Retro 3d Graphics cards.
Collecting old computer hardware is a strange hobby. You spend
hours pouring over eBay/shopgoodwill/other second hand markets
looking for items that interest you. When collecting retro
hardware, different people look for different things.
For me, I like old Windows 95/98 machines and I’m mostly
interested in hardware from the late 90s to 2000. There were many
options back then. The competing standards the different cards
supported had died. Direct 3d and OpenGL were the standards
developers used. Glide support was still desired, so some PC
makers to offered both an Nvidia/ATi card AND a 3dfx Voodoo 2
If you want to make a old retro system, and you don't want to
think too hard about what card to get: Find any Geforce card
from the 256 to the FX. If the system has a AGP slot, it will
work. You can find them for cheap on eBay, since the MX line
was the go to card for OEMs.
But if you want to make your life harder, well let's
get into it:
Add In Cards.
Cards like the 3dfx Voodoo or the Power VR cards.
Voodoo cards are in high demand right now. The Voodoo/Voodoo II
cards plug into a free PCI slot on the motherboard, so adding one
to a newer system gives you Glide compatibility with older titles
on a newer system. You can add a Voodoo II to a fast PIII or
Athlon system and still be able to play Mechwarrior 2 how it was
first released. (The Voodoo 1 works best with Pentium/II/K6
systems. It has issues with the faster FSB of later Slot A
Pairing them with a TNT2 or GeForce 256/2 card makes for a great
AGP cards are usually a 2d/3d card (many CAD cards
were 2d). Win98 Direct 3d and OpenGL acceleration. There’s a large
variety of cards and performance in this category. Let's break
down the more popular brands and cards
Nvidia Chips: Riva 128, Riva TNT and TNT2, and Geforce 256
3dfx Chips: Voodoo Banshee, 3, Velocity 100.
- With the Riva 128 Nvidia was able to compete
with 3dfx on performance. The TNT was able to draw even, and
the TNT2 sometimes won on speed, but definitely won on image
quality. It was the first consumer card that could render
games fast enough in 32-bit color. Many PC manufacturers
gaming computers would come with a TNT2 paired with a Voodoo
II for Glide support. The Geforce cards came out and destroyed
ATi: Rage 128, Rage Fury/Maxx
- The Voodoo Banshee was the first proper 2d/3d
Voodoo card. Based on the 2 series, these were mostly found in
mainstream gaming computers sold to the whole family. With the
Voodoo 3 3dfx had, at the time, the fastest graphics card on
the market. It did not support 32-bit color though, and the
image looked “washed out” compared to the TNT2. 3Dfx had also
purchased STB to make the cards, so depending on the retailer,
they could be hard to find. Fastest 90s era card with Glide
support. The Velocity 100 was an OEM card with half the ram of
the V3. If you can find one now, it’s a great deal on the
second hand market.
S3: Savage 3 and 4
- The Rage cards appeared in pretty much all of
the store bought PCs at the time. The Fury/Maxx cards were a
weird attempt at getting into the “hardcore” market. The Maxx
came with 2 Rage chips on it. Bad driver support sometimes
lead to weird display issues. Avoid these cards.
Power VR: Series 3
- The Savage 3 was S3’s proper gaming card. It
wasn’t an amazing card, but it performed well enough. The
Savage 4 was really the best card they made. The first (and
only in this era) to support Texture Compression. Games that
used S3TC had crisp and clear textures. It also supported
32-bit color. Bad drivers doomed this card as an also ran, but
if you had one, you really liked it.
- Rare. Hard to find. Performs well, but didn’t
get much widespread adoption. If you can find one for cheap,
you should get it since they are rare finds these days.
Interesting Cards (for collecting)
ATI Rage Fury Maxx: dual GPUs on one card. This card
was not as massive as you would think a 2 gpu card would be.
Nvidia Geforce SDR: The “low end” Geforce 256. It did not come
with DDR memory, but SDR found on the previous gen.
Power VR cards: All of them are interesting/collectable. The Kyro
cards in particular, since its the same tech as in the Dreamcast.
3dfx Voodoo Rush: a weird Frankentien’s Monster of a card. 3dfx
put a 2d chipset and connected it to their 3d chipset. It could do
2d/3d graphics, but in reality it worked the same way having a
add-in 3d card worked. (no windowed 3d)