VOGONS


First post, by damjank

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Hello to everybody!

I am newly registered but I follow this site for like, very long. In any case, I just wanted to state, that I enjoy reading through this site with passion!

Well, I wanted you to ask since I have been looking at tests and comparisons (well not direct) and opinions for so long, that I cannot decide anymore so - I am putting it out here. I have a lot of cards in option to purchase, but I cannot decide. Let me remind you, this is for DOS (6.22) and some Windows 95 - no Windows 98 or anything else here. It will be used for gaming and nothing else. The list:

  • Diamond Multimedia Stealth64 Video S3 Vision968 4MB VRAM PCI Trio64
  • ATI Graphics Pro Turbo PCI Grafikkarte (ATI Mach64GX, 2+2MB, 4MB, EXM255, 1996)
  • Chaintech GP-5446 PCI Grafikkarte (Cirrus Logic CL-GD5446, 2MB, 1996)
  • ELSA Winner 3000-L PCI Grafikkarte (S3 ViRGE/VX, 86C988, 2MB + 4MB, 1996)
  • AOpen PT70 PCI Grafikkarte (S3 ViRGE/DX, 86C275, 4MB, 1997)
  • SPEA Mirage P64 PCI Grafikkarte (S3 Trio64, 86C764, 2MB, 1995)
  • Gainward Cardex Genesis EV PCI Grafikkarte (S3 Trio64V+, 4MB, 1996, OVP)
  • Fastware S3 Virge DX 4mb PCI VGA VC963C-3D
  • S3 Virge DX 4Mb

I know the list is extensive - but - reading trough forums I see that there is stability, speed, compatibility and other things in question to consider. In any case, I will take pointers, decisions or anything else to achieve decision what to put in. Oh, alsmot forgot - I will be putting this into AT system, a Chaintech Socket 7 mobo together with 233MMX.

Thank you in advance for anything you might post!
Talk to you,
rgD

Reply 1 of 21, by mkarcher

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To shorten your list: Your S3 cards go into 2 buckets: The pre-ViRGE cards, with the Trio64/V+ being top of the line, and the ViRGE-based cards with the ViRGE/DX being top of the line. The advantage of VRAM on the ViRGE/VX is mostly academic. As long as you don't have niche applications or care about specific cards/chips for sentimental value, you are down to the Gainward Cardex Genesis EV or the AOpen PT70 for S3 chips. You will be able to get Windows 3.1 drivers for the Trio cards, but not for the ViRGE cards.

I leave definitive comparison of the non-S3 cards to the S3 cards to other posters. My intuition would rate the remaining card from worst to best as CL-GD5446, Trio64/V+, Virge/DX, ATI Mach64GX. If you want 3D accelleration, though, the only choice is the ViRGE family.

Reply 2 of 21, by damjank

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Wow thx for the reply @mkarcher! I really appreciate that insight!

So - in short, without discussing S3 - noS3 - if I go with S3 way, I should get Gainward as I have no desire for 3D (read ahead for this) or if I go the other way, I should go with ATI Mach64 --right? So anyone has a particular pro S3 or pro Mach64 suggestion? As I said, no graphical work will be done here (as far as I have intentions), only games in DOS and maybe Windows 95 up most.

For the 3d part, if I decide to go with it (since most of the bottleneck will be 233MMX), it will be 3dfx Voodoo 2 in SLI.

Reply 3 of 21, by mkarcher

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The framebuffer part of the ViRGE is a direct successor identical to the framebuffer part of the Trio, and is slightly faster. This is especially due to the higher clocks of the ViRGE. While higher clocks are mainly required to provide sufficient memory bandwidth for 3D operation, these clocks also speed up framebuffer memory access time. So if Windows 3.1 drivers are not interesting to you, I would prefer the ViRGE over the Trio. I checked a benchmark table I made on 486 system for plain framebuffer operation (i.e. DOS games). In VESA SVGA 256-color modes, the ATI card gets to the limit of that system, with the ViRGE/DX being second and the Cirrus being third (but all quite good), whereas in standard VGA modes, the ViRGE steal slightly beats the Cirrus, but the ATI Rage cards I had at hand performed significantly worse than either of the other cards.

