Review: Diamond Monster 3D II graphics accelerator

Review 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.

Monster 3D II

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.

Passthrough cable
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The Monster 3D II comes with Diamond's quite good drivers - now somewhat out of date, but it's easy to download the latest ones from here (or here).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?

Performance comparison
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.


Colour depth: The number of distinct colours that a piece of hardware or software can display. It's referred to as depth, and sometimes as bit depth, because of the concept of overlapping, stacked "bitplanes", planar arrays of ones and zeroes that, together, define the colour of each pixel. The more bitplanes there are, the more bits per pixel, and the more bits per pixel, the more possible colours - number of colours equals two tot he power of the number of bitplanes. 16 bits gives you 65536 possible colours, and 24 bit offers 16.8 million. Cards that do more than 24 bit use the extra bits for mixing channels and other funky stuff - 24 bit is more colours than the eye can discern already.

This is significant for gaming, because running your games in 24 bit mode may be prettier, but will be slower. The image quality difference is not a large one; in Quake 2 you have to look hard to see the vague banding on walls in order to tell you're in 16 bit mode, and in a real game you don't have much time for that. Games with funkier engines that do fog mixing and similar tricks benefit more visually from 24 bit, but since going for 16 bit will let you run a higher resolution at the same speed, most gamers opt for fewer colours.

OpenGL games inherit the colour depth of the desktop when you run them; if you're running 16 bit in Windows, that's what the game'll be. Remember this if you run your favourite game and it seems strangely slow; check your desktop colour depth. Direct3D games choose their own colour depth, and may or may not be switchable between 16 and 24 bit mode. Some, like Incoming, come in different versions for different colour depths.

Give Dan some money!
(and no-one gets hurt)