In the Forums...
The feature that made many people not totally blow off S3 (including myself) was their outstanding use of texture compression in a new kind of technology patented as S3TC. For those that haven't heard of it before, here is a brief summary of exactly what it is and does:
Not to totally shaft the definition, but S3TC is a technology developed by S3 and intergrated into DirectX 6. Briefly, it allows for highly-realistic texture maps at a whopping 2048x2048. We aren't just talking 'no more pop-up graphics', but more or less this: If you traveled in a 3D world modeled after a certain place, S3TC can make it so realistic that you won't remember if what you saw there was on a computer screen or in real-life. This is exactly the case in the the Savage Island demo I explored which directly emulated the technology. (Hopefully what many games will be able to do.) To go more indepth, the texture compression technology has an average ratio of 6:1. The less data having to be transfered improves fill rates, image quality and system performance. Did I mention all at a cost of under 1-2fps???
In my opinion, if this technology is not implemented into future chips that are 'all-around better' in speed and what not than the Savage4, then whoever the company may be is seriously blatently stupid. If you are a fan of absolute eyecandy, then for $99.99 what you will see with the Savage4 is absolutely worth it:
For those that aren't impressed, I guess you're just gonna have to play Quake2 or Quake3 for a while then go view the demo with S3TC enabled to appreciate it. Take my word for it, this shtuff ROCKS! Expect some indepth comparisons as soon as real market games are out that truly support S3TC. If you happen to get the Savage4, there is a high-texture Unreal level out that is pretty crisp I take it. Whoever has the link, send it to me. I know it's somewhere, but now isn't the time for me to go searching.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, and to set my thoughts straight: The Stealth III S540 with the Savage4 Pro+ is a NIIICCE addition to anyone's graphic arsenal, in the category of image quality at the very least. However, it is severely plagued by incomplete support of its number one feature, S3TC. A second downfall is the overall speed at high resolutions, and even at the lower ones for that matter. The clock of the chip just doesn't cut it, especially with today's monsters close to hitting 200MHz! This can be overlooked, however, because it is aimed at the money-conscience consumers, remember...
On a good note, the bundle almost literally pays for the card. I remember once buying a Matrox Mystique just for the pack in. Basically, you'll be paying about $120 dollars for two games, and some nice software (including that one demo!) on the disc itself. One thing that I believe I forgot to mention earlier is that Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit is included as a demo and capable of being unlocked after purchase. (*cough* I'm sure you can find a generator. *cough*)
Finally, my standpoint on the Savage4 is that it is a great improvement over the Savage3D and deserves recognition. Given the market it is aimed for, Diamond and S3 developed on great card and when Unreal Tournament comes out, or other supporting games, I'll be the first to put my Stealth III back in my computer and get ready for stunning visuals in both 2D and 3D. Last and not least (well maybe in a comical sense) is the price. This card runs about $80 dollars across the BDNetwork which is less than a Voodoo3 2000 yet just about as good. (Notice at the bottom of all our reviews the link to search BDN. This finds you the cheapest prices of it on the 'net, so click it! Afterall, it is there for you :)