3Dfx Interactive, Inc.

3Dfx was a graphics card manufacturer for the IBM PC and its compatibles from 1994 until 2002. Initially they manufactured only the 3D accelator chips which they sold to graphics card companies. Towards the end of 1996 the cost of EDO RAM dropped significantly, enabling 3Dfx to enter the consumer PC market with a full product.

Their main product was the Voodoo Graphics - an add-in card that accelerated 3D graphics. The hardware accelerated only 3D rendering, relying on the PC's current video card for 2D support. Despite this limitation, the Voodoo Graphics product and its follow-up, Voodoo2, were popular. It became standard for 3D games to offer support for the company's Glide API.

3Dfx' main competition was from Rendition and PowerVR, who also produced 3D-only accelerator cards. Once 3D graphics rendering was becoming more mainstream in PC games, 3Dfx saw further competition from Matrox with their Mystique, S3 with the ViRGE, and ATI's 3D Rage. All these cards offered inferior 3D acceleration to a 3Dfx card but their low cost and the fact they were both 2D and 3D cards combined often appealed to OEM system builders.

They had thus far relied upon selling their chipsets to other vendors. In 1998 they purchased STB Microsystems which put a lot of financial much pressure on a company that was already struggling in the market. Prior to this acquisition/merger, 3Dfx worked with most of the other graphics card manufacturers including Guillemot and Diamond Multimedia. With the merger, they would now be creating their own cards, leaving their previous partnerships out in the cold. What did these companies do? They all went to 3Dfx's main competitor at the time, nVidia, to build cards for them.

3Dfx finally lost market share as Microsoft made DirectX more robust and developers began to move away from OpenGL and 3Dfx' own GLide to that.

Click here for a list of games that support 3Dfx cards.

 

 

Voodoo Graphics

Launched: 1996
Bus: PCI
Chipset: SST-1
Core Clock Speed: 50 MHz
Memory: 4 MB or 6 MB EDO RAM (2 x 64-bit)
Memory Speed: 50 MHz (128-bit, 400 MB/s bandwidth, 50 Mpixel/s)
Price: $299
DirectX: 5.0
OpenGL:

3Dfx' first 3D accelerator card, the Voodoo Graphics, comprised a DAC (digital-to-analogue converter), a frame buffer processor (FBI), a texture mapping unit (TMU), and 4 MB EDO RAM. 2 MB of this was used as a frame buffer, and 2 MB for texture storage (4 MB on 6 MB cards). Cards with 6 MB still only run games at 640 x 480 but if they have lots of large textures they will run much smoother.

The design goal behind the original Voodoo was to provide smooth gameplay at a resolution of 640 x 480 with bilinear-filtered textures. The 2 MB frame buffer was good enough for triple-buffered 640 x 480 x 16-bit colour depth, and with proprietary compression (3:1 reduction in size), this 2 MB allowed for many more textures to be stored and reduced bandwidth limitations that would otherwise have been an issue.

A pass-through VGA cable was daisy-chained the 2D graphics card to the Voodoo, and the Voodoo is then connected to the monitor.

Colour writes and Z-buffer are limited to 16-bit, but sensitive alpha blending is performed at 24-bit precision. The Voodoo's lowest supported resolution is 512 x 384.

The first graphics card manufacturer to use the Voodoo 1 chipset was Diamond, with the launch of the Monster 3D - a 4 MB card. The Canopus Pure3D is unique in that it's a 6 MB card but also has a TV Out, enabling you to run your 3D games from a TV in addition to your monitor!

Competition for the 3dfx Voodoo 1 card arrived a whole year later in 1997 with nVidia's launch of the Riva 128. This performed 10% better in Direct 3D, but slightly worse in OpenGL. On a system with a very powerful CPU and open API, the Riva 128 was about 25% faster than the Voodoo 1.

Key features:

  • 0.5-micron technology
  • PCI
  • 4MB or 6 MB EDO memory (2 x 64-bit memory bus width)
  • 50 MHz core clock
  • 50 MHz memory clock

Cards that used the Voodoo 1 chipset were:

  • A-Trend AA2465 (4 MB)
  • A-Trend Helios 3D (4 MB)
  • A-Trend VD102P
  • Bestdata Arcade FX
  • BIOStar Venus 3D (4 MB)
  • Canopus Pure3D (6 MB)
  • ColorMax VP-503 (4 MB)
  • Diamond Monster 3D (4 MB)
  • Gainward Dragon 1000 (4 MB)
  • Guillemot MAXi Gamer 3D (4 MB)
  • Innovision Mighty FX6M
  • Innovision 3DX5000TV (4 MB)
  • miro HiScore 3D
  • Orchid Righteous 3D (4 MB)
  • Real Vision Flash 3D
  • Skywell Magic 3D

The latest official drivers for 3dfx Voodoo 1 are v3.01.

