Hercules – Prophet 4500 review

clever 3D graphics card
Photo of Hercules – Prophet 4500
£110 + VAT

We reviewed an earlier Prophet card here, but this one’s based on a faster chip; the Kyro II graphics processor from ST Microelectronics. This chip is set into a blue board with a single heat sink and cooling fan. There are no bells and whistles – no TV tuners, S-video output ports or the like – just a conventional monitor port to connect the card to your chosen display.

Chief among the Kyro II chip’s claims to fame is that it uses a different kind of rendering technique to most other graphics processors. With this chip, each scene is split up into areas called tiles, which are then rendered independently, as opposed to more conventional engines which might render the entire scene or a set of objects at once.

This new technique is claimed to produce a performance increase and improved image quality, especially when coupled with the chip’s hidden surface removal features. Whether the image quality is actually improved is a subjective matter, but it’s certainly a swift card. In our tests, the Prophet 4500 compared favourably with some of the faster GeForce 2-based cards on the market, although it can’t compete with the stunning performance of the GeForce 3 chip.

The Prophet 4500 comes with drivers for Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows 2000, and a selection of demo software to show off some of the card’s features. No bundled games, though; this is really quite a bare package. It’s fair to say, though, that you get what you pay for, and the Prophet 4500 is very reasonably priced for what it offers. You could buy almost three of these cards for the price of one GeForce 3, which is a sobering thought.

Company: Hercules

Contact: 020 8686 5600

This could best be described as a mid-range gamer's card. It doesn't have the sheer grunt of the current crop of GeForce 3 products, but it does out-perform many other cards and it doesn't cost the Earth. As long as you're not the type of gamer who demands top performance at any price, it could fit the bill nicely.