Using a 3dfx card for 3D indeed makes a lot of sense, and makes the 3D engine of the ViRGE practically irrelevant, I agree on that.

Reply 4 of 21, by damjank

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Aha. So if I understand you, heading into the Virge area is mostly due to higher clock rates which directly benefits FB of newer cards. And since 3D will be done by 3dfx, the Virges 3D engine will not perform (hopefully it will know that through drivers in Windows 95) but the VGA core will be faster than anything on my list? Right? So if I am literal, I choose ELSA, Aopen, Fastware, and the last card on the list without any additional info but the chip spec - 4 cards; from that list, I think I like ELSA and Fastweare most. Any thoughts on that?

Reply 5 of 21, by maestro

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I don't want to speak for mkarcher, but you're on the right track and your answer suggests that you're getting it. As you know, video cards have 2 engines: 2D and 3D. The cards you have listed come from an era when video cards didn't have a formal 3D engine, just 2D. Let's say 'formal 3D' means basic DirectX support. The ViRGE's listed are the only cards with both 2D and 3D engines, but the ViRGE's 3D engine is so bad (it's a pioneer of 3D) that people jokingly call it a 3D deaccelerator. But don't let that turn you off, ViRGE's have a special place in our hearts and part of that is because of their fast 2D engines. The Trio64 was a top performer in its day.

You're on the right track with your selection and I like your idea of getting a 3dfx card, but if you're only running a Pentium 233 then it won't be able to feed the demand that SLI creates, you'll be CPU bound especially at 1024x768 which is what SLI is really for ... I suggest you buy the SLI kit if you want it and just use a single Voodoo2 in the P233, even that might be a bit starved but you'll have the peace of mind knowing it's the fastest graphics that platform can handle.

Hopefully someone here more knowledgable can clarify this, but if you are going to use a secondary 3D accelerator card then maybe the ViRGE VX is the best card. It has the most memory (for higher resolution/colour depth) and the VRAM was supposed to more beneficial in the 2D realm, and as I understand it CAD acceleration was the target market of the VX. So I think the ELSA is the best card but maybe someone can clarify if the 6MB on the VX would make it the best choice in light of this 2D only scenario?

I'll try to answer some of your questions directly:

damjank wrote on 2022-10-06, 20:43:

And since 3D will be done by 3dfx, the Virges 3D engine will not perform (hopefully it will know that through drivers in Windows 95)

Yes, during this era secondary 3D accelerator cards were so common that game developers provided a way for users to select which 3D card to use with the game, usually in the Setting menu. (It's the game, not the driver.)

damjank wrote on 2022-10-06, 20:43:

the VGA core will be faster than anything on my list? Right?

The ATi might be a little bit faster and that might be why mkarcher listed it first, but the difference will be miniscule and you have more ViRGE cards to play around with so I think those are a better choice. Do you know anything about ATi? They did everything themselves, all the way up to card production, think of them like Apple, like a closed ecosystem. S3 sold their chips to manufacturers who stuck them on cards, more like AMD and NVidia nowadays. So from that era, you'll only ever see ATi manufacturing ATi cards but there were a variety of manufacturers of S3 cards, each writing their own drivers, while only ATi was writing ATi drivers. ATi was good back then but given the variety and open ecosystem nature I think better adventures await with those ViRGE's.

Reply 6 of 21, by damjank

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wow, thank you @maestro for the fantastic reply!! I really appreciate it, a lot! I think that we all, the 3 of us are in the same direction - that is also why I opened this discussion as I think that I was on the right track all the way, just wanted to confirm this and get opinions from you guys since you may have even more insight, and as this is now visible in your posts, it's true!
In any case, I am looking into Virge card, what's ridiculous is, that the card in question is soooo cheap that it is a bit concerning - looks and works OK by the seller, which is why I also posted it here - for instance, some of the S3 cards are about 100 EUR here, and this Virge is about 15 EUR - hence the confusion. Now the Voodoo story is a bit different, I admit - but as I stated, 3D is secondary, as it might not even go in the system and a Voodoo2 SLI deal is almost too sweet to pass (it might go into a different system in future).
So I will keep it short - I am purchasing Fastware S3 Virge DX 4mb PCI VGA VC963C-3D, and I will also for sure purchase a Voodoo kit, just to get it before it's gone.
If you have other suggestions, I am open, I will listen to them. I can purchase another card but I am afraid that I cannot have 2 2D CPI cards at the same time in the system 😀 but for now, I am content, that I am getting the "best" 2D card that I have the option to buy...... right?

