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8/96 Reviews HW: Number Nine Imagine 128 Series 2

Listing of August 1996 Reviews

Gripping Graphics from Nine's Nimble Card

By Marc Spiwak

You may never again sit around tapping your fingers, waiting for your application's graphics to catch up with the rest of your system. With the Number Nine Imagine 128 Series 2 high-end graphics accelerator card, slow screen redraws could become a thing of the past. I tested a preproduction copy loaded with 4MB

of EDO VRAM. It provides support for resolutions up to 1600x1200 with 65,000 colors and a 83Hz refresh rate, and can also handle true-color displays at resolutions up to 1152x864 at a 140Hz refresh rate.

The Series 2 card is a graphics accelerator that's ready to take on multimedia applications. It increases 2-D performance for Windows applications and reduces the load on the host system's CPU, yielding better overall performance. Integrated color space conversion allows for high-quality video playback at higher frame rates, and interpolated hardware stretch provides full-screen video playback. The card also offers integrated 3-D acceleration with 32-bit Gouraud shading, an intelligent command processor for parallel processing with the host CPU and hardware-based noninteger zoom with interpolation.

I installed the Series 2 in a 150MHz Pentium system and tested it with our Wintune benchmarks. For resolutions of 800x600, 1024x768 and 1152x864-all at 16 million colors-the card scored about 14Mpixels per second in the performance tests. Performance was even better on our Word and Excel macro tests, better predictors of real-world performance, with about a 25 percent improvement over a 64-bit graphics accelerator card.

With 4MB of VRAM, the card is ideal for graphics professionals, but its MPEG playback capability should also make it attractive to a wider audience. The included MPEG playback software allowed me to play CD-i movies (essentially MPEG movies on CD-ROM) in a full-screen window. The quality was comparable to a television picture, with good resolution and almost no frame dropping. The card's ability to play back .AVI files was equally impressive. I stretched, pulled and resized the playback window while a video was running, with no effect on playback smoothness.

As with its other cards, Number Nine includes the excellent HawkEye software utilities package with the Series 2. This software lets you make on-the-fly adjustments to everything-except color depth-without rebooting. I particularly like the ability to reset refresh rates, an adjustment that many video utilities don't allow.

If you work with graphics or multimedia applications, a 4MB Imagine 128 Series 2 is an instant productivity enhancer.

Info File
Number Nine Imagine 128 Series 2
Pros: Performance; utility software
Cons: Price
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT; DOS
Number Nine Visual Technology Corp.
800-GET-NINE, 617-674-0009
WinMag Box Score: 3.5
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