On the drive to the 3dfx meeting, Bob and I were enthusiastic about what we were going to see. Lying just across the Bay in a comfortable hotel room we were about to witness the world's first consumer-level Gigapixel graphics card. WRONG!
That's right, upon quick inspection of the room, we noticed there were no open cases with "DO NOT TOUCH" or "TOUCH THIS COMPUTER AND WE WILL OWN YOU!" signs written on them. Instead the room contained three systems, two Apple G4 boxes and the third box housed Quantum3D's multiple Voodoo2's in parallel configuration. While it's impressive to think about the performance potential eight Voodoo2 cards in unison brings to the table, it's also a little disappointing to see the same demo system being used since 3dfx introduced T-Buffer technology back in July.
In particular, the two G4 systems were running the Unreal flyby; one was powered by the Voodoo3 3000 and the other an ATI Rage 128.
So where's the beef?
That's what we were wondering once we learned that cards based on the VSA-100 chip weren't on display at MacWorld. We learned that 3dfx has just taped out first silicon on the chips, they haven't received any samples yet. Keep in mind this is for the PC unit, not the Mac product which is even further behind. We pressed the issue a bit further and learned that 3dfx still feels they can have cards based on the VSA-100 processor available in retail channels by April for the PC, but exactly which Voodoo lines that will be is still unknown.
This is very disappointing news indeed. If you recall the introduction of the Voodoo3, limited samples were available just in time for Comdex, and Voodoo3 2000 and 3000 cards were selling at retail in early April.
If early VSA-100 samples are good and 3dfx can ramp up production quickly enough, they just might make their release date. If not however, and the product could slip into the second quarter, cutting revenue for the first half of 2000.
As mentioned earlier, since samples of the VSA-100 don't exist yet, 3dfx is still unsure which products will be available at launch. It's possible that all cards in the Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 line will launch simultaneously but it's also possible that 3dfx may delay the launch of certain models like the more expensive Voodoo5 6000. Nothing has been determined yet. Over the next four weeks, 3dfx should have a clearer picture of the status of the VSA-100 cards, but until then it's anyone's guess.