A NEW GAME CARD THAT ROCKS

A NEW GAME CARD THAT ROCKS

In the time of King Arthur there was the search for the Holy Grail. Today we're faced with another quest: the search for the perfect gaming video card.

Although there are many that have been strewn across my path, one stands out for sheer speed and its ability to process 3D games like no other.Ironically the Hercules 3D Prophet GeForce 256 from Guillemot Corp. ($259.95) isn't the top game card in the company's line (that's the 3D Prophet DDR). But it blew away all of the other cards I've used.

Developed by NVIDIA, GeForce is a 256-megabyte graphics processing chip that performs all the functions, and more, that used to eat up some of your computer processor's power. This means your CPU can be used to do other things.

This new card is designed for newer computers that have an AGP (advanced graphics processing) slot on their motherboards. Actually the newer the computer the better, because, as I discovered, even the early Pentium IIIs could have a problem handling its processing power.

It uses the AGP slot to take advantage of the speed of the motherboard's chipset. The speed allocated to it through the port is controlled by the computer's BIOS. Unfortunately, the older 440BX chipset used in the first Pentium IIIs aren't able to accommodate the AGP 4X setting. For that you need a faster 820BX motherboard.

But even stepped down to a 2X card, it still outperforms the competition.

So what didn't I like about it?

There's no way to disable the 4X setting on the card as there is on the Diamond Viper II. This means you get a memory error when the computer boots up. When this happens, the card automatically steps down to 2X, but seeing the error is a bit disconcerting.

The only other shortcoming is its use of SDR (Single Data Rate) memory, which basically means it has a bandwidth problem with higher resolutions and bit depths. To avoid this, and to experience the full power of this card, you should play games at 600-by-800 dpi. If this is a problem, then spend the extra $40 on Guillemont's higher-end DDR card.

Among the card's features are:

Advanced support for OpenGL and Microsoft Direct X7.

Advanced 3D functions, including anti-aliasing, fogging and mip-mapping.

It can generate up to 480 pixels a second.

It can handle 65,000 colors at a resolution of 2.048 by 1.536 dpi using an on-board 350-megahertz processor.

It's optimized for software DVD acceleration and comes with a software DVD player.

It features TV video-out so you can connect it to a television set or VCR.

It comes with 32 megabytes of memory.