Thanks again!! You are all stars in my book!

Reply 7 of 21, by kixs

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Cheap or expensive?

The usual PCI VGA cards go for 5 to 20€. Anything more for the generic S3, Cirrus Logic, Trident... would be expensive. Even Matrox PCI cards cost probably a little more but again it's expensive if over 50€. There can be exceptions if it's some particular version of the card or rare memory configuration. But for general purpose you don't need anything more than a basic S3 Trio64 2MB card. So don't get put off if something isn't expensive 🤣

But do buy tested components.

Requests also possible

Reply 8 of 21, by damjank

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kixs wrote on 2022-10-07, 11:52:

Cheap or expensive?

Well depends on what is what to one. What I find funny is the difference between them - if it were like 20-40 it would be not even worth mentioning, but when you go from 15 to 120 then your eyebrows tend to go up 😁

kixs wrote on 2022-10-07, 11:52:

But do buy tested components.

That is, as stated, the plan - I must admit that seller went out of his way to show the working state

Here are some images for proof and validation:

Attachments

Reply 11 of 21, by mkarcher

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maestro wrote on 2022-10-07, 01:04:

The ViRGE's listed are the only cards with both 2D and 3D engines, but the ViRGE's 3D engine is so bad (it's a pioneer of 3D) that people jokingly call it a 3D deaccelerator.

The ViRGE being called a 3D decelerator is quite common, and for good reasons from practical experience with that card. But actually the 3D engine isn't technically as bad as it is made by the existing software. The main problem in my oppinion is that developers overestimated the power of the engine and ran 3D at unreasonable resolutions like 640x480. The memory bandwidth on the ViRGE is just not good enough for it, especially if you use bilinear texture filtering. The competition it was compared to was either software rendering at 320x200, or highly optimized rendering at 640x480 on fast CPUs (to be quite specific: Quake on Pentium II computers). While software-rendered Quake used 8bpp and no texture filtering, the S3 ViRGE version of quake used 16bpp (the ViRGE is not designed for 8bpp 3D operation) and bilinear filtering. Also, Quake used perspective correct texture mapping in their very tricky CPU rendering code (which is likely one of the features that made Quake run slow on 6x86 processors), and to be frank, the ViRGE was quite inefficient at perspective correct texture mapping. At this specific feature, the term "3D decelerator" is deserved, indeed.

Both the memory bandwidth issue and the performance issue with perspective correction were significantly improved on the ViRGE/DX, if you use a sensible BIOS. The maximum allowed core/memory clock for the ViRGE classic was 50MHz, but required to be dropped down to 45MHz for some VGA 4bpp features to be in spec. A proper ViRGE/DX BIOS initializes core/memory clock at 70 to 75 MHz and yields acceptable 3D performance in S3d games. Some OEM ViRGE/DX cards ship with BIOSes that use the safe default of 45MHz that also works with the classic ViRGE. Their performance out-of-the-box is awful. We recently had a thread about BIOS improvements for ViRGE cards, I will look it up if you want.

BTW: I was able to overclock a classic ViRGE to 87 MHz (yeah, really, more than 50% overclock), and performance started to be sufficient for 640x480 games. But if you have the choice to go ViRGE/DX, you should always pick the DX over the classic.

maestro wrote on 2022-10-07, 01:04:

But don't let that turn you off, ViRGE's have a special place in our hearts and part of that is because of their fast 2D engines. The Trio64 was a top performer in its day.

