Hercules 3D Prophet II Ultra

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The Hercules 3D Prophet II Ultra
So Cool...it's blue...

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
January 4, 2001

Way back in 1982, the technology behind the Hercules monochrome graphics adapter became an established PC standard (I actually had one...Geez, I'm ancient!). For many years to follow, it was commonplace to find Hercules products in home systems and high-end workstations alike. However, times change and nowhere is this more evident than in the PC Graphics market. From 1992 on, Hercules began offering products based on third-party chipsets in an attempt to gain market share in the increasingly growing Windows Accelerator market. Using chipsets from virtually every manufacturer including S3, 3dfx, nVidia and TSeng, the Hercules product line became very diverse and highly regarded. Despite decent sales however, Hercules never enjoyed the high profits and dominant position the company had experienced in the past.

Forward to 1999...2D acceleration has gotten so fast the difference in speed between the competing chipsets is virtually indiscernible without benchmarking software.  S3's chipsets were being called the first "3D Decelerators", 3dfx bought STB and stopped supplying chips to other OEMs and nVidia's TNT2 was just about ready for prime time. Hercules debuted their TNT2 based product, the Dynamite TNT, and word spread about its quality and performance. It was now time for nVidia's "refresh" product...the TNT2 Ultra. Hercules, in an aggressive move, decided to sell their TNT2 Ultra card clocked considerably higher than any of their competition by using "hand-picked" chips and many gamers jumped at the opportunity to pre-order one. Very few cards ever shipped though and many customers were left out in the cold. It turns out that although Hercules seemed poised to stake a claim at the "high-end" gamer market, they were hemorrhaging money and the company was in dire straits. For all intents and purposes, the company was dead and basically closed their doors.

As it turns out, this was the end of Hercules, as we knew it and they were put up for sale. A company from Europe, Guillemot, lesser known here in the USA, decided to acquire what was left of Hercules. Guillemot already had a line of TNT2 cards available but when nVidia's GeForce GPU arrived, they put the Hercules name on what was arguably the best GeForce card available, the 3D Prophet. The 3D Prophet was packed with features and offered excellent performance. It garnered much praise and was a very successful product. With every new chip nVidia released, Hercules / Guillemot released a new itineration of the 3D Prophet, all of them considered among the best in their class. In a move reminiscent of the ill fated TNT2 Ultra, they even opted to ship their 3D Prophet 2 GTS at a higher clock speed than the competition, but due to some stability issues a later BIOS revision was released to bring the card back down to nVidia's "recommended" speed. Today we've got Hercules' latest card in the lab, the 3D Prophet II Ultra.  Let's find out if this card is worthy of the type of praise that Hercules was able to garner years ago.

     

Specifications Of The Hercules 3D Prophet II Ultra
It's a reference board...but do you care!


Powered by NVIDIA's latest high-end 3D graphics processor (latest 2nd generation GPU):
  • GeForce2 Ultra
  • Optimized for DDR memory
  • Optimized graphics card design and improved stability thanks to adapted Hercules RAM heatsinks

Chipset:

  • Nvidia GeForce2 Ultra
  • RAMDAC - 350MHz
  • Default Core Speed - 250MHz
  • Available for AGP Only
  • Supported API(s)OpenGL & Direct3D
  • DVC Support - No
  • TwinView Support - No
  • Memory Amount 64MB of 460MHZ DDR RAM
  • Bandwidth - 7.36GB/S
  • 4 dual-texturing pipelines
  • 8 texels per clock cycle
  • 31.25 million triangles mapped per second
  • 4X AGP with Fast Writes support
  • AGP 2X compatible
  • NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer
  • Most advanced 3D functions
  • Optimized support for OpenGL® (Silicon Graphics) and DirectX® 7 (Microsoft®) APIs
  • Cube environmental mapping
  • Bump mapping
  • Vertex blending
  • Projective textures
  • Texture compression
  • Lighting
  • Shading
  • Hardware Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA)
  • Hardware Transform & Lighting Engines (T&L)
  • Resolutions up to 2048x1536 in 16 million colors

TV/Video Output for playback of DVD titles or games on your television:

  • NTSC and PAL TV output in 640x480and 800x600
  • DVI-Output for high resolution display on digital monitors
  • Play DVD-Video on your PC with PowerDVD? and the 3D Prophet II GTS Pro motion compensation hardware engine

System Requirements:

  • Pentium® II / AMD K6® and higher or compatible
  • Available AGP slot
  • 64MB RAM
  • 10MB hard disk space (More to install games)
  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
  • Microsoft Windows® 95 OSR2, Windows 98 and higher

I've seen that specification list so many times I can almost recite it by now!  Manufacturers rarely stray from the standard nVidia reference design, which is why their specification sheets are practically identical.  There are some subtle changes made to the 3D Prophet II Ultra to help differentiate it from some competing products..but we won't go into that until a little later.

The software bundled with the 3D Prophet II Ultra is standard fare.  It ships with PowerDVD v2.55, 3Deep and some game demos including Tachyon, Quake 3, Daikatana and Thief II...

         

An S-Video to standard RCA adapter also ships with the card should you opt to use the TV-Out with an older set.  The 3D Prophet II Ultra also ships with a complete users manual...a rarity these days.  Our favorite piece of the bundle has to be the stickers though!  There's nothing like a case decorated with stickers showcasing your 3D card!  Actually, I'm only kidding, but the stickers are a nice touch nonetheless. :)

Installation and Drivers

 
Tags:  3D, hercules, Ultra, pro, HET, ULT

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