Review: Diamond Monster 3D II graphics acceleratorReview date: 3 December 1998
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
OK, OK, I know it's not the newest technology. But I got it as part of the pile of Diamond components that went into my How To Build A PC feature, so here's the review.
The King is... unwell?
3DFX's Voodoo 2 chipset is showing its age now, as its price hasn't fallen fast enough to make it an attractive prospect against newcomers like the Riva TNT. Like the original Voodoo Graphics (Voodoo 1) cards, Voodoo 2 cards work in parallel with a 2D video card, and take over when you play a 3D game. They're faster on slower computers than the TNT, but they only support 16 bit colour and resolutions up to 800 by 600 (you can run two at once for 1024 by 768). Voodoo 1 and 2 cards are also useful only for games, which 2D/3D combo-cards can be used for 3D rendering programs and other serious graphics applications.
The Diamond Monster 3D II is one of the faster Voodoo 2 cards, clocking in at about 10% quicker than the Jaton 3D Game Card II, which I reviewed here. If you think this isn't very important, you're right; 10% performance differences are pretty much negligible. The only way to make a Voodoo 2 card a whole lot faster than another Voodoo 2 card is, well, to add another Voodoo 2 card, clip 'em together with the little Scan Line Interleave cable and watch your framerates soar. Twin Voodoo 2 cards are still the frame rate king for pretty much everything, but the Riva TNT cards come quite close on fast systems, have higher image quality and support higher resolutions.
Some users have reported significant image degradation from the passthrough cable you have to use in order for a Voodoo 1 or 2 card to work in parallel with an existing 2D card, but it's always looked OK to me.
The Monster 3D II comes with Diamond's quite good drivers - now somewhat out of date, but it's easy to download the latest ones from here (or here). Like many Voodoo2 drivers, the Diamond ones are basically just facelifted versions of the 3DFX reference drivers, which will work just as well with the board.
You also get a somewhat dated but still good game bundle, comprising Jedi Knight - Dark Forces II, Shadows of the Empire: Battle of Hoth, X-wing vs Tie Fighter: The Academy, Heavy Gear, and a smattering of demos.
What can I say?
Versus the newer NVidia Riva TNT based Diamond Viper V550, the once-mighty Voodoo 2 is humbled on a 350MHz Pentium II.
It's a Voodoo 2 card. It produces quite fast, quite good looking graphics. It's universally accepted, highly compatible, and perfectly capable of making you a force to be reckoned with in any 3D action game contest. But it ain't new, and it ain't the fastest any more. If you've got a slow Pentium II or worse processor, you'll probably do better to add a Voodoo 2 to whatever graphics card you're using at the moment than to go for a Riva TNT card like the Diamond Viper V550, for which you'll be paying at least $450 (Australian dollars) versus $340 or so for the Monster 3D II. But if you've got more grunt under your computer's hood, there are now better options than Voodoo 2.