It's not very well known, but the ViRGE has an entirely different 2D accelerator than the Trio64 (which is mostly a Vision868 with clock generator and RAMDAC included). Because it's a 3-in-1-chip, they called it "Trio". The Vision 868 is the peak of a series with steady improvements, starting at the 805, continuing with the 864 and 866 to the 868, and they are the low-cost spin-offs of the VRAM-based series 911, 924, 928, 964, 966 and 968. Memory bandwidth on the Trio64 (with 64 bit memory path) is generally high enough that the use of DRAM instead of VRAM is no practical performance issue. Because all the pre-ViRGE chips are just incremental improvements with a high degree of backwards compatibility, you get drivers for nearly every DOS software that has SVGA drivers (like CAD software) that work with hardware acceleration on all S3 cards up to the Trio.

The ViRGE on the other hand uses its S3d engine to accelerate 2D operations. It does the job quite well, typical Windows software will not suffer performance degradation due to the different accelerator. But due to the different programming model of the ViRGE accelerator, new drivers had to be written, and you mostly don't get 16-bit drivers for the ViRGE.

If all you are after is framebuffer operation (i.e. software rendering without 2D acceleration), the ViRGE is "just a faster Trio64", though. Only the accelerator is incompatible.

maestro wrote on 2022-10-07, 01:04:

Hopefully someone here more knowledgable can clarify this, but if you are going to use a secondary 3D accelerator card then maybe the ViRGE VX is the best card. It has the most memory (for higher resolution/colour depth) and the VRAM was supposed to more beneficial in the 2D realm, and as I understand it CAD acceleration was the target market of the VX. So I think the ELSA is the best card but maybe someone can clarify if the 6MB on the VX would make it the best choice in light of this 2D only scenario?

In theory, the ViRGE/VX is a great chip. In practice, it didn't work out as well. VRAM obviosly has the advantage, that scanning out the picture from the frame buffer is "basically free". As the classic ViRGE severely suffered from memory bandwith issues in 3D operation, using VRAM should yield significant improvements. But keep in mind that the highest resolution 3D makes sense on the ViRGE is 640x480 (better downgrade to 512x384 if possible), so scan-out bandwidth isn't that much of an issue as it might seem. Furthermore, the ViRGE/VX is specified for slightly lower memory clock than the classic ViRGE (which is definitely offset by the bandwidth improvements, though), but on the ViRGE, the memory clock equals the core clock. The ViRGE/VX still has the same first-generation 3D core with awfully slow perspective correction as the classic ViRGE, and not the improved core of the ViRGE/DX. The higher core/memory clock and the improved core of the ViRGE/DX make it easily outperform the ViRGE/VX in 3D applications.

The ViRGE/VX can only use the VRAM part of the video memory as framebuffer memory, so it is limited to 2MB for the frame buffer. If you want to use double buffering in the frame buffer, you are limited to 1MB. This is not an issue in 3D modes, as 640x480 at 16bpp is way below 1MB, though. For classic Windows Desktop applications, hardware double buffering is not used, so to be fair, the 2MB is actually usable in full, which allows up to 1152x864 in 16bpp, or 1600x1200 in 8bpp. Accelerated High-resolution 2D graphics is where the VRAM is really going to shine, so it's a pity that you don't have the VRAM for 1600x1200 at 16bpp, which would make a ViRGE/VX really stand out over the DRAM-based competion.

The 4MB extra DRAM on the ViRGE/VX cards can be used for "offscreen surfaces" (i.e. video content than can be copied to the screen extremely fast) or for texture memory. And this could be really great. You can run the ViRGE/VX at 640x480 at 16bpp with triple buffering in the 2MB VRAM and still have 4MB of texture memory available. If you don't want gaming frame rates, but just want near real-time CAD rendering (so 10fps is fine with you), the ViRGE/VX is a great tool. On the other hand, I looked into one ViRGE game in Detail, Terminal Velocity, and as it is designed for the ViRGE classic and is designed to run on all cards, it just uses 2MB of RAM (so it would use the VRAM for both the double-buffered frame buffer and the textures). I have yet to see a game that profits of the ViRGE/VX, but probably the Direct3D drivers are smart enough to make use of the 6MB, so early Windows game could run at a higher texture resolution. Using only 2MB for the double-buffered framebuffer (takes around 1.25MB at 640x480) and the textures actively hinders texture quality. Terminal Velocity down-samples all textures to 32x32 pixels to make enough textures fit the video memory.

maestro wrote on 2022-10-07, 01:04:

Yes, during this era secondary 3D accelerator cards were so common that game developers provided a way for users to select which 3D card to use with the game, usually in the Setting menu. (It's the game, not the driver.)

