By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
s it okay to praise a product for being exceptionally average?
Perhaps average isn't the best word to use...what I mean, is that the Stealth II G460 is probably the best card on the market for people who simply don't care very much about hardware. It's a terrific...average card.
The Stealth II G460 utilizes the Intel i740 chipset (which I must confess I have been looking forward to for quite some time) and it does so quite well. There are a number of i740 cards on the market, but what the Stealth II does to separate itself from the competition (more perhaps than any other card I've ever used) is seamlessly blend itself with your system. Maybe it's just because I tested the i740 on a high-end system (a Pentium II 400) but I had literally zero problems with the card, from installation right through to Quake II. In fact, if I have any complaints at all about the card, it's simply that the OpenGL ICD was difficult to get my hands on...although that's probably more my fault than Diamond's, as they were included with the newest driver release, I simply was looking for an explicitly labeled download. .
The card is an AGP2x solution, so if you don't have an AGP slot, well...you're out of luck. Real3D makes a PCI version of their Starfighter board with as much as 16MB of texture memory (the Stealth is only available with 8MB). It does have an expansion slot which can be used to add an optional TV Tuner card, but since I already own one, I saw no reason to use this. But hey...to each his own.
So let's talk performance here. 2D, the Stealth kicks some major butt. After years of using ViRGE based 2D cards, I was thrilled to finally have a card that lived up to the "flicker free" experience advertised on so many boxes. The card supports desktop resolutions of up to 1600x1200, so if you've got a really big monitor (or just like teeny tiny text) you'll have a good time with this. Personally I was simply happy to have better than average 2D performance in 800x600...so I suppose I'm not the best person to ask about that.
But the 2D performance is what really sold me on the card. Sure you can get performance that's roughly the same with older Matrox cards, but I've never really used a card that worked so well that I forgot it was even present before. And this is what I think makes the Stealth as good a card as it is. It's reliable in a way no graphics cards are...with the Stealth G460, you get great 2D performance with no flickering, no image thrashing, and crisp, clear colors. After using it for a while, you'll forget it's even there.
The card's 3D performance is actually pretty dang good. Now granted...the same box with the i740 has SLI Monster3D II cards, so it's not going to be nearly the same quality, but in many cases, I thought the card held its own and even surpassed the 3DFX cards. While it lagged behind the 3DFX in numbers by roughly 20 frames per second in Quake II, it did display a clearer, richer image. Until switching from the 3DFX to the i740, I never realized just how well...bright the 3DFX cards are. When I changed the GL driver, I immediately noticed the lights projecting more accurately...instead of the room being lit up completely, the lights cast accurate shadows (which they do on the 3DFX, but they are much brighter) which blended seamlessly into their surroundings.
Playing a quick game of Sin I noticed the same thing...the 3DFX has a tendency to make things unnaturally bright. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, in fact in some cases (Moto Racer being a great example) it works in its favor...but side by side with the i740, and I found myself choosing the Stealth instead.
If I were being asked to pick a single 2D/3D solution for your average joe, it'd have to be the Stealth G460. It's everything your average person actually wants in a card...great, solid, reliable 2D performance, and better than average 3D performance with terrific image quality. Toss in that $129 price tag, and you've got a great deal.
For the average person.
You'll note that I've said nothing about the hardcore gamer. The hardcore gamer well...won't be pleased with this card. It'd got great 2D performance, but there are better 2D cards out there. And for the number-obsessed, it doesn't even come close to the framerates of SLI Voodoo2 cards. And while it does come with a couple of games, you can get much better packages elsewhere. And one of the games happens to be the pretty cool Incoming, which ships with so many cards these days that chances are you've already got a few copies. :)
The bottom-line is this: if you're in the market for an upgrade to that lousy ViRGE card of yours (and I certainly was) then try the Stealth G460...you won't be disappointed in the least. It's a good, cheap, card, and while newer, better cards are always coming (the Voodoo Banshee and TNT cards are just around the corner) who cares? You get a great, solid piece of hardware here. You can't go wrong.
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames.
|Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Geek Toys is © 1998 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is a majorly hostile gesture.|