3dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI

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The 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI
3D Graphics for a legacy system adds leading edge performance

By Dave "Davo" Altavilla
8/4/00

These days technology moves so fast that there is almost as much of an available market opportunity supporting older platforms, as there is producing for the "bleeding edge" market segment.  PCI is an interface that has been in the PC architecture for years, as well as in the embedded space.  You can also bet your last buck that it will remain in the PC for many more years to come.  It is only fairly recently that AGP became the mainstream bus interface for 2D/3D Graphics cards.  There are still plenty of folks out there with out an AGP slot.  Just think of the many large OEM motherboard designs that have integrated graphics on board and you'll soon realize this market segment is larger than you thought.  Now take into consideration the Macintosh crowd.

Furthermore, many folks with BX chipset based motherboards have had a difficult time moving up to the PC133 specification due to the fact that their motherboard will over-clock the AGP bus far out of spec, if the Front Side Bus on their board is set to 133MHz. or higher.  This will render most AGP cards useless in 3D mode and in many cases 2D as well.  So, why not produce a graphics card based on your latest 2D/3D technology but design the card to support good ol' PCI?  That's what the folks at 3dfx thought too.  So they bolted 2 VSA100 chips down to a PCI card and here are the results.

Specifications of the Voodoo5 5500 PCI
Same hardware, different form factor

Voodoo5 5500 AGP on top and PCI on the bottom (click image)

  • Twin VSA100 Architecture - Core Clock 166MHz.

  • 64 MB of 6ns. Synchronous SDRAM

  • 33MHz. 32bit PCI 2.1 Compatible Bus Interface

  • 667-733 Megapixels Per Second Fill Rate

  • Real-time Full-Scene HW Anti-Aliasing

  • T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Motion blur

  • T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Depth of Field Blur

  • T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Soft Shadows

  • T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Soft Reflections

  • FXT1 and DirectX® Texture Compression 8-bit Palletized Textures

  • 32-bit Rendering

  • 32-bit Textures

  • 2K x 2K Textures

  • 24-bit Floating Point Depth Buffer (Z or W)

  • 8-bit Stencil Buffer

  • Fully integrated 128-bit 2D/3D/Video Accelerator

  • 350MHz RAMDAC

  • Complete API support: DirectX, OpenGL, and Glide

  • DVD hardware assist: planar to packed-pixel conversion

As you can see from the layout, there is not a lot of difference between the two cards.  There are a few extra components on the PCI card but they are mainly for bus interface and power regulation.  Beyond that, this card is all Voodoo5.  In terms of the feature list above, the clock speed and fill rate remain the same as well.  In addition, although the bus interface is limited to the bandwidth of PCI, 33MHz. versus 66MHz. with AGP, the V5 5500 PCI has 64MB of memory on board, so it doesn't need to access system memory across the bus nearly as often as a 32MB card.  This really smoothes out the frame rate with those gorgeous large textures.

The backside - Micron SDRAM and IDT Muxes (click  image)

This version of the Voodoo5 comes equipped with 6ns. SDRAM as well, except Micron was the source of the memory versus the Hyundai SDRAM on the AGP version.  We are not sure if this makes much of a difference in performance but with respect to over-clocking, it could very well have helped.  More on this later.  Finally, the bank of IDT "Quick Switch" Muxes (in the background) are there to help provide that interface to the PCI bus.

Setup, Installation, FSAA and LOD

 

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