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Review: Formac's Proformance 3
By Mike
Review date: 9/14/99
3D Benchmarks and Application Tests Results
Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Movie Playback | Controls/Design | Summary
3D Performance
Evaluation of 3D performance was based on using the cards in several real world 3D applications and 3D benchmarks. RaveBench and Walker benchmarks were used to provide more accurate comparisons of performance than my "seat of the pants" judgements from observing applications performance.

The lack of current OpenGL drivers for the Proformance 3 compared to the Rage128 Orion [update 10/21/99 - see the game performance page for first beta OpenGL driver test results]. The Voodoo3 has OpenGL game support via Mesa for now (MacTell promises complete OpenGL support in their Voodoo3 cards due next month). As noted in my Voodoo3 review, I was pleasantly surprised to see that NewTek's excellent Lightwave 3D (v5.6D) also seemed to work fine in OpenGL preview mode with the Voodoo3. I'm not sure if Lightwave was reverting to a software-only OpenGL or was using the Mesa3DfxEngine extension. I regret not being able to test the Proformance 3 in the 9600 which has Lightwave installed, but will do so as part of the OpenGL tests when Formac releases their drivers.

3D Applications:
I tested Rage128 and Proformance 3 in applications that supported QD3D/RAVE like with both Infini-D 4.01 and Ray Dream Studio 5. Infini-D 4.01 tests were run with the camera view set to "best interactive" rendering engine to allow shaded objects to be moved in real time (using models from the Ch. 7 tutorial file). To be honest, nobody could tell the differences in the cards using these applications, as CPU speed seems to be the major factor in interactive performance of these applications.

Until Formac releases final OpenGL drivers, the Rage128 Orion would be the safer choice for OpenGL applications. ATI's close-knit relationship with Apple is also a plus, and I often wonder if future OpenGL enhancements will favor their card. [However Formac has demonstrated a lot of driver expertise and their first Beta OpenGL drivers show real promise.]   At the date of this review, the Rage128's native Apple OpenGL support makes it the better/safter choice at the current time. When Formac releases their OpenGL drivers for the Proformance 3 this could change.

Quickdraw 3D RAVE Benchmarks:
I used Village Tronic's RaveBench 1.1.1 as both a benchmark and visual features check of the cards. It runs several tests of texture mapping, transparency, movement, and environment mapping functions. ( For an explanation of RaveBench's tests, see my new Illustrated Guide to RaveBench published last year.)

Since the Voodoo3 currently uses only the Voodoo2 RAVE driver (which does not supported windowed RAVE mode), it can't run the RaveBench tests.

The Proformance 3 scores were apparently too high for RaveBench to properly graph so I had to manually graph the results. The chart below shows the results of the Proformance 3 vs Rage128 Orion tested in a 33MHz PCI slot of the B&W G3/400 using the 640x480 test size. As shown, the Proformance 3 was dramatically faster in this series benchmark's series of Quickdraw 3D primitives.

ATI 3D vs 3DFx

Although both cards had excellent image quality in each of the RaveBench tests, the Proformance 3 was significantly faster (amazingly so) at the 3D primitives used in this particular benchmark.

Walker 1.1 Tests:
As I've done in most all my graphics cards reviews over the years, I ran tests in Lightwork's Walker 3D viewer with the 2D screen set to 1024x768, thousands colors (Walker used a 350x350 default window size). I used the lowest and highest polygon count scenes provided with Walker - the Corridor and Atrium. In the past I've seen literally no difference in this test for 66 or 33MHz PCI slots in the B&W G3.

Again the Voodoo3 can't run this test as the only RAVE driver currently available is the Voodoo2 RAVE extension, which doesn't support RAVE in a window (only full-screen).

The most important figure is the lowest framerate during the test, as that indicates how the card handles the toughest part of the scene. For reference the max framerate is also shown (i.e. Min/Max).

The table below lists framerates seen in two 360 degree spins for each of the two Walker scenes. I've included results from the IXMicro Game Rocket (reviewed previously) since I had the data handy and it used the same base system (but was tested in the 66MHz PCI slot).

Walker 1.1 Min/Max Framerates
16K Polygons
49K Polygons
Proformance 3
B&W G3/400
30/74 fps
10/40 fps
PCI slot
Rage128 Orion
B&W G3/400
30/72 fps
9.38/38 fps
PCI slot
B&W G3/400
Game Rocket
18/38 fps
7.5/21.29 fps
PCI Slot

Note that Walker does not mirror the dramatic differences seen from the RaveBench test. This just goes to show that benchmarks are not the final word, especially those that test primitives, which vary in their frequency of use by 3D applications. Walker for instance does not seem to use many of the primitives tested by RaveBench.

3D Performance Summary: The RAVE performance potential of the Formac card seems excellent. The only question that remains unanswered is how the card will perform in OpenGL applications. Once Formac releases their OpenGL drivers (due soon I'm told) that 'hole' will be filled and I'll update this page with test results.

I know that game performance is important in a consumer card to many of you, so the next page shows results I had running several popular 3D games like Quake 1 and Unreal .

Index of Formac Proformance 3 Review

Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Movie Playback | Controls/Design | Summary

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