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Review: 3dfx Mac Voodoo4 4500 PCI Graphics Card
By Mark Anthony
Review date: 11/9/2000

Single Chip, 32MB Voodoo4 PCI For $169.99 (list)
Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Install | Summary

Pros: Affordable; excellent 2D and 3D performance for the money; fits in a 7" PCI slot; doesn't require a separate power connector; supports Glide, RAVE, and OpenGL APIs; includes both VGA and DVI connectors; easy to use software

Cons: Visual artifacts appear in some games and QuickTime movies; 3D games have a noticeable sepia tint; some compatibility glitches; not always faster than Voodoo3 cards; officially supported in PowerMac G3 and G4 Systems only.

Update: On Dec. 15th, 2000, Nvidia announced they were buying out 3dfx, which is assumed to be closing (see my www.mac3dfx.com site). This means no driver updates would be available in the future. I'm sad to see this happen.
Shortly after this announcement, there as an unofficial 1.1.3beta driver release, which may be the last. See the 1.1.3b driver feedback page for comments on the driver/rom update and a download link.
Introduction
3dfx made waves with its first official entry into the Mac graphics market, the Voodoo5 5500 PCI graphics card. Sporting a pair of 3dfx's shiny new VSA-100 graphics processors working in tandem, the impressive Voodoo5 is big, fast, and hungry. (You've got to hook it to an internal power connector in your computer just to feed it enough power). On first look, it also delivered slightly disappointing performance, due mostly to immature drivers (since updated) and limitations of the Mac architecture itself.

The new Voodoo4 4500 PCI graphics card is the Voodoo5's very own Mini-Me. While the Voodoo5 takes aim at hardcore gamers, 3dfx hopes the Voodoo 4 will appeal to two groups who might pass on the more powerful--and more expensive--Voodoo 5: graphics professionals and casual gamers.

Just like the Voodoo5, the Voodoo4 accelerates 2D and 3D graphics as well as QuickTime movie playback. It supports the same broad array of 3D rendering modes (Glide, RAVE, and OpenGL). And it even allows for fullscreen anti-aliasing (FSAA), a new technology which smoothes the appearance of graphics in most games.

So what's the difference between the Voodoo4 and Voodoo5? Unlike its big brother, the Voodoo4 sports just a single VSA-100 graphics processor and 32 megabytes of RAM. It's also smaller (it fits into a 7" PCI slot) and doesn't require an extra power connector.

In addition, the Voodoo4 doesn't support 3dfx's T-Buffer, which the Voodoo5 can use for advanced cinematic effects like motion blur. (Of course, at the moment, few if any Mac games support T-Buffer effects either.) Also, the Voodoo4 is limited to 2x FSAA, unlike the Voodoo5, which supports up to 4x FSAA for smoother in-game visuals. One more difference: price. At $179, the Voodoo4 4500's MSRP is $150 less than the Voodoo5's.

So with only a single VSA-100 chip to power it, does the Voodoo4 still offer good value for its intended market? The answer is a resounding yes. While it costs significantly less than the Voodoo5 5500, the Voodoo4 4500 offers performance that comes tantalizingly close to that of the higher-end card. The difference between the two is enough that serious gamers will likely pay the premium for the Voodoo5. But for the rest of us--who only get to zap aliens after spending the day in Photoshop and Word--the Voodoo4 4500 PCI just may be the best value in Mac graphic cards today.

Review Index:

This review compares the performance of the Voodoo4 4500 PCI with the Voodoo5 5500 PCI. For a comprehensive review of the Voodoo5 5500, including comparisons with other graphics cards, see Mike Breeden's review at http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/Graphics/Voodoo5_PCI/.

The following topics are covered in this review:

  1. 2D Performance Word 98/Photoshop 5.5 tests and Movie playback comments.

  2. 3D Performance Cinebench 2000 Test Results

  3. Game Performance FPS tests in Quake3 and Unreal Tournament, plus comments on FSAA and Image Quality with Diablo II, Rainbow 6 & Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

  4. Installation Comments (also includes Software Controls and card specs/requirements)

  5. Conclusion Review summary comments


Test System:

The tests in this review are more informal and subjective than those in Mike's (thorough) review of the Voodoo5 5500 PCI. The intention is to give a feel for the overall level of performance of the Voodoo4 compared to the Voodoo5.

The test system was a Power Macintosh G3/450 (blue and white) with 256MB RAM running MacOS 9.04. Tests were made with all extensions on except for the game performance tests, which used a base extensions set. The system was connected to an Apple Studio Display (15" flat panel with VGA connector).

The Voodoo4 4500 PCI was placed in the computer's 66mhz PCI slot and was tested with version 1.1.0 drivers and ROM 1.3.3.

(For reviews of other graphics cards and related articles, see the list of graphics card articles.)


You can follow the preferred path through the review by continuing to the next page,
or use the links below to jump to a specific page.

Index of 3dfx Voodoo4 4500 PCI Review

Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Install | Summary

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