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Maes

Back to the classics: S3 ViRGE

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Since my PCIe Gainward Bliss 7600GT blew up, I have to use an old S3 ViRGE PCI with 2 MB videoRAM for my stuff...wanna know how it is to use such an atavistic piece of hardware?

Well...

First of all, it has no 32-bit color mode, so certain features like transparency aren't hardware accelerated (you do have transparency, but using more CPU horsepower). It also can't do 24-bit truecolor in 1024*768 (Hicolor), at least it has a refresh rate of 85 Hz at that res so I don't have to fry my eyes out :-p

The usual windows GUI feels almost the same, and better than some Intel/S3 solutions using onboard RAM.

Video playback from Youtube/media players is possible in windowed mode, but the CPU consumption skyrockets (50% on an Athlon 64 3200+). It also gets sluggish (several seconds PER FRAME) if you try to use any sort of scaling (such as resizing the window 1 pixel, or using full screen modes that require stretching the video), unless the video resolution precisely matches the screen's resolution.

It's possible to play ZDoom/other source ports using software renderers, and it plays almost as fast. ZDoomGL starts, and looks "filtered" but that's actually just windows's GDI emulating OpenGL, so it's noticeably choppier than pure software ZDoom. GZDoom won't even start because of the lack of a 32-bit mode.

All in all it's usable, and better than being totally fucked...

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I agree - they work quite nicely with software renderers and it's much better than staring at your monitors NO SIGNAL message. I keep a 4MB Virge as a backup for my backup - a TNT2 PCI card.

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GreyGhost said:

I agree - they work quite nicely with software renderers


I find this amusing. The entire point of software renderers is that they DON'T use the video card. They run entirely on the CPU. Hence in software.

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AirRaid said:
The entire point of software renderers is that they DON'T use the video card. They run entirely on the CPU. Hence in software.

Good luck running the DOOM games without a 256 color video adapter!

If I am not mistaken, the term "hardware mode" came into use with cards granting specialized video acceleration and related features, and not just because the video card started being made use of by games or whatever.

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I have a virge lying around somewhere. It was video card that came with my Pentium 90, until I upgraded it to a Voodoo3 2000. I still remember being impressed when I saw Legacy's godawful corona around the plasma/bfg shots.

Those were simpler times... *sigh*

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When running anything in pure software mode (like most DOS games did for years, if you exclude VGA 'hardware scrolling') it all boils down to how good a certain video card is at frame buffering, aka just how fast it can throw the stuff you're feeding it via the ISA/PCI/whatever bus to the screen. In 256 color mode, it's also important to have fast palette registers for certain effects to look smooth.

To me, it's still surprising how not all videocards were equal in performance even with regards to simple frame buffering and using the same bus e.g. an S3 was way faster than a cirrus logic even on a DOS raster game like Mortal Kombat 3. After all, it was all a matter of bus and video RAM, yet not all cards had reached the maximum possible framebuffering performance...until S3 came and pretty much made all the other oldsk00l VGAs its bitch.

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myk said:

Good luck running the DOOM games without a 256 color video adapter!

If I am not mistaken, the term "hardware mode" came into use with cards granting specialized video acceleration and related features, and not just because the video card started being made use of by games or whatever.

AND GOOD LUCK FINDING A VGA PORT HURR DURR

Still, you have to admit there's a difference between being simply a screen buffer and doing actual rendering calculations and storing game assets.

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Not directly related to the S3, I however also obtained an AWE64 for my oldskool b0x. Now I can enjoy oldskool doom with uhm...oldskool Wavetable sound, much to the dismay of oldskool FM purists ;-)

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s3 virge sucks
reminiscing about it only brings up nightmares on how it sucked
if you think you have good memories from this, you're a psycho. or a retard. or both.

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leileilol said:

if you think you have good memories from this, you're a psycho. or a retard. or both.

As an accumulator of antiquated hardware - I'm probably both. :P
Anyone have a spare set of ROMs for a Commodore PET?

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leileilol said:

s3 virge sucks
reminiscing about it only brings up nightmares on how it sucked
if you think you have good memories from this, you're a psycho. or a retard. or both.



How true. Back in the day I was working on a PC port of a PSX game and we had to support all the crap cards out there at that time. Needless to say that hardware acceleration only worked well on Voodoos back then (this was before NVidia released their Riva 128, so 100% of non-Voodoo cards were utter crap.)

The Virge was one of the very worst offenders we had to deal with.

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Graf Zahl said:

How true. Back in the day I was working on a PC port of a PSX game and we had to support all the crap cards out there at that time. Needless to say that hardware acceleration only worked well on Voodoos back then (this was before NVidia released their Riva 128, so 100% of non-Voodoo cards were utter crap.)

The Virge was one of the very worst offenders we had to deal with.

Whats worse is that the majority of non-Voodoos didn't support blend modes beyond simple alpha blend so trying to do cool explosions and stuff was pretty limited. The PowerVR PCX1/2 series were nefarious for this and because of that, 95% of 3d accellerated computer games up until really late 1999 had alpha blend effects only rather than additive/subtractive/multipulative

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The ViRGE was infamous as a 3D decellerator - the "enhanced" versions of games that were compatible with the ViRGE actually ran slower than the software version on the same computer! The card was so miserable that it couldn't do any hardware effects without slowing everything to a crawl.

S3 never had a good reputation. The Savage cards were a lot better, but S3 was notorious for their abyssmal driver quality. I think ATI (pre-Catalyst) was possibly the only company that could compete with them for that particular honor.