To make best use of the 3dfx card, you likely want to focus on the proprietary 3dfx API called "Glide" supported by many games at the time. In Glide-based games, the ViRGE will just be ignored, as all other non-3dfx cards will also be ignored. In Direct3D-based games, you will get the choice between the two 3D devices as described. In some games, you might even be able to choose between a Glide mode and a Direct3D mode. You should always try the Glide mode first.

maestro wrote on 2022-10-07, 01:04:
damjank wrote on 2022-10-06, 20:43:

the VGA core will be faster than anything on my list? Right?

The ATi might be a little bit faster and that might be why mkarcher listed it first, but the difference will be miniscule and you have more ViRGE cards to play around with so I think those are a better choice. Do you know anything about ATi? They did everything themselves, all the way up to card production, think of them like Apple, like a closed ecosystem.

ATi indeed did most things in-house, although I wonder in what amount the 68875 is a licensed copy or at least based on a licensed core of the TI34075. The things ATi did in-house usually were quite good at what they were optimized to do. Top framebuffer performance and DOS gaming was never priority number 1 of ATI, though. I expect the ATI cards to outperform the Trio64 on Windows 2D acceleration. I measured Rage cards to outperform the Trio64 and Virge/DX on 640x480 / 256 color performance in DOS. If I were to buy a card for Windows business applications, I would choose the ATI over the S3 competition. If I were to buy a DOS gaming card, I switched over to preferring a good Virge/DX due to the better VGA mode performance.

Reply 12 of 21, by AlexZ

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S3 ViRGE/DX 4MB would be my clear choice. A great video card for DOS and Windows 95. I had it back in the day in Pentium 200 MMX rig. From the three you have I would pick one with the highest clocks.

Pentium III 900E, ECS P6BXT-A+, 384MB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600 128MB, Voodoo 2 12MB, 80GB HDD, Yamaha SM718 ISA, 19" AOC 9GlrA
Athlon 64 3400+, MSI K8T Neo V, 1GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 7600GT 512MB, 250GB HDD, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS

Reply 13 of 21, by Gmlb256

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Another vote for S3 ViRGE/DX 4MB. Since you have three of them, make sure that you use the best one you have as the BIOS version, memory clocks and image quality can vary.

The other decent alternative in my experience that isn't a S3 video card is the Cirrus Logic GD5446 2MB.

Reply 14 of 21, by mkarcher

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Officially retracting my explicit suggestion of one of the three ViRGE/DX cards (The AOpen PT70). I didn't notice that the other two ViRGE cards you listed were also /DX cards, and disqualified them due to having the classic ViRGE chip. I don't know about the BIOS quality of the different ViRGE/DX cards, so I can't recommend you specifically which one is best.

Reply 15 of 21, by maestro

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mkarcher wrote on 2022-10-07, 18:32:

For classic Windows Desktop applications, hardware double buffering is not used, so to be fair, the 2MB is actually usable in full, which allows up to 1152x864 in 16bpp, or 1600x1200 in 8bpp. Accelerated High-resolution 2D graphics is where the VRAM is really going to shine, so it's a pity that you don't have the VRAM for 1600x1200 at 16bpp, which would make a ViRGE/VX really stand out over the DRAM-based competion.

Interestingly according to stason.org it's 4MB VRAM and 2MB DRAM. That's crazy!

It looks like the benefits of the VX needed a good CRT to be fully realised. Despite it's short comings I still think it's an interesting card to pair with a 3dfx addon. Here's an excerpt from S3 ViRGE (325/VX/DX/GX/GX2) series of early 3D accelerators (deep dive):

The ViRGE VX chip typically works with frequencies no higher than 55MHz and it is not possible to overclock it, because the VRAM modules are not able to handle more. Given (nearly) the same 3D core from the original ViRGE, there was no reason to upgrade from ViRGE (325) to ViRGE VX regarding the 3D performance.

