The debut of the 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 card on the Mac platform was a milestone event. For the first time Mac gamers have access to the same level of power and performance that PC gamers are enjoying, and have adequate processor power as well to drive these cards to new levels of performance. 3dfx’s aggressive move to conquer the Mac graphics card market amounts to a strong endorsement of the Mac as a gaming platform -- not just a good graphics machine or one with a friendly OS, but a platform that can support and sustain ‘hardcore’ gamers.
The Voodoo5 5500 is an extremely powerful and impressive graphics card. With a mix of deft engineering and brute-force hardware, the card allows for a level of visual quality unseen on any platform before. With a monster 64 MB of VRAM and two VSA-100 graphics chips, this card has power to spare.
Soon after this card debuted, its benchmarks created a great deal of controversy. Gamers who had spent months poring over the specs of this card and the reviews on PC gaming hardware sites such as Sharky Extreme were shocked to discover that the top speeds generated by this card were nowhere near what PC users were experiencing. A wild mix of explanations collided, and there was much pointing of fingers-- and more than a few calls to abandon the Mac as a gaming platform. It also became apparent that 3dfx was actively ‘tweaking’ the drivers for this card, with several revisions within the first month of the card’s release.
For this reason, our review of this card was put ‘on the shelf’ temporarily until the smoke cleared. Now with a set of drivers nearing maturity (currently at 1.10) and a great deal of research into the speed issue completed, we’re ready to offer you our assessment.
If you have already sneaked ahead to the end of this article and eyed the benchmarks, you may note they are slightly lower than those offered by other sites. There is a specific reason for this which is explained in the benchmarking section of this article. Have patience, all will be made clear.