Real 3D – StarFighter PCI review

AGP Intel i740 2D/3D card
Photo of Real 3D – StarFighter PCI
£99 + VAT for 12MB, £110 + VAT for 16MB, £120 + VAT for 24MB

If you don’t have a PC equipped with one of the relatively new AGP graphics slots, you’re probably feeling left out in the cold with the recent launch of ultra-fast 3D graphics cards. As with most revolutions in the PC industry, the older technology tends to be left behind in the manufacturers’ rush to play with the new toy. You could, of course, buy an add-on 3Dfx Voodoo2 card, but this is a pricey solution and won’t improve the 2D graphics performance of your system.

The StarFighter PCI offers an alternative upgrade path. It uses one of the newer types of 2D/3D processor – the i740 chip from Intel – but is designed for PCI systems (although an AGP version is also available), meaning that those users with older PCs can at last take advantage of some of the newer 3D games on the market. It worked perfectly well on our test system, with the necessary drivers supplied for Windows 95 and Direct3D, as well as Windows NT and OpenGL; so it’s suitable for work as well as for play. On that front, the software supplied with the card includes Caligari TrueSpace 3 SE, along with various game demos, none of which is particularly ground-breaking.

An all-round card, the StarFighter PCI accelerates 2D and 3D graphics as well as video playback. It is not quite as fast as some of the other cards on the market when it comes to 3D graphics performance – Intel is not quite up to speed in that area – but it is still no slouch and will provide a significant boost to systems without any form of true 3D acceleration. There is a drawback, though. AGP graphics cards can use part of the PC’s system memory for storing 3D graphics textures. PCI cards cannot, so they require more onboard memory. This card has 12MB of it; 4MB for the frame buffer, allowing a top resolution of 1600 x 1200 with 256 colours, and 8MB for 3D textures. A 16MB variant is also on offer, while for the truly demanding games player, a 24MB version is available – that’s 8MB for the frame buffer and a whopping 16MB for textures.

Company: Real 3D

Contact: 01332 294424


Verdict
All that RAM pushes the price up just a little, but even so this is a reasonably-priced card. Its 3D performance isn't quite in the Voodoo2 league, but for users wanting to sample the delights of 3D graphics on PCI-only systems, this is not a bad place to start.