Hercules 3D Prophet 4500 - HotHardware

Hercules 3D Prophet 4500

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The Hercules 3D Prophet 4500
Kyro II Powered Goodness...

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
July 12, 2001

Something dawned on me when I sat down to begin writing this review.  The STMicroelectronics Kyro II powered Hercules 3D Prophet 4500, is the first video card that I have reviewed since July 2000, that is not powered by an nVidia chipset.  nVidia's dominance in the 3D chipset arena is well documented (and deserved for that matter) but it is always good for consumers, when a potential competitor rises from obscurity to challenge the dominance of the current market leaders. Along with increased competition, comes more rapid innovation and lower price points.

However, I don't want to give you all a false impressions. nVidia's GeForce 3 is currently unrivaled in terms of features and performance.  On the other hand, it looks as if the mid-level market occupied by the GeForce 2 MX and Radeon, is about to get a little more diverse. Normally the introduction of a mid-level product doesn't come with a lot of glitz but the Kyro II is causing quite a stir.  It is the first true tile-based renderer to offer excellent visual quality, great compatibility and levels of performance usually reserved for products costing much more.

The Kyro II is not the first chipset to use tile-based rendering though.  Its predecessors based on earlier revisions of the PowerVR technology were available at retail, but these earlier products suffered from many incompatibilities and were not leading performers. With the Kyro II, however, STMicroelectronics and Hercules claim to have worked out the bugs and upped the performance ante to market-leading levels. As we all know, we can't just take their word for it, so let's get the 3D Prophet 4500 installed and see what it can do...

           
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Specifications and Features Of The 3D Prophet 4500
Holy Smoke...it's not a GeForce!
MAIN:
  • Product Name 3D Prophet 4500 64MB
  • Chipset Kyro II @ 175MHZ
  • Flavours Available AGP
  • Supported API(s) OpenGL & DirectX

MEMORY:

  • Amount of RAM (MB) 64
  • Type of RAM SDRAM
  • Speed of RAM (MHz) 175

RAMDAC 300MHz - MAXIMUM 2D /  3D RESOLUTIONS:

  • 640x480: up to 120
  • 800x600: up to 120
  • 1024x768: up to 120
  • 1152x864: up to 120
  • 1280x1024: up to 120
  • 1600x1200: up to 95
  • 1920x1200: up to 75

FEATURES:

  • Powered by the Kyro II chipset that uses Hidden Surface Removal to optimize the use of memory bandwidth.
  • Textures are mapped only on visible surfaces
  • Optimized use of 64 MB on-board SDRAM
  • Memory clock speed of 175 MHz
  • Effectively Higher fill rate
  • Strong 3D acceleration in high-textured scenes

FEATURES CONT.:

  • 8-layer multi-texturing offers lifelike 3D environments, and more realistic details on backgrounds and surfaces
     

  • Internal True Color? blends all the pixels on-chip at 32-bit color so as not to lose any color precision then outputs in either 32-bit or 16-bit - depending on mode
     

  • Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) even in high resolution
     

  • Environmental Bump Mapping (EBM) simulates rough and bumpy textures with irregularities

DVD PLAYBACK:

  • Supports motion compensation, sub-picture overlay blending and both horizontal and vertical interpolation for video scaling

  • 1940 x 1440 true color at 75 Hz refresh rate


System Requirements:

  • Pentium® II or AMD-K6® and higher or compatible

  • Available AGP slot, AGP 2.0 compliant

  • 32MB RAM

  • 10MB hard disk space (more to install games)

  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive

  • Microsoft Windows® 95 OSR2, 98, ME and 2000

 

If you took the time to scrutinize the specifications and features of the Hercules 3D Prophet 4500, you probably noticed that there are some "deficiencies". There is no hardware transform and lighting engine, the card is using standard SDRAM and the RAMDAC is running at a relatively low 300MHz. If you dig a little deeper, and do some math, you'll also find that the peak fillrate is "only" 350 megapixels (175MHz X 2 = 350). Don't read too deeply into these perceived short-comings though. The rendering method employed by the Kyro II requires us to think differently, you'll see what we mean later on.

 

THE BUNDLE:

In the retail package, you'll find nothing more than the card itself, an installation CD and a simple user's manual outlining basic installation and configuration instructions.
 

 

 

The bundle is not the 3D Prophet 4500's strong suit though, this card is all about value. As of the time of this writing, a quick search reveals that the OEM "brown box" version of the 3D Prophet 4500 can be had for about $100 U.S.  When you see the benchmarks later in this review, you'll see just how much that $100 gets you...

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers, Installation and The Card...

 

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