First post, by RichB93
Following my previous thread in which I asked for feedback on how to get this thing working (before then resolving the issue minutes later; sods law), I thought I’d make this as a resource for anyone who finds one of these.
This card is known for being the fastest Voodoo Banshee out there, with stock core clocks 10MHz above the normal 100MHz, and the RAM running at an impressive 129MHz, alongside the tighter RAM timings compared to the stock BIOS. All in all a nice little card, if not now outclassed by the Voodoo3 in pretty much every conceivable way. That being said however, it’s still a fine card, providing Glide compatibility, and you can find them cheaper than a Voodoo3 too. It’s a good fit for a Pentium II as well, with a Voodoo3 being more suited to a Pentium III imho. The only real downside to these cards is that they run seriously toasty. I know this holds true for the Voodoo3 too, but I think these might just top them in RoastyToastyMarks™. Despite the fact that these are designed to run with just a heatsink, I highly recommend popping a fan on them.
Ironically, this was the untested card that I won on eBay - the other Banshee I ordered alongside it was a ELSA Victory II which, despite being tested OK by the seller, must’ve been damaged in shipping, I suspect by static damage as the card has bad RAM. Thankfully the seller understood and kindly refunded me, so I'm grateful that there are still good people out there!
Back to the GA-630, I received it without a fan installed and assumed that it took a 5V fan. This is wrong. The fan connector on the card is for a 12V fan, so if you happen to get one of these without a fan, take note.
Even with the fan installed however, this is one hot card, unsurprising given the fact that it’s clocked higher than the stock card, and has a dinky thin heatsink, designed to be thin with a fan installed. I’d personally recommend also attaching a 40x40x10mm heatsink to the back too, which will also draw a considerable about of heat away from the chip. This heatsink too also gets very hot to the touch, even with the main fan not helping - on my card I have a fan on both heatsinks… yes, I know the card is *designed* to run hot, but for peace of mind mine is well cooled.
BIOS settings - When I received the card, it appeared to work, but before the drivers were installed I’d see corruption in Windows - not reassuring at all. Once the drivers were installed all appeared to be OK however. That was until I tried to use a Direct3D game. Glide games were fine, but D3D games would lock the system. After plenty of faffing around, I found that increasing the AGP aperture was the key to fixing this issue; odd, considering the card doesn’t make use of the aperture at all as far as I’m aware. So I really have no idea why this worked for me. Maybe it’s just a quirk of my board (A SUPER P6SLA).
Drivers - This card, like other Banshees, came with customised drivers throughout its life. It will of course work with reference drivers, but don’t expect Windows to pick them up; you’ll have to force the installation due to the subsystem ID on the card. Gigabyte still have the latest 1.04.00 drivers (the last released by 3DFX) on their website, although these are nothing more than the reference drivers with the subsystem ID’s changed in the INF, as well as the manufacturer name. The 3dfx property page doesn’t work either. I’d personally recommend using the earlier 1.03.02 drivers, as these are faster in 3DMark *and* you get the classic (and imo better) 3DFX splash logo. Plus the earlier drivers are fully customised, with the property sheet working too.
Memory - throughout my testing, I’d very occasionally see purple or green dots invade textures, especially at high resolutions. I was disheartened because after all of the hard work and testing that I put into this card, I was afraid that the card was toast. If you see this too, all is not lost. The problem is simple; Gigabyte sold this card pre overclocked! The RAM is only specified for 125MHz (8ns), so by running it at 129MHz, they were pushing the limits, and indeed, this was just a bit too far for the particular chips on my card. By using PowerStrip, I ran a number of benchmarks, backing the speed down until the corruption disappeared. For me, my particular magic number was 127MHz, still a healthy boost over the stock clocks, and a couple of MHz over the rated speed of the RAM too, so I’m happy. What’s more, I lost a mere 3~4 3D marks, which is a fair trade off. Having successfully tested the new speeds with PowerStrip, I then used the TDFX BIOS editor to make the closest change I was comfortable with, which ended up at 126.477MHz. I could possibly get it closer to 127MHz by changing the PLL divider, but I didn’t want to deviate too much from what the original BIOS specified. If anyone else has this issue and would like a copy of my modified BIOS (which also fixes the typo on the boot screen!), just let me know and I’ll post it here.
With the change in place, the card is artifact free and works brilliantly, and the final 3Dmark 2000 score is the same as the test at 127MHz (963 3D marks in 3DMark 2000, 2669 3D marks in 3dMark 99 Max). Still, I have some heatsinks for the RAM on the way which I’m tempted to install on the card. We will see.
I’ve no idea how common these cards are but I’m certainly pleased with mine. If anyone would like any benchmarks in particular, do let me know, although as mentioned mine is no longer really ‘stock’ clocks. It sure is odd seeing what is essentially a 1 TMU Voodoo 2 running at 1600x1200…