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3dfx works its Voodoo on Mac users

OpenGL support,faster PCI board

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3dfx continued its pursuit of non-Windows gamers by touting its latest Voodoo 3-based card, a PCI version of the Voodoo 3 3000, directly at Mac users. Well, sort of. 3dfx's Voodoo 3 2000 PCI has proved one of the company's more popular products, irrespective of platform, despite operating aat a lower clock speed than 3dfx's AGP boards.

The Voodoo 3 2000 operates at 143MHz, the 3000 at 166MHz, ensuring it can pump out seven million triangles per second at at resolutions of up to 2046 x 1536. The 2000 can generate six million triangles per second. Both cards ship with 16MB video RAM. 3dfx acknowledges that PCI products sell rather better than AGP units, so adding PCI support to the 3000 line is a clear reaction to market demand --and given 3dfx's financial state, reacting to demand is something it has to do in spades, right now. 3dfx would have a PCI Voodoo 3 3000 out now even if it had no interest in the Mac market, whatsoever.

Fortunately, though, it does. While the likes of S3 and Nvidia ignore it, 3dfx has being willing to cater for Mac gamers. It began developing and releasing Mac reference drivers earlier this year, culminating with the release last week of the first version to offer native OpenGL support.

Having tried the software with OpenGL-based Mac versions of Quakes II and III over the weekend, our own tests suggests the company has done a pretty good job, and the Voodoo 2000 makes for a considerably faster 16-bit colour frame rate (and with much better visual results, particularly in Quake III) than our blue'n'white Power Mac G3's built-in ATI Rage 128 card. But then that's not too surprising, since 3dfx recently hired away ATI's chief Mac coder, Ray Swartz.

OpenGL is particularly important here, since Apple is focusing its development of the Mac version of the 3D graphics API on the ATI card. 3dfx's driver hooks into the latest version of Mac OpenGL, 1.1.2, which is the first to support the PowerPC 7400's (aka G4) AltiVec vector processing engine.

Meanwhile, 3dfx is believed to be taking space at January's MacWorld Expo, suggesting that a rather bigger Mac-oriented announcement is in the works. It's unlikely, given the size of the market, to be a Mac-branded board, so our vote is for at-launch availability of Voodoo 4 and 5 Mac drivers. ®

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