on me when I sat down to begin writing this review.
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.
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...
CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Specifications and Features Of The
Holy Smoke...it's not
- Product Name 3D
Prophet 4500 64MB
- Chipset Kyro II @
- Flavours Available AGP
- Supported API(s)
OpenGL & DirectX
- Amount of RAM (MB) 64
- Type of RAM SDRAM
- Speed of RAM (MHz) 175
RAMDAC 300MHz - MAXIMUM 2D / 3D
- 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
- 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
- Memory clock speed of
- Effectively Higher
- Strong 3D acceleration
in high-textured scenes
multi-texturing offers lifelike 3D environments, and
more realistic details on backgrounds and surfaces
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
Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) even in high resolution
Environmental Bump Mapping (EBM) simulates rough and
bumpy textures with irregularities
motion compensation, sub-picture overlay blending and
both horizontal and vertical interpolation for video
1440 true color at 75 Hz refresh rate
II or AMD-K6® and higher or compatible
AGP slot, AGP 2.0 compliant
disk space (more to install games)
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.
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
and The Card...