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Review: Formac's Proformance 3
By Mike
Review date: 9/14/99
Review Summary
Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Movie Playback | Controls/Design | Summary
Documentation
The Review sample contained an acrobat PDF file user guide and a printed version. Although the manual was not as nice as the ATI version, it was adequate and included installation instructions (including the optional digital LCD daughtercard), details on using the software controls and a troubleshooting guide. If you have a fast internet connection (or are patient), potential buyers may want to download the 6.9MB Proformance 3 manual (Stuffit .sit file)

There was no software bundle included with the card. Granted many graphics card bundles are demo versions of games, etc. that many of us already own so I don't really consider this a big issue.

Compatibility Notes:
I saw no compatibility issues during my tests with the latest drivers. Running OS 8.6 with ATM 4.02 enabled I did not see the issue of font corruption with the Font Cache enabled that was noted in my review of the Mactell Vision 3D Pro II card (#9 graphics chip based card made by Formac).

Using an earlier version of the Formac ROM/drivers, I did see a problem with Unreal when running the 3D glasses enabled, but apparently Formac addressed this in the latest update as I didn't see a repeat of the problem after updating the ROM and Control Panel. [Update - the 3D glasses also work in OpenGL Games, based on my initial tests.]

As I noted on the Game Performance page, I did see some artifacts (black lines) in fog areas of the game Unreal. It remains to be seen if this will be addressed in the future or if this is specific to Unreal only. Otherwise I was pleased to see good RAVE game compatilbility (Quake Rave, Tombraider II, Carmageddon II were tested). Other than 3Dfx chip based cards (which usually use Glide versions of these games), this was the first non-ATI card I've seen that ran all these games in RAVE mode without any problems (see my past reviews of graphics cards for examples of this). In the past, most non-ATI Mac cards had severe RAVE compatibility or support issues that made them useless in 3D games.

This is my only real complaint with this card has been the lack of OpenGL drivers, but the first beta shows promise (as good or better than Rage128 performance). This rounds out the Proformance 3 card's total performance and makes it an attractive card for graphics professionals that also like to play a game now and then. Their 3D glasses support currently is a unique feature shared by no other current Mac graphics card I've seen.

System Requirements
PowerPC PCI Macintosh with 1 free PCI slot, System 7.6 or later. Although not specified, I'd suggest Quicktime 3.0 or later, and Quickdraw 3D 1.5.4 or later. 16 MB of RAM is required, since Quickdraw 3D requires 16 MB of RAM. (Quickdraw 3D is required or RAVE support.)Application and Game requirements will vary as far as CPU and memory requirements.

My Recommendation: For best results with demanding games like Unreal and Falcon 4, I recommend 128MB or more of RAM and a G3 CPU.

Pricing and Availability
At the time of this review (September 1999), suggested retail price for the Proformance 3 16MB  version was $259. The 3D Glasses option costs $99. I don't have a price on the digital flat panel daughtercard at this time. Contact Formac for pricing.

Summary
For general non-game use, the Proformance 3 is the fastest card I've tested. The hardware design is clean and the onboard cooling fan is a nice touch. Formac's control software is the best currently available on the Mac. Photoshop image scrolling was very impressive. Support for the 3D glasses are a nice feature as well as the optional digital flat-panel output daughtercard.

Gripes are the short 1 year warranty [Formac wrote to say the warranty is now 2 years] and higher pricing than many other Mac graphics cards.

Formac ProFormance 3 (16MB) Summary
Pros: Fastest general/2D performance ever on the Mac. Superb control software. Onboard cooling fan. 3D Glasses add a 'new dimension' (no pun intended) to many games (works in RAVE and OpenGL games). Optional digitial LCD support.
Cons: Higher cost than many other current cards. 2 year warranty is shorter than most other brands, but still adequate.

In my opinion the primary target of the Proformance 3 is graphic professionals that will appreciate the fast 2D/Photoshop performance and excellent controls. As I said previously, in general 2D performance it has no current equal. It costs a bit more, but graphics professionals will probably find that money is well spent. Initial OpenGL beta driver performance seems to surpass the Rage128's, especially in 32bit mode. The 3D glasses are a nice bonus but cost an additional $99 (list).

Last year the Formac/Mactell Ticket2Ride based cards cost many times the Proformance 3 price while delivering less performance (2D and 3D) and RAVE compatibility. In general the trend toward higher performance and lower prices is a welcome change in the Mac market.

Based on how this card performed in each of the categories, you can apply your own weighting of each feature to determine which card is right for your needs and budget.

For more information on graphics card topics and reviews of other models, see my Video Cards page and the graphics card topic areas of my Frequently Asked Questions page. There's always a lot of discussions on graphics cards and games at my 3Dfx Forum.

Thanks to Formac USA for providing the card for review, and for their patience as well. I hope I've provided some insight into the overall performance and capabilities of the Proformance 3.


Feedback
I welcome comments about this review.
For pricing or availability questions, contact Formac or their authorized dealers like Club Mac.
Index of Formac Proformance 3 Review

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

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