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Skywell Magic TwinPower Banshee

Posted: 2-20-99

Written by: Don "Sine" French


3Dfx took a big risk when they released a second 2D/3D card. Anyone who witnessed the "Rush era" (Voodoo Rush was 3Dfx's other 2D/3D chipset) probably remembers constant problems with patches and compatibility, not to mention flaky 3D and poor 2D support. Skywell chose the reference 3Dfx Banshee design for the Magic TwinPower Banshee. Although the Rush was in many people's eyes, a failure, the Banshee chipset has been touted as a great 2D/3D solution. But how does it compare to the rest of the market?


Features / Specifications

The Banshee features a 3D core identical to the 3Dfx Voodoo2 (without multitexturing) and the 2D is actually pretty good. The feature set is more impressive than the aging Voodoo2.. definitely not enough to make a huge deal about but not too bad for most users trying to find a decent upgrade.

Banshee 2D Features

-100MHz single-cycle 128-bit Windows GUI Acceleration
-Full featured 128-bit BitBlt Engine
-Hardware acceleration for Bresenham line draw, 2-edge polygon fill, scissor-rectangle clippers, and full 256 ROPs
-Source and desination chroma-keying for DirectDraw
-SGRAM color expansion support
-2, 16, 24 and 32 bpp modes
-16 MB 100 MHz SGRAM

-Optimized for software DVD Acceleration (optional)


Banshee 3D Features

-Full hardware setup of triangle parameters
-Support for multi-triangle strips and fans
-16-bit integer and floating-point Z-buffering with biasing
-Transparency and chroma-key with dedicated color mask
-Alpha blending on source and destination pixels
-Sub-pixel and sub-texel correction to 0.4x0.4 resolution
-24-bit color dithering to native 16-bit RGB

-Per-pixel atmospheric fog with programmable fog zones
-Polygon edge anti-aliasing
-Perspective correct (true divide-per-pixel) 3D texture mapping
-True per-pixel, LOD MIP mapping with biasing and clamping
-RGB modulation/addition/blending combines textures and shaded pixels
-Texture compositing for multi-texture special effects

-Support for 14 texture map formats
-8-bit paletted textures with full bilinear filtering
-Texture compression through narrow-channel YAB format
-100 Mpixel/sec fill rate, 100 Mtexel/sec fill rate, and 3M triangle/sec
-PCI bus 2.1 compliant, 33/66MHz (SW-TGABSP) and AGP x 1 (SW-TGABS)
-Drivers support: DirectX 6 and DirectX 5, MiniGL and Glide under Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows 98

-Drivers support: Glide and OpenGL ICD under Windows NT 4.0
-Full software compatibility with Voodoo Graphics (tm), Voodoo2 (tm)
-System requirements:


Windows 95/98/NT

Pentium or Pentium II CPU

AGP or PCI Slot




The Card

The Banshee is essentially a Voodoo2 missing one texelfx2 chip (meaning no multitexture support), with 2D, and 16 MB of SGRAM, on the AGP bus. The biggest complaint that people have about the Banshee is that even though it supports AGP, it fails to take advantage of the features that separate AGP from PCI. Unlike the TNT and most other modern chipsets, the Banshee completely fails to support AGP 2X, 4X or any extra features.

Click to enlarge

The Banshee seems to be targeted towards computer users who want good 2D and enough 3D performance to satisfy the occasional gaming urge. The 2D performance is good, but not stellar, and the 3D performance is on the lower end of today's 3D accelerators.

The card supports Direct3D and OpenGL via the miniport. Full OpenGL support is available, though only a beta, and doesn't support windowed rendering.

Just like the Rush, the Banshee is victim to a few problems. For example, Need For Speed III would not even run until a patch was installed. After installing the patch, the game had messed up textures and shadows. Also, the card runs very hot. (even with the heatsink) I experienced problems with Netscape after installing the card but that may have been unrelated.



Test system

Celeron 266 @ 400
ABit BX6 mainboard
Skywell Magic TwinPower Banshee
Latest 3Dfx reference drivers
Soundblaster 16
Windows 98


Skywell Banshee (Celeron 266 MHz @ 400 MHz (100x4)

  640x480 800x600 1024x768
GLQuake demo2 69.2 46.5 29.0
Quake II demo1 34.1 28.0 22.1
Quake II crusher 16.7 14.9 12.2
3DMark 99 Lite 2492 3DMarks 1994 3DMarks N/A

Quake II (and any game using the Quake II engine or any game that takes advantage of a second TMU) will not run as well as other cards because the lack of multitexturing. Compare the results above to the Skywell TNT on a P2 450. I know the Celeron @ 400 MHz is not the same speed or even close to a P2 450, but this will give you an idea of how a decked out TNT system compares to a Banshee.


Skywell Magic TNT (With a Pentium II 450 MHz CPU)

  640x480 800x600 1024x768
GLQuake demo2 101.9 68.5 44.1
Quake II demo1 73.0 59.2 38.4
Quake II crusher 37.8 34.5 28.1
3DMark 99 Lite 2755 3DMarks 2123 3DMarks N/A


Skywell Magic Banshee vs. Skywell Magic TNT

Skywell Magic Banshee Skywell Magic TNT
Blue Red

GLQuake demo2 - 640x480



Quake II demo1 - 640x480



Quake II Crusher - 640x480



3DMark 99 Lite - 640x480


GLQuake demo2 - 800x600



Quake II demo1 - 800x600



Quake II Crusher - 800x600



3DMark 99 Lite - 800x600


GLQuake demo2 - 1024x768



Quake II demo1 - 1024x768



Quake II Crusher - 1024x768



3DMark 99 Lite - 1024x768

Not available
Not available



If you're a light gamer looking for a card that will suffice for occasional spurts of games, and you don't have enough money for a TNT, go for a Banshee. However, if you're looking for all the performance you can get, and you're willing to spend an extra $20 or so, go out any buy a Creative Labs Graphics Blaster TNT. You won't be disappointed. For gamers and most people in general, the TNT is a much better choice than a Banshee based card.

[+] Good
Good 2D performance
Somewhat good 3D performance
Relatively cheap
Addition of Glide to your system

[-] Bad
TNT has better price/performance ratio
Uses AGP but doesn't take advantage of it
Minor compatibility problems

No bundle


Skywell Magic TwinPower Banshee Score
Value 7.5
Performance 7.0
Features 7.0
Quality 7.5
Overall 7.2


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