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Review: 3dfx Mac Voodoo5 5500 PCI Graphics Card
Review date: 7/26/2000

Software Controls and Hardware Specifications
Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Movie Playback | Controls/Design | Summary
Card Layout

Click for larger image

The photo above shows the dual VSA100 graphics chips and fans and is a reminder this is a full length PCI card, which may be too long for some very old PCI Macs that have 7" max PCI slot limitations. (Officially 3dfx only warrants the card in Apple G3 and later Macs, although I have seen no issues in my loaded Genesis/9500 system.)

You can also see the white Power Supply connector in the upper edge of the card several inches over from the right edge. 3dfx smartly decided to avoid the potential issues of insufficient PCI slot power with this card (see with the original GeForce cards in some PCs) by providing a connector for using a standard hard drive power plug connection. 3dfx says the retail cards will come with a 'Y' power adapter cable for those that don't have a spare and to extend the reach of the power connect. With a 'Y' adapter I bought from a PC show years ago, I was able to reach the card even when mounted in the bottom slow of my Genesis (9500 based 6 slot Mac).

The card uses high-quality Aavid cooling fans which are ball bearing for longer life. This card runs hotter than most graphics cards due to the dual graphics chips and 64MB of RAM, however the card didn't seem to get as hot as my GameRocket (Banshee chip) card, which can literally fry an egg on the heatsink after an hour or so. I saw no problems with heat in extended tests in both the B&W G3 and G4/AGP systems or in limited tests in my Genesis.

The card edge shows the DVI (top) digital LCD connector as well as a standard VGA monitor port below it. Since all of Apple's current LCD displays are DVI, this was a smart move. DVI LCDs may drop in price over time, which will make this feature more generally beneficial. After the new Apple display connector design was shown at Macworld, 3dfx announced they will support it, although it's so non-standard I personally would prefer the current VGA and DVI connectors for the widest possible monitor selection.

Software Controls
One major plus with the Voodoo5 is the new 3dfx MacTools Control Panel. Each page of the Control Panel has options for various levels of 2D and 3D acceleration mode settings and the profile page reports the current firmware version. Bryan Speece told me they are also planning to add game specific control panel settings in the future.

The Control Panel also offers easy updates to firmware and will automatically install updates (no more typing ROM filenames as with the Voodoo3 flasher utility). The images below show each page of the Control Panel:

2D Control Panel Tab

3D Control Tab

Display Control Tab

Profile Tab

(The following info is from 3dfx's web site regarding the Voodoo5's specifications and features.)

General Features


64 MB of Graphics Memory

Enough memory to handle high-resolution gaming with large 32-bit textures and T-Buffer effects enabled.

667 Megapixels Per Second Fill Rate

Fill rate delivers frame rate. Virtually all games are limited by fill rate at resolutions of 1024x768 and above, so the higher your fill rate the faster your game will perform. The Voodoo5 5500 PCI delivers the Macintosh industry's highest fill rate.

Real-time Full-Scene HW Anti-Aliasing

Removes annoying jaggies and flashing objects from the image to dramatically improve the visual quality of any title, new or old. For more info see 3dfx's FSAA white paper.

T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Motion blur

Can be used to smooth motion to improve image quality or to exaggerate motion for special effects.

T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Depth of Field Blur

Enhances reality by rendering a scene as if viewed through a real lens. Enables artistic depth of field effects often used in cinema, such as blurring all but the most important objects in a scene.

T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Soft Shadows

Adds soft edges to shadows to give them a much more realistic appearance.

T-Buffer Digital Cinematic Effect: Soft Reflections

Enables realistic reflections from semi-gloss surfaces like polished wood or stone and stainless steel.

FXT1™ Texture Compression

Reduces the size of texture images with no loss in visual quality; higher frame rates and better image quality.

8-bit Palletized Textures

The most widely used form of texture compression; as with FXT1, palletized textures enable higher frame rates and enhanced image quality. Graphics cards that do not support palletized textures often experience severe game compatibility problems.

32-bit Rendering

Supports the highest possible image quality for the latest titles.

32-bit Textures

Allows use of the highest quality artwork seen in today's titles.

2k x 2k Textures

Allows you to enjoy the full impact of the most detailed artwork used by game developers; larger textures enable more complex, more stunning images.

24-bit Floating Point Depth Buffer (Z or W)

Virtually eliminates "Z aliasing", or having surfaces that should be visible being occluded and surfaces that should be occluded being visible.

8-bit Stencil Buffer

Improves image quality and realism by supporting a technique widely used by 3D content developers to create complex shapes such as shadows.

Fully integrated 128-bit 2D/3D/Video Accelerator

It's not just for gaming! Voodoo5 5500 PCI enables outstanding 2D and video applications too.


Allows users to run at insane resolutions and incredible refresh rates --2048x1536 at 85Hz for example.

API support: QuickDraw, QuickTime, QuickDraw 3D, GlideŽ, Apple OpenGL

The most comprehensive API support brought to the Macintosh ensures the highest title compatibility.

SVGA and DVI outputs Drives a wide variety of display types including the newest, ultra-clean, all-digital, flat panels.

Hardware Specifications

3dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI Specifications:

  • Graphics Engine: Dual 166MHz VSA-100 graphics chips
  • 32-Bit 3D Engine/32-Bit Z-Buffer support
  • 350MHz RAMDAC
  • Font Cache and Picture Cache (adjustable)
  • 64 MB of 6ns Samsung SDRAM
       (memory clock 166MHz)
  • MPEG, Quicktime, Quickdraw 3D/RAVE and OpenGL acceleration
  • Resolutions (max): up to 2048x1536 @85Hz
    (Includes 1600x1024 modes for Cinema & SGI LCDs)
    For a complete list of resolutions supported with Apple's Cinema Display, SGI's LCD and with SVGA monitors see this 3dfx page. (link removed after 3dfx closed) Note: As of driver v1.01/ROM v1.31 (still true with driver v1.10), there is no DVI scaling. (I.E. - running games less than the native resolution of the LCD display will result in a black border around the image, not scaling the image to full screen).
  • VGA and DVI Monitor Connectors
    (Note: not compatibile with Sync-on-Green Monitors according to reports)
  • 66MHz and 33MHz PCI Slot Compatible
  • Lifetime Warranty (USA), 10 Year otherwise.
    (Warranty covers use in Apple G3 and later Macs only.)

Requires: Apple G3 or G4 systems are required for full functionality and warranty support. (I.E. Beige G3 or later models, not G3/G4 CPU upgraded older models) Mac OS System 8.5 or higher. The Voodoo5 is a full-length PCI card and may not fit in some older Mac models. Be aware that the card is not warrantied or supported in pre-Beige G3 Macs and clones. Also as noted in the update to the Pros/Cons on the intro page and the game tests page, driver update v1.08 (and later) solved the issue of only 1 graphics chip being enabled in my 9500/Genesis..

For more information and the latest info on the Mac Voodoo5 5500 - see the 3dfx product page. (link removed after 3dfx went out of business)

Application and Game requirements will vary as far as CPU and memory requirements. For best results with modern 3D games like Quake3 and Unreal Tournament, I recommend 128MB RAM minimum, 256MB RAM or more preferred and a G3 or faster CPU.

A wrap-up of the review with details on availability is on the summary page.

Index of 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI Review

Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Movie Playback | Controls/Design | Summary

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