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Review: 3dfx Mac Voodoo5 5500 PCI Graphics Card
Review date: 7/26/2000

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

In the past I have used the high quality, 44KHz audio version of the Star Wars 'Phantom Menace' trailer as a test of Quicktime playback, but I believe this movie was compressed with the Sorensen codec which seems more CPU bound rather than video card. Even the Voodoo3 card (with no QT hardware acceleration) in a fast Mac shows performance equal of the Rage128 Pro series which has mature QT drivers. Therefore I decided to use a Cinepak compressed QT movie I'd made (320x240) scaled up to 1024x768 in millions color mode. Granted the source was not the greatest quality (outdoor scene on overcast day), but all cards tested with the exception of the Voodoo3 series showed similar image quality.

Using the Cinepak movie as a test file in Macbench, I ran tests with the display set to 1024x768, millions colors and the movie scaled to full screen. The graph below shows the results of the max framerate tests in MacBench 5.0 playback back the movie at full screen.

QT Cinepak scaling tests

What's surprising is that the Voodoo3 3000 AGP in a fast Mac does almost as well as the Rage128 AGP PRO. Coloring and image quality looked a bit better on the other cards however (the Voodoo3 has no QT driver support). Fill rate helps video playback I'd expect, but that is another puzzle on the Voodoo5 since it has the highest fill rate by far of any card in this roundup. Again I can only assume the v1.3 drivers are reasons why it didn't fare better in this test. It will be interesting to test the later drivers when they are released.

I also played sample MPEG movies with the Quicktime 4.1.1 player. Macbench's max framerate tests will not allow selecting a Mpeg movie, but for general movie playback any card here except perhaps the Voodoo3 should be fine. In a modern Mac (G3 or later motherboard), even the Voodoo3 cards will usually suffice for the average home user's movie needs in my experience. (I'm talking about watching a movie normally, not blowing up a postage stamp size movie to full screen and examining the text in the movie credits.)

Where I have seen the Voodoo3 fall down in movie playback is when it's run in some older Mac models. Just as a FYI for those with PCI IDE controllers in older Macs, many will not play back movies smoothly regardless of graphics card (with some rare exceptions). Even the PCI IDE mfr's originally stated Beige G3 or later Macs were needed for AV use.

Movie Performance Summary: It was disappointing to see the lower cost Voodoo3 and ATI Rage128's provide faster movie performance, but since the v1.3 drivers exhibited odd performance in other areas I'm hoping the next Voodoo5 update will change that.

The next page has details on the software controls and hardware features.

Index of 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI Review

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

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