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I remember getting my voodoo 2 12mb and running it on a cyrix 266mhz machine, great times.

There was a version of edge (1.24?) that would only run in window mode at the time, but the voodoo 2 always forced it to fullscreen and it worked fine.

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Nuxius said:

This is my back up graphics card. 7300GT for $30 ($20 after MIR), can't beat that.

It's currently in one of my other computers, but if my 8800GTS goes out for some reason, it will suffice.


I'm almost jealous...these days I understood the importance of having a WORKING graphics card. I tried a Gigabyte GV-NX86T512H but the passive "heatpipe II" cooling just didn't do the trick for me, so I'll attempt returning it. It just keeps locking up as soon as anything 3D is fired up.

Maybe it's my mobo/PSU kicking the bucket too, I dunno...it might not even be worth getting a low-end PCIe card as "backup" at that point, as it will also fail.

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I would suggest using RivaTuner or something to see what temp the graphics card is running at.

Also, for fanless graphics cards (and I mean any fanless graphics card), you really need to have great airflow throughout your case with no obstructions getting in the way. Proper cable management is of up most importance here.

Of course, as you said, it could also be that your power supply just can't handle the load anymore. I doubt it's your motherboard though, although by now I know that you can't ever really rule anything out... still though, I doubt it.

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OK, it seems that there's some sort of damage at the motherboard level, as it cannot handle ANY PCIe card without randomly hanging up (ranging from 6600, to 8400GS, to 8600GT, so it can't be just the PSU. It only works OK with the usual old PCI card.

That's really a bummer, as finding a Socket 754 mobo that doesn't suck (read as: office use with 1 IDE and PCI slot and integrated graphics) is really hard.

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Because ATi sucks anyway :-)

(J/K, I still have an AGP ATi 9600 XT still working happily on my mother's b0x).

I really don't think the actual chipset would matter, because hanging can happen in any phase of the PC's functioning: boot, windows startup, using it, idling etc., and the DPC latency tool I have sometimes indicates unnaturally high bus latencies (up to 26 ms, which is catastrophically high and can only be justified by failing components on the mobo).

BTW...I confirmed that my initial 7600GT was catastrophically damaged by plugging it in a friend's mobo: while my mobo didn't even start up with the card plugged (and shut itself off immediately upon powering it up), my friend's mobo did start up and...HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A GRAPHICS CARD GLOW ??? Sparks and smoke included.

So I'm at least positive that some sort of partial damage occured to the NB chip. I think I'll just revert to the reliable PCI card and replace the whole mobo/CPU/RAM when time comes...still, what a bummer.

I've had previous experience with partial mobo damages, and they are really crippling and subtle to spot: my previous 754 mobo received chipset damage from a Creative Audigy 4, which showed up as persistent disk corruption and glitchy SATA controller operation, even after removing the offending hardware.

The easiest way out of this one would finding another K8N-Neo3 mobo, but all I can find for socket 754 is this:

http://www.e-shop.gr/search_per.phtml?category=%CC%C7%D4%D1%C9%CA%C7+%CA%C1%D1%D4%C1&category2=SOCKET%20754

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Maes said:

BTW...I confirmed that my initial 7600GT was catastrophically damaged by plugging it in a friend's mobo: while my mobo didn't even start up with the card plugged (and shut itself off immediately upon powering it up), my friend's mobo did start up and...HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A GRAPHICS CARD GLOW ??? Sparks and smoke included.

That explains why the card failed - you let the smoke out.

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GreyGhost said:

That explains why the card failed - you let the smoke out.


Yeah :-(

No more magic smoke for me and no more OpenGL-smoothed Cybies either :-(

Luckily I can stay for a few months without a "hi end" b0x, and I'll just transition directly to a cheap multi-core instead of spending money trying to keep my aging CPU and DRAM with whatever shitty 754 mobo is still left on the market.

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Maes said:

Not directly related to the S3, I however also obtained an AWE64 for my oldskool b0x. Now I can enjoy oldskool doom with uhm...oldskool Wavetable sound, much to the dismay of oldskool FM purists ;-)

AWE64? Archaic sweetness. My ye olde shitbox PII 233 had one those. Now it's in many many pieces. I gave away my 6600GT sometime after I got my 7600GT. Now I scored a cheap 8600GT. Only $63.00 and after MIR 5 months later, it will be only $33 total.

Think I'll keep the 76 in case the 86 becomes a crispy critter.

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I also have a PCI Yamaha Waveforce, but you can't beat having true, direct hardware SB16 compatibility in DOS games and awesome hardware wavetable sound for midi music (plus, you can always revert to the FM synth if you want).

Remember though: happiness is having a software rendered Doom source port that will work with your S3 (ZDoom works fine and frame rates are high as usual, Legacy worked out fine too).

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This thread makes me glad that I missed the boat on early 3D acceleration and had an N64 instead.

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Actually I missed most of the dreaded transitional years between 1995 and 2000 (before M$ actually made a half decent OS and entry level systems eventually got cheap enough RAM to work without trashing the HD). I got to use my share of shitty transitional era systems too however, and what's worse they were not all windows based, either.

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Legacy's godawful coronas


I SWEAR back in late 99/early 00 those things looked so much better. Then got crap, then the current version came out which is slow, looks shitty and had skyboxes removed (no need to go into that shit again, but if you're a Legacy defender here to go "lol never had skyboxes" FUCK OFF), and development stopped

Also my first PC had a 2-4mb graphics card but ran Half-Life decently well regardless, 128mb RAM though, which was vast at the time. Plus a non-"prettied up" resource hogging OS

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