Diamond Viper V770 Ultra for $145 and the equally impressive 3D Blaster RIVA TNT2 Ultra for $161.

You could pick up an ATi Rage Fury for $120 and slip in the add-on TV Wonder for an additional $60 for TV capabilities. Finally, Matrox ups the convergence ante with the Marvel G400, the TV tuner version of its snazzy G400 card.

But we'll have to pass on this 3500 card.

What we like: 3D performance, lifetime warranty, TV/FM tuner

What needs work: Pricey, horrid MPEG capture/playback, outrageous recommended specs

Overall: 2.5

What it's got:

  • AGP 2X support
  • 183MHz core clock
  • 350MHz RAMDAC
  • 16MB SDRAM (5.5ns)
  • Integrated TV/FM tuners
  • DVD support
  • Bundled software
  • Lifetime Warranty

Manufacturer: 3Dfx

System Requirements: 266MHz, 16MB RAM, AGP port

Street: $210.00

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