S3 – Diamond Viper II review

AGP S3 Savage 2000 2D/3D card
Photo of S3 – Diamond Viper II

Since graphics chip giant S3 took control of graphics card company Diamond, creating a tidy little one-stop shop, the company has come out with some decent gaming hardware. This, the Viper II, is potentially a little better than decent, though. It uses S3′s latest Savage 2000 engine (imaginative name alert), and features some natty little features that are most welcome in a gamer’s card.

S3′s texture compression is here, for a start. With games that support it, this means that large textures can be compressed into less memory, allowing for either higher frame rates or better quality textures, depending on your preference. A single-pass quad-texture engine is part of the chip design, which S3 claims will allow all shadowing, reflections, lighting and bump-mapping to be carried out in a single pass, considerably helping performance.

An unassuming-looking card, the Diamond Viper II is not exactly covered with silicon. There’s one large chip, concealed by a heatsink, but otherwise this AGP 2X/4X device is pretty minimalist. Backed up with 32MB of SDRAM memory, the 128-bit Savage 2000 chip can handle a top resolutions of 1920 x 1080 in 16.7 million colours, although at 60Hz you’re better off dropping down to 1280 x 1024, where a more eye-friendly 85Hz is available.

Bundled with the card is a copy of Acclaim’s TrickStyle, plus optimised demos of Quake III Arena and a few other bits and bobs. There’s also the latest incarnation of the InControl tools driver set, plus the obligatory DVD video player software. What’s more interesting is the downloadable patch for Unreal Tournament, which turns an excellent game into a visual corker.

The card features support for DirectX 6.1 and 7, of course, plus the ICD subset of OpenGL. There are also composite and S-video outputs, so that you can play games or DVD movies on your TV set, if you can be bothered to carry the PC downstairs and plug it in. And if you have a wireless keyboard and mouse.

Company: S3

Contact: 01189 444400

Every graphics chip and card vendor is continuously claiming to have the 'next generation' technology, and without carrying out a full performance-oriented group test (something for the future on IT Reviews), it's hard to dispute their claims. Certainly the Diamond Viper II produces some stunning looking visuals, and costs around £100 less than cards based on the nVidia GeForce 256 chipset. How it will stack up against the latter in T&L-optimised games remains to be seen, but on the evidence we've seen, it offers plenty of gaming power for the money.