The real strength was somewhere else – the dual-ported VRAM provides two 64-bit data paths. One is used the standard way and the other one is used exclusively by the integrated RAMDAC. This allows to work in higher resolutions, with more colors and higher refresh rates. If you have some experience with hi-end 2D/CAD accelerators equipped with VRAMs, you presumably noticed that they have the same performance regardless the resolution. Cheaper DRAM-based cards, on the other side, are getting slower with increasing resolution as the bandwidth for RAMDAC is shared with other accesses to the video memory.

Thus, the true benefit of VRAM is visible only when the card is used with large hi-res monitors. ViRGE VX has been specifically designed to be used in high resolutions. The new integrated 220MHz RAMDAC allowed 1280×1024 in 120Hz and 1600×1200 in 81Hz – both in true-color if you had enough video memory installed.

Reply 16 of 21, by pshipkov

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early pci video cards have been studied extensively. lots of posts with benchmarks here and elsewhere on the internet.
reality is that performance-wise the different virge models are kind of the same really.
not much different than trio64 at dos and windows graphics.
but the same applies to most decent quality pci cards from that time.
deltas are minimal.

here is a brief comparision of virge dx, gx, vx and trio64.
the vx variant is 8mb !

they do vary in "3d" ... in a dismal way

retro bits and bytes

Reply 17 of 21, by damjank

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WOW just wow how many great replies - I took time to read them and read everything suggested. I must say, some of the suggestions were eye openings. The main trouble now is, that I know even more than before but that right now poses even more questions 😁
In any case, let me reply to some of the statements now:

mkarcher wrote on 2022-10-07, 18:32:

BTW: I was able to overclock a classic ViRGE to 87 MHz (yeah, really, more than 50% overclock), and performance started to be sufficient for 640x480 games. But if you have the choice to go ViRGE/DX, you should always pick the DX over the classic.

So you are saying if I get a hold of the good BIOS ViRGE card, I should pick it up over Virge32/64/+ ? Though overclocking is not my intention - is overclocking referring only to the 3D engine - I would imagine that overclocking will do little for VGA/SVGA performance...

Also from your statements, if I gather correctly - if I am after a good DOS card, I should go with ViRGE/DX card, If I am going after Windows/CAD (and that is mostly pro rendering or PS or CAD) I should go with ATI Mach64 card.

I want to stress, that for 3D I will buy Voodoo2 card(s) - I am now looking for the "best" VGA/SVGA option - also, there will be no other graphical activity other than games - but I also must state, that there will be a mix from DOS and Windows 95 gaming, meaning, that some Windows-based acceleration will be needed, if we ignore the fact, that DOS games played in Windows-based DOS is not accelerated at all... right?

AlexZ wrote on 2022-10-07, 19:01:

S3 ViRGE/DX 4MB would be my clear choice. A great video card for DOS and Windows 95. I had it back in the day in Pentium 200 MMX rig. From the three you have, I would pick one with the highest clocks.

Agree, also, from reading mkarcher post above, I think I got from his statement same message, I hope, especially, considering facts about 2D engine

Gmlb256 wrote on 2022-10-07, 20:13:

Another vote for S3 ViRGE/DX 4MB. Since you have three of them, make sure that you use the best one you have as the BIOS version, memory clocks, and image quality can vary.

Agreed, same as the above - seems only I have to take a look at the BIOS if I can 😀

Gmlb256 wrote on 2022-10-07, 20:13:

The other decent alternative in my experience that isn't an S3 video card is the Cirrus Logic GD5446 2MB.

You know, I was just doing that - in the old day I had it and I must say, that I had only a good experience using them - I will definitely look for some but interestingly, they are quite hard to come by...

mkarcher wrote on 2022-10-07, 20:21:

Officially retracting my explicit suggestion of one of the three ViRGE/DX cards (The AOpen PT70). I didn't notice that the other two ViRGE cards you listed were also /DX cards and disqualified them due to having the classic ViRGE chip. I don't know about the BIOS quality of the different ViRGE/DX cards, so I can't recommend you specifically which one is best.