 

Voodoo Rush

Launched: 1997
DAC: ?
Bus: PCI
Memory: 4 MB EDO RAM
Price: ?

Key features:

  • 50 MHz core clock
  • 50 MHz memory clock

The Voodoo Rush combined a 3D accelerator with a 2D chip on the same board. This was an attempt to meet the needs of the customers who were prepared to justify the added cost of a separate 3D card. The Rush had the same 3D specifications as the Voodoo Graphics but was a poorer performer due to having to share memory bandwidth with the CRTC (Cathode Ray Tube Controller) of the 2D chip. In addition, the Rush chipset wasn't directly present on the PCI bus but had to be programmed through linked registers of the 2D chip.

One advantage of the Rush over the Voodoo 1 is that is works well with slower CPUs.

The Voodoo Rush was also sold rebranded as:

  • Hercules <product name?> - came with 8 MB RAM and a 10% higher clock speed.

 

Voodoo 2

Launched: 1998
DAC: ?
Bus: PCI
Memory: 8 MB, 12 MB EDO RAM
Price: ?

The successor to the Voodoo Graphics got a second texturing unit so two textures could be drawn in a single pass. Around this time, ATI had released the Rage Pro, nVidia had their Riva 128, and Rendition has the Verite 2200. These were all single-chip product, whereas 3Dfx' new card was still a three-chip solution. Despite this, no competitor could meet the smooth frame rates and excellent performance of the Voodoo 2, and many owners still liked the fact they could choose their own quality 2D graphics card to sit alongside it. Even the nVidia Riva TNT which launched a few months later with its combined 2D/3D chipset offered little challenge to the Voodoo 2.

The Voodoo 2 also introduced the world to SLI (Scan-Line Interleave), where two Voodoo 2 boards could be used together, each one drawing half the screen. SLI increased the maximum resolution to 1024 x 768. Due to the high cost and inconvenience to end users of running 3 cards (two Voodoo 2s and a 2D graphics card), SLI was not a financial success. SLI was later re-used by nVidia after they bought 3Dfx.

Key features:

  • 0.35-micron technology
  • PCI
  • 8MB EDO memory
  • 90 MHz core clock
  • 90 MHz memory clock
  • Maximum resolution of 800 x 600
  • 3.3M triangles/s

The Voodoo 2 was also sold rebranded as:

 

Voodoo Banshee (PCI)

Launched: Late 1998
DAC: ?
Bus: PCI
Memory: 8 or 16 MB
Price: ?

This card was 3Dfx' second attempt at a combined 2D and 3D accelerator card. Unlike the Rush from 1997, the Banshee offered 2D acceleration and a more rich feature set. By this stage, 3Dfx had also worked to reduce their chipset from 3 chips down to just 1. The Banshee had just one texture mapping unit, meaning a Voodoo 2 was still much faster at drawing multi-texture polygons, but when drawing single-texture polygons the Banshee could match or even exceed the Voodoo 2. This was primarily due to the Banshee's faster clock speed which gave it a greater pixel fillrate.

Its 2D accelerator was very capable, rivalling the fastest core from nVidia, Matrox and ATI. It consisted of a VESA VBE 3.0 core and a 128-bit 2D GUI engine. This core capably accelerated DirectDraw and supported all of the Windows Graphics Device Interface (GDI) in hardware. Sadly, the Banshee was adopted only in small numbers by OEMs, with nVidia's Riva TNT taking a lot of the OEM market share.

Voodoo Banshee (AGP)

Launched: Late 1998
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP
Memory: 8 or 16 MB SGRAM
Price: ?

The AGP version of the Banshee is only able to take advantage of AGP's faster DMA bandwidth. Banshee is not at all able to use any of the real AGP features like AGP texturing, AGP1x or AGP2x. This can be a problem when running games with particularly large textures especially at high resolutions, because the local memory won't be able to contain all those textures so that they have to be swapped from main memory via DMA transfers, which isn't by far as fast as AGP texturing. The 3D quality of Banshee is identical to Voodoo2, meaning that it doesn't have a more than 16 bit deep Z-buffer and cannot do real 32-bit color rendering either.

