S3/Diamond – Viper II Z200 review

near GeForce performance but much cheaper
Photo of S3/Diamond – Viper II Z200
£112

At the moment, the higher end of the graphics card market is pretty much under the stranglehold of Nvidia’s GeForce technology. And with good reason; they’re very nice cards, aside from the odd stability issue. There’s one drawback though – you pay the price for this speed, with even the cheapest GeForce cards sitting just above the two hundred pound mark.

Enter the new Viper II Z200, an incarnation of the Viper II reviewed here. It’s a fast card but, more importantly, it has a price tag that will make the average user cry tears of quad-textured joy. Can this close-to-the-£100-price-mark Viper deliver anywhere near the same quality as the GeForce?

The answer is pretty much ‘Yes’. It’s not quite as fast as the GeForce, although that’s only to be expected. It does, however, perform very well under Quake 3 benchmarks, and even in higher resolutions like 1024X768 it doesn’t break sweat, which is a good sign.

Now to specs, for those interested. The card is based around the S3 Savage 2000 chip, backed with 32MB of SDRAM, a 350Mhz RAMDAC, and has full 4x/2x AGP support. It also supports S3TL transformation and lighting (although no games software does yet!), and S3′s own texture compression routines (S3TC). There’s also a TV-Out port on the card for those who might need it, and hardware-accelerated DVD playback. The Diamond In-Control Tools 99 driver utility gives you a good level of control over the card’s features, and includes the ability to tailor separate profiles for different games, which is a handy feature.

For the price, this varied feature-set and fast performance is quite startling value. The only downsides to the Viper II Z200 are the software bundle, which doesn’t have any real big name games to head it, although some of the demos that come with the card do show off the capabilities rather nicely (such as a Quake III level rendered under S3TC).

The other slightly shaky area is the drivers, which still have some issues that need to be ironed out, although to its credit Diamond has only just updated them, as this piece is being written, to work with a couple of the games we had problems with.

Company: S3/Diamond

Contact: 01189 444444


Verdict
Aside from a slightly shaky start with the drivers, and highly average bundled software, this is an excellent card through and through. A well rounded feature set, coupled with very impressive performance at the price point makes the Viper II Z200 a great choice for those who are budget conscious, but still want a high performance 3D card for their gaming.