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Diamond Viper II

Company: S3 / Diamond
Product:
Viper II Z200
Street Price: ~$130 + S&H
Date Reviewed: September 4, 2000
Reviewed By: TySoft
Reviewer's Specs: Abit KA7 / Tbird 700 @ 1ghz / WinMe & Win2k

Installation

I was overjoyed when I received my new Viper II in a FedEx box. It sports S3's Savage 2000 Z200 chipset. The first thing I did, of course, was remove my 3dfx Voodoo3 3000 from my AGP slot. I proceed to set the AGP 4x jumpers and slap the card in. I turn my machine on. No post. Beep codes say it is not detecting my video card. Not good. However, before I received the card for review I found a BIOS update for the card itself that fixes bugs with the VIA KX133 and KT133 chipset. I am very happy I have another non KX133/KT133 system here, so I swap the card into that machine. It boots fine, I immediately flash the card's BIOS to the latest version. I then proceed to put the Viper II back in my Abit KA7 machine. Turn it on, the big moment… It posted! It boots into WinMe fine, and prompts me for the drivers. I then proceeded to install the drivers from S3's website. The ones included on the CD are known to be… well, garbage.

 

Configuration

The first thing I check out is the display properties options of this card. The major thing that was interesting is the fact that when you run any 3d application or game, it will allow you to create a separate profile for that game. In my screenshot to the left you can see that I have Half-Life selected. It has a toggle to enable T&L (Transform and Lighting) on and off. However, turning this option on creates graphical artifacts. The press papers say it supports FSAA (Full Scene Anti Aliasing.) However, the current drivers, in fact, do not support this option. It also lists this on the box which can be misleading. The Viper II's software also supports gamma adjustment for any game individually. You can see the gamma adjustment in the screen shot to the right. One thing that I noticed on my test machine - the drivers do not support DirectX 8 Beta, they constantly lock up in the display properties options and do not allow you to play any games without a lockup.

 

Visual Quality

2D performance was very crisp and sharp in all resolutions. However, the 2D seemed a little laggy in certain applications, mainly FrontPage, Dreamweaver, and Excel. The 2D in Age of Empires II and Starcraft ran flawlessly. 3D quality is simply amazing in Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament.

Quake 3 utilizes S3TC. S3TC is S3's Texture Compression which results in a very high quality 3D image. Included on the Viper II CD is a special set of Quake 3 levels that are optimized for the Viper II. Although it may be hard to get a game going online with these levels, with all the eye candy cranked up the graphics are incredible.

Unreal Tournament makes use of S3TC as well, by way of the second CD. UT also utilizes S3's own API, MeTaL. This combination provides unreal game play and graphics. I cannot stress enough how enjoyable it is to play Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament with the Viper II. Any true hardware fans should experience this first hand for themselves. It's that amazing.

 

Benchmarks

A 1.7fps increase isn't anything super. Yet AGP 4x does make a little difference.

 

There wasn't much of any change here on UTBench. These were done at 800x600x32.

 

 

Conclusion:

Pros: Good price, Geforce SDR performance. S3TC looks really nice.

Cons: Patchy driver support, requires a BIOS update for some VIA chipsets.

Overall: I feel that this card is a very good deal for the price. If you have a KX/KT133 board you will require access to another machine to flash it and get it stable and/or boot. If your on a budget and looking for a decent card, consider the Diamond Viper II.

Rating: 8/10.

 

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