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9/96 Reviews HW: Diamond Stealth 3D 2000XL

Listing of September 1996 Reviews

3-D, and Not 2-D? No Longer a Question

By Ian Etra

The latest addition to Diamond Multimedia's Stealth graphics card family, the Stealth 3D 2000XL lets you have your 3-D and 2-D too.

I tested the Stealth 3D in a Pentium 100 with 16MB of RAM, a system that could benefit from 3-D acceleration. Installation was a do-it-yourself procedure, requiring four different programs to install the display drivers, DirectX drivers and MediaMatics' software MPEG player. However, the documentation completely laid out the process.

The board's S3 ViRGE chip provides 2-D graphics and video acceleration in addition to 3-D acceleration. As a 2-D card, the Stealth 3D performs admirably, and showed a modest performance gain over the on-board S3 Trio64 it replaced in my system. The 2MB version was able to attain resolutions up to 1280x1024 with a solid 85Hz vertical refresh rate, and 24-bit color at 800x600. Diamond promises that an upgradable version will be available by the time you read this.

The Stealth 3D 2000 was unable to play MPEG files at 24-bit color and 30 frames per second, but that wasprobably a function of my CPU's relatively slow speed. For no-compromise MPEG playback, get the hardware MPEG player upgrade for the card, whichwill be available this fall.

While the Stealth 3D 2000 has a range of 3-D capabilities, its potential has yet to be fully realized. Diamond has pledged support for Microsoft's Direct3D API, which provides a standard platform for 3-D hardware and software. However, the Direct3D only shipped as this article went to press, so the new drivers were not yet available for the board, and there were no Direct3D applications to test its specific capabilities.

The card ships with two 3-D game titles written specifically for the S3 ViRGE chip, Destruction Derby from Psygnosis and Interplay's Descent II: Destination Quartzon 3D. The Stealth 3D 2000's support for the next-generation titles was mixed. Destruction Derby featured very realistic 3-D graphics that are not achievable without acceleration. Although the game was not hair-trigger responsive, performance was quite acceptable.

In a direct comparison of the Stealth3D version of Descent II and the conventional version, the card revealed problems. The accelerated version ran at a higher resolution with smoother textures, but at the highest detail levels the frame rate was too low, essentially rendering the game unplayable. A faster processor would undoubtedly yield better performance than the Pentium 100 I was playing on.

If you want to enter the world of 3-D without sacrificing 2-D performance (or your wallet), the Stealth 3D 2000XL is a good place to start.

--Info File--
Diamond Stealth 3D 2000XL
Pros: Price; good 2-D and 3-D performance
Cons: Not yet widely supported
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT
Diamond Multimedia Systems
800-468-5846, 408-325-7000
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

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