I am a bit puzzled now - did you make a typo here? Why they are being disqualified? There is only one VX card, rest are DX - I am now unsure if the one VX is out of all/one DX is.

maestro wrote on 2022-10-07, 23:27:

It looks like the benefits of the VX needed a good CRT to be fully realized. Despite its shortcomings, I still think it's an interesting card to pair with a 3dfx addon. Here's an excerpt from S3 ViRGE (325/VX/DX/GX/GX2) series of early 3D accelerators (deep dive):

Thus, the true benefit of VRAM is visible only when the card is used with large hi-res monitors. ViRGE VX has been specifically designed to be used in high resolutions. The new integrated 220MHz RAMDAC allowed 1280×1024 in 120Hz and 1600×1200 in 81Hz – both in true-color if you had enough video memory installed.

[/quote]
I have several CRTs - two 19 (one LG Studioworks and one SynchMaster 959) and one 17 (LG Studioworks) - they do tend to go high in res and refresh/scan but - I will stick to 1024/1280 - and also, I will be sticking to VGA/SVGA so high res or no, these cards are "too good"

So - after all quotes - I return now to some additional thoughts - what to purchase?
I have some additional info regarding the available cards, also, I will just bite the buttlet and get several cards and try them out and even switch them if one of the cards will not like game choices, I guess...
So front runners from the existing selection:
Fastware S3 Virge DX 4mb PCI VGA VC963C-3D
AOpen PT70 PCI Grafikkarte (S3 ViRGE/DX, 86C275, 4MB, 1997)
Chaintech GP-5446 PCI Grafikkarte (Cirrus Logic CL-GD5446, 2MB, 1996)

Something from new selection:
Ark Logic ARK1000PV 1MB RAM
DIAMOND STEALTH II S220 4 mb

The only real viable option to get (as well) is the ARK1000PV - a bit older but in my opinion still very good for VGA.

In any case, as I stated before, I just might get DX and Cirrus and ARK1000PV, just to be sure, and test them out and see what gives 😖

Any other comments?

Also, HUGE thanks to this site and posters here, really made my purchase a great distinction as well as gave additional information, that I seem to forget from back in the day! I love you all!

Reply 18 of 21, by mkarcher

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damjank wrote on 2022-10-10, 18:33:

Though overclocking is not my intention - is overclocking referring only to the 3D engine - I would imagine that overclocking will do little for VGA/SVGA performance...

Overclocking will make the chip access the memory faster. This will directly make the accelerator faster. It will also allow higher bandwidth transfers over the PCI bus, assuming you are not limited by the PCI bus or processor frontside bus. As it provides more total bandwidth, it will lessen the impact of the video display process on the available memory bandwidth, which is important if you run high resolutions at high refresh rates. But if high resolutions at high refresh rates are your primary priority, the ViRGE/VX mit be worth a second thought. I doubt overclocking will make an directly observable effect unless you use 3D acceleration, but you should definitely be able to see overclocking effects in synthetic benchmarks. I, for example, made a primitive low-level benchmark that uses the accelerator engine from DOS and benched how fast big solid rectangles of a constant color can be drawn (the easiest task I can assign to the accelerator), and measured that (at least during filling each line) the memory can be completely saturated by the accelerator if you turn off the display refresh.

When you overclock from 50MHz to 75MHz, you get 50% more accelerator performance with scanout disabled. With scanout enabled, the win might be even higher. Of course this requires sufficiently fast RAM.

damjank wrote on 2022-10-10, 18:33:
mkarcher wrote on 2022-10-07, 20:21:

Officially retracting my explicit suggestion of one of the three ViRGE/DX cards (The AOpen PT70). I didn't notice that the other two ViRGE cards you listed were also /DX cards and disqualified them due to having the classic ViRGE chip. I don't know about the BIOS quality of the different ViRGE/DX cards, so I can't recommend you specifically which one is best.

I am a bit puzzled now - did you make a typo here? Why they are being disqualified? There is only one VX card, rest are DX - I am now unsure if the one VX is out of all/one DX is.

