First post, by Ozzuneoj
Recently I was given a bunch of older PC hardware, and this card was one of the very few internal components in the lot. It's a bit of an odd looking card, and I assumed right off the bat that it was some kind of Permedia or other pro\workstation type card. I think I was getting Appian confused with Accelgraphics to be honest. With so little info out there about this card, I figured I'd do a short write-up.
Today I was testing some cards and decided to throw this one in. It took a bit of digging online but I was able to locate some drivers for the "Appian Gemini PCI". The driver packages posted on DriverGuide were a bit oddly named, so I downloaded both. The filename for one seems to suggest Windows 2k\NT support, where as the other seems to be for 9x. I'm not 100% sure if this is accurate however, so if you feel like experimenting, try either. I renamed the files to identify them a bit better, and I've attached them to this post, in case anyone wants to upload them to the Vogons Driver Library. The 9x driver worked fine in Windows 98SE... but with some caveats.
Normally I opt for drivers from chipset makers for cards from this time period, since they tended to support them longer than the card makers did. There isn't a lot of info online about this card but I found this wiki page which stated that it, surprisingly, used a Savage MX with 16MB of SGRAM. The Savage MX\IX driver package available here worked fine... also with some caveats.
Appian Gemini Driver: I couldn't get games to work in hardware accelerated mode (tested JK: Mysteries of the Sith demo from a 1998 PC Gamer CD), and even in software mode things were glitchy and seemed to be prone to crashing. Seemed to work okay on the desktop with the screen extended to a second monitor. I did get a discolored "ghost" line on the primary display though, as if it was a shadow of the other display. When dragging windows from one display to the other there is a slowdown as it is displayed on both screens. Definitely not a perfect multi-monitor setup. I also had to edit the registry to reveal 1280x1024x32, or else the highest it would go is 1280x1024x16. Once edited, it worked as expected, but I did experience one crash while opening a Window. For some reason, there seem to be no settings added to the display properties in Windows 9x with this driver. Overall, I don't recommend using these, but they do seem to basically work for desktop stuff.
S3 Savage MX (Final) Driver: Multimonitor support seemed to be broken. If you try it, make sure to hit esc right away if it doesn't work... I waited too long and then had to blindly click and drag the display properties back from a blank monitor to the secondary to get it back. Rebooting didn't even fix it... oops! Most likely Appian used their fancy Hydravision tech (which ATi later used after buying them out) to make multi-monitor work for this card and the generic drivers don't like it. Thankfully, games seemed to work much better with these drivers. Performance wise, don't expect a lot from later games (1999 or newer). Descent 3 worked in D3D but performance was pretty weak at 1024x768 or 800x600 and there was a lot of chunky looking dithering. OpenGL was a slideshow, so there is probably a driver bug there. MotS ran fine, though not buttery smooth, but due to the large frame buffer I could play it at 1280x1024x16. Hopefully, titles that use S3Metal are a bit better, but overall I wouldn't say this is a top tier gaming card by any means, but it does seem like S3 was able to at least get Savage MX cards work on some level by 2001 when they stopped updating the drivers. 😀 One thing of note, when S3 Tweak was running, games tended to just display a black screen at startup, so I think some setting in that application isn't agreeing with the games I tried.
Interestingly, since this is a laptop video chip, it barely even gets above room temperature with no air blowing over the heatsink. I left it running Descent 3 for 30 minutes and it was only slightly warm. I'm amazed they even bothered with a heatsink at all. What a difference from other cards available at the time!
I highly recommend using the S3 driver from the Vogons page above, unless you absolutely want multi monitor support and zero configuration settings. I'm not sure how compatible it is in a variety of 3D games, and the multi-monitor support is pretty sketchy (the top VGA port is always the primary display, and it's the only one that works before the driver is loaded), but this is my first experience with a Savage MX overall I'd say it was positive. Obviously, being from 1999 this thing is no match for 3dfx or nvidia cards of the time (TNT1 or Banshee are likely both much faster and more compatible), but for a workstation focused card running on S3's infamous drivers it does a respectable, if unimpressive, job in the 1997-1999 games I tried, has excellent 2D image quality, runs super cool and the S3 Tweak program (included with the S3 package above) has lots of really interesting options. Also, for what it's worth, the clock speeds listed for the Savage MX online are all blank, but on this card the S3 Tweak overclocking page showed the clock speed as 100Mhz. I didn't try overclocking it... but with such a cool running card, I wonder if it could handle a bit more juice? 😁
Also, take a look at the back of the PCB. They actually put a Gemini constellation in the PCB. I'm a sucker for screen printing and stuff like that on boards, so I think that's neat. 😁
Now for some blitting from the back buffer.