The Working Man's Card
Well, so far this week S3 and Nvidia have announced their highly anticipated next generation 3D cards, and you can bet 3dfx isn't far behind. There's no doubt that many of us are going to buy one of these new cards as soon as they're released, but some of us don't want to blow $200-300 or more on a new video card. We have better things to buy, like two hundred bottles of those new Snapple "rain" fruit drinks. Mmmm… rain.
Here's where the Savage 4 Pro Xtreme comes into the picture. S3 has already conceded the race with the current generation of 3D accelerators. The Savage 4 was based on the Savage3D, and S3 knows that the Savage3D architecture just can't compete with the Voodoo 3 and the TNT2. The Savage 4 Pro Xtreme will be S3's last chip based on the Savage3D architecture. They just wanted to squeeze one last card out for the budget market before moving onto the Savage2000.
That's right, the budget market is a very lucrative market segment. The majority of computer users aren't hardcore gamers. They don't need the power of a Voodoo 3 or TNT2 to run excel or play minesweeper. They'll still need a 3D accelerator to play the newest games, but they aren't hardcore multiplayer junkies trying to gain a framerate advantage in Quake3. In this case, a 3dfx Banshee or Voodoo 2 might be enough, but with more games now supporting 32-bit color, the TNT would be an even better choice.
Then again, speed is still an issue. The absolute minimum framerate a first person shooter type of game has to maintain to be enjoyable is probably somewhere between 25 to 40 frames per second. The older 3D accelerators may have trouble maintaining the minimum framerates in games such as Quake3 without making everything "ugly."
The mainstream market now needs an inexpensive 3D accelerator that's fast enough to play today's games with all the pretty options and still maintain an acceptable framerate of 25-40fps. Of course, acceptable is a subjective term. We think having a solid 100fps in the top right corner while playing in a 16 player FFA in Q3test is acceptable, but the mainstream user will be happy with 30fps. S3 wants the Savage 4 Pro Xtreme to be the chip that keeps the mainstream market happy. Let's take a look at the specs.