I'm sorry, that post might have been too convoluted. I was referring to a bad earlier post of mine, to be specific this part:

mkarcher wrote on 2022-10-06, 19:33:

To shorten your list: Your S3 cards go into 2 buckets: The pre-ViRGE cards, with the Trio64/V+ being top of the line, and the ViRGE-based cards with the ViRGE/DX being top of the line. The advantage of VRAM on the ViRGE/VX is mostly academic. As long as you don't have niche applications or care about specific cards/chips for sentimental value, you are down to the Gainward Cardex Genesis EV or the AOpen PT70 for S3 chips.

In this post, I disqualified the other two ViRGE cards. This was in error. The error was that I overlooked the "/DX" on the other two cards. With the post you quoted, I intended to retract that disqualification, so those cards are re-qualified again.

damjank wrote on 2022-10-10, 18:33:

I have several CRTs - two 19 (one LG Studioworks and one SynchMaster 959) and one 17 (LG Studioworks) - they do tend to go high in res and refresh/scan but - I will stick to 1024/1280 - and also, I will be sticking to VGA/SVGA so high res or no, these cards are "too good"

As a general hint: Consider using 1280 x 960 instead of 1280 x 1024 on CRTs if you can get a driver that supports this resolution. The Windows 95 drivers for the ViRGE do not support custom modes, but just expose the capabilities of the BIOS, and IIRC the usual ViRGE BIOS versions do not support the 960-line resolution, so the general hint doesn't apply here. The advantage of 1280 x 960 is that you get a 4:3 pixel ratio that matches the monitor size.

If you run 1280 x 1024 /16bpp at 85Hz or higher, the /VX might beat the /DX in 2D windows (assuming the /VX card has 4MB VRAM, which seems to be unclear at the moment). If you mainly use a TFT at 60Hz, the /VX is most likely not worth the effort to deal with a more exotic card.

Reply 19 of 21, by damjank

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mkarcher wrote on 2022-10-11, 00:06:
damjank wrote on 2022-10-10, 18:33:

Though overclocking is not my intention - is overclocking referring only to the 3D engine - I would imagine that overclocking will do little for VGA/SVGA performance...

Overclocking will make the chip access the memory faster. This will directly make the accelerator faster. It will also allow higher bandwidth transfers over the PCI bus, assuming you are not limited by the PCI bus or processor frontside bus. As it provides more total bandwidth, it will lessen the impact of the video display process on the available memory bandwidth, which is important if you run high resolutions at high refresh rates. But if high resolutions at high refresh rates are your primary priority, the ViRGE/VX might be worth a second thought. I doubt overclocking will make a directly observable effect unless you use 3D acceleration, but you should definitely be able to see overclocking effects in synthetic benchmarks. I, for example, made a primitive low-level benchmark that uses the accelerator engine from DOS and benched how fast big solid rectangles of a constant color can be drawn (the easiest task I can assign to the accelerator), and measured that (at least during filling each line) the memory can be completely saturated by the accelerator if you turn off the display refresh.

When you overclock from 50MHz to 75MHz, you get 50% more accelerator performance with scanout disabled. With scanout enabled, the win might be even higher. Of course this requires sufficiently fast RAM.

So overclocking, also for DOS, comes to play with DX cards then? If I am sticking with low resolutions, let us say 800x600 and 1024x768 at max 8also with 3D using Voodoo cards), then VX is too much trouble. Also, there might be some really old games in play that may pose issues to it.

Any other thoughts on the card purchase plan - it looks like this now:

either going with DX card: AOpen PT70 PCI Grafikkarte (S3 ViRGE/DX, 86C275, 4MB, 1997) or Fastware S3 Virge DX 4mb PCI VGA VC963C-3D depending on which card is still available now
or go with an older setup using Chaintech GP-5446 PCI Grafikkarte (Cirrus Logic CL-GD5446, 2MB, 1996) or Ark Logic ARK1000PV 1MB RAM depending on which card is still available.

I understand, that VGA core performance (at least in DOS) should be sufficient with all of them, the only real drawback would be Windows 95 2D performance, if at all.
3D will be provided only by Voodoo 2 cards.

Rest of the cards, I will take off the table for now, I think.