Cards flaggd as 'Velocity' were typically sold to OEMs, and had only 8 MB of RAM.

The card was also sold as:

 

Voodoo 3 1000

Launched: 1999
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP 2x
Memory: 16 MB SGRAM (128-bit memory bus width)
Part #: 210-0364-003
Price: $110

The Voodoo 3 1000 ran both the core clock and memory at 125 MHz. It was fabricated using a 0.25 micron process.

 

Voodoo 3 2000 PCI

Launched: 1999
DAC: ?
Bus: PCI
Memory: 16 MB SGRAM (128-bit memory bus width)
Part #: 210-0364-003
Price: $110

The Voodoo 3 2000 ran both the core clock and memory at 143 MHz. It was fabricated using a 0.25 micron process.

 

Voodoo 3 2000 AGP

Launched: 1999
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP 2x
Memory: 16 MB SGRAM (128-bit memory bus width)
Part #: 210-0364-003
Price: $180

Codename "Avenger", the Voodoo 3 2000 card was also sold rebranded by:

STB Systems Voodoo 3 2000 AGP (part #210-0364-003).

 

Voodoo 3 3000 PCI

Launched: 1999
DAC: ?
Bus: PCI
Memory: 16 MB SGRAM
Price: ?

Key features:

  • 0.25-micron technology - 8.2 million transistors
  • AGP 2x
  • 16MB SGRAM memory
  • 166 MHz core clock with 128-bit data width
  • 166 MHz memory clock with 128-bit data width (2656 MB/s bandwidth)
  • Support for OpenGL 1.1 and DirectX 6
  • MPEG-2 (DVD) video acceleration
  • 1 pixel pipeline - 166 MPixel/s pixel fillrate)
  • 2 texture units - 333 MTexel/s texel fillrate)
  • 7 M/s triangle/vertices rate
  • 350 MHz RAMDAC

 

Voodoo 3 3000 AGP

Launched: 1999
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP 2x
Memory: 16 MB SGRAM
Part #: 210-0382-004
Price: $180

Codename "Avenger", the Voodoo 3 3000 card was also sold rebranded by:

Key features:

  • 0.25-micron technology - 8.2 million transistors
  • AGP 2x
  • 16MB SGRAM memory
  • 166 MHz core clock with 128-bit data width
  • 166 MHz memory clock with 128-bit data width (2656 MB/s bandwidth)
  • Support for OpenGL 1.1 and DirectX 6
  • MPEG-2 (DVD) video acceleration
  • 1 pixel pipeline - 166 MPixel/s pixel fillrate)
  • 2 texture units - 333 MTexel/s texel fillrate)
  • 7 M/s triangle/vertices rate
  • 350 MHz RAMDAC

 

Voodoo 3 3500 AGP

Launched: ?.
Graphics Chipset: 3Dfx Voodoo 3
Bus: AGP 2x
Memory: 16 MB SDRAM (128-bit memory width)
Part #: 11-110-794-08
Price: ?

The 3500 is the same as the 3000, but includes a TV tuner module. This came with a blue breakout cable for connecting the card to either a TV or monitor.

Voodoo 4

Launched: ?.
DAC: ?
Bus: ?
Memory: ?
Price: ?

This card actually came out after the Voodoo 5.

 

Voodoo 4 4500 PCI

Launched: 2000
DAC: ?
Bus: PCI
Memory: 32 MB (128-bit memory bus width)
Price: ?

This card ...

 

Voodoo 4 4500 AGP

Launched: 2000
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP 4x
Memory: 32 MB (128-bit memory bus width)
Price: ?

Fabricated using a 0.25 micron process, the Voodoo 4 4500 comes with 32 MB SDR RAM. Its core clock and memory both run at 167 MHz.

 

Voodoo 5 5500 AGP

Launched: 2000
DAC: ?
Bus: AGP 2x
Memory: 32 MB SDRAM (2 x 128-bit memory bus width)
Price: $270 - $295

This card runs both its core clock and memory at 166 MHz. It was fabricated using a 0.25 micron process.

The Voodoo 5 arrived to a market that was now full of multi-texture games, and it was a single-texture card, so it was losing 50% of its fillrate doing two texture layers.

 

 


Voodoo 6

Launched: ?.
DAC: ?
Bus: ?
Memory: ?
Price: ?

This card ...