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Micro Conversions Game Wizard Preview
Voodoo II comes to the Mac!
Published: June 1998
Microconversions Closes: In 1999, Microconversions closed its doors. Thankfully, 3dfx stepped in to provide free drivers for both its Voodoo2 and Voodoo3 PC cards which work well on the Mac. Check my video cards page for reviews of Vodooo2 and Voodoo3 cards, Tips, Compatibility info (system and game) and answers to your 3dfx graphics cards related questions. In Spring 2000 the Voodoo4/5 is due for the Mac in full retail packaging.
In Dec 1998 Microconversions lowered pricing on the Game Wizard to $199 (from $300) for the 12MB Card (the original 8MB Card was discontinued) and announced an 8MB iMac version that fits in the mezzanine slot of the iMac 233 and 266MHz models (later iMacs don't have the slot). This product was demoed at MacWorld S.F 1999 was the best addon an iMac rev A/B owner could buy in my opinion.
However this still couldn't save the company and later in 1999 they closed their doors. By the Fall of 1999, any dealer with Game Wizard 12MB leftover stock was selling the cards for $69. A better buy (especially if you had a VGA connectored 2d card and monitor) was a PC Voodoo2 card which can use the 3dfx drivers which now have SLI and OpenGL support, lacking from the MC drivers.
[The original 1998 article follows.]
A full review will follow as soon as Micro Conversions issues the control panel (which will include overclocking options they say) and RAVE drivers [A Beta Rave extension is was released just as this article was being posted. ]. However I wanted to share with you some of the initial impressions I have of the card.
I've seen zero problems so far running Quake v1.09 (latest version), the MacSoft X-Men total conversion and Myth 1.2. Image quality is stunning and performance was silky smooth, even with a 120 MHz 604E CPU. For the first time you can run Quake at 800x600 resolution smoothly (only the more expensive VillageTronic MP540/3D Overdrive allowed 800x600 resolutions, but at 14.4 fps it was not really very playable).
The box contained the Game Wizard 8MB card, shielded Mac to VGA pass-through cable, CDrom with Micro Conversions Voodoo II Glide extension, Quake v.109 and Myth v1.2 update patches, demos and sample screenshots from Unreal and Myth II. Installation was a snap, insert the card in a free PCI slot, connect the cable and monitor and drop the Glide library extension in the system folder and restart.
There have been some concerns over framerates on lower speed CPU systems based on tests of PC Voodoo cards on lower speed Pentiums. Last night I spent hours running the TimeDemo Demo1 tests on everything from a 120 MHz 604 CPU card to a 332 MHz G3. I am happy to report that even on the 120 MHz system, performance was smooth and much faster than I'd seen on a similar system using a Voodoo 1 (Power3D) card. Even 800x600 was very playable on the 120 Mhz 604 system.
Framerate tests are shown below. Keep in mind this is the initial driver release with no tweaks. The Voodoo 1 based Power3D cannot run 800x600 resolutions in Quake. I've included framerates from the 3D Overddrive from VillageTronic on at 800x600 on a 180 MHz 604e PowerTower Pro. Configurations of the test machines are shown below the table of results. Some Game Wizard owners have reported 45 fps 640x480 timedemo scores on a PTP225, but I did not see that rate here, possibly due to differences in motherboard revisions or installed PCI cards and extensions.
The Voodoo II and Voodoo 1 framerates shown were run in the exact same system (only the cards and Glidelib extension was changed) so you can see the performance difference between the two cards in this particular system. The latest version available of the Power3D Glidelib was used with that card.
[Note: For more current test results and reviews, see the Video Cards page.]
Note also that the Game Wizard ran 800x600 Quake on a PTP 180 at almost twice the framerate of the only 8MB Voodoo 1 card for the Mac - the VillageTronic MacPicasso MP540/3D Overdrive combination which costs several hundred dollars more (but does provide 2D video and 3d in a window). 14.4 fps is basically unplayable however, and tweaker does not work on the 3D overdrive.
As you can see from these scores, even on a 120 MHz 604 CPU the Voodoo II still provides about 30% more speed than a untweaked Voodoo 1 card. And it seems a 200 MHz 604e does about as well as a fast G3 card (good news for older Mac owners). There are tweaks possible (clock rate, sync modes, etc.) that enable higher framerates on the Voodoo 1 cards but often they result in tearing of the images or reduced quality (when pushed to the edge). They also cannot run Quake at 800x600 (only the expensive VillageTronic 3D Overdrive can do that - and only at low framerates).
Below are screenshots from Quake.
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