January 19, 2022

Modder Pairs 3dfx And PowerVR Chips On One Board For The Final Retro Graphics Card

hero lost joker 2 front heatsinks

Collect round kiddies for a story of the unhealthy outdated days. You see, as soon as upon a time, PC gaming wasn’t as unified as it’s now. Graphics card distributors (and even particular person graphics playing cards) had their very own proprietary APIs, and typically video games shipped as particular variations for a given graphics card, full with customized property and wildly various visible high quality.

In these days, it really wasn’t all that unusual for people to have one graphics card for 2D graphics and an entire separate graphics card for 3D graphics—then known as “3D accelerators.” Probably the most well-known instance can be the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics and Voodoo 2 pass-through playing cards, however there have been additionally PowerVR add-in playing cards that served the identical function.
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Anthony’s “Changeling,” a Voodoo 5 5500 with a jumper to double the reminiscence from 64 to 128MB.

These days, it is turn out to be commonplace for aficionados of retro PC gaming to construct PCs from recovered and repaired period-appropriate {hardware} in order that they’ll play the video games as they had been of their day. For folk like this author, who had been youngsters on the time and thus did not essentially have the revenue to purchase the newest gear, it may be an opportunity to expertise high-end {hardware} from a bygone period that, in its day, we may solely lust after in magazines and early net opinions.

Nonetheless, loads of this outdated {hardware} has ended up in landfills or in any other case destroyed, and even when the cardboard is visually intact, it could have suffered failed capacitors or different bodily injury. If you have to do board-level repairs anyway, why not simply transplant the entire thing onto an all-new board? Doing so lets the {hardware} hacker in query do attention-grabbing new issues, like make a dual-chip card that is each Voodoo 3 and PowerVR PCX2.

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The naked Misplaced Joker 2 card. (click on to enlarge)

Wait, what? Yeah, that was our response too. {Hardware} modder Anthony (referred to as Anthony Zxclxiv on Fb, and often known as zx-c64 elsewhere) is as much as his typical methods. The final couple of instances we reported on Anthony, he was fabricating all-new Voodoo 5 6000 playing cards, most not too long ago with stunning white PCBs. His newest creation is called the Misplaced Joker 2, and simply as we wrote above, it pairs a 3dfx Voodoo 3 “Avenger” core with a PowerVR PCX2 chip on a single card.

The Voodoo 3 chip on the cardboard is from a Voodoo 3 3500, the top-end Voodoo3 mannequin which initially got here with a TV tuner onboard. That performance is absent on the Misplaced Joker 2, though the reminiscence on the brand new card seems to be 4.5ns packages from EtronTech that ought to in principle assist a clock charge all the way in which as much as 230 MHz. Will probably be attention-grabbing to see if the Avenger chip itself can clock that top; the inventory clock for the Voodoo 3 3500 was 183MHz (synchronized between graphics core and video reminiscence.)

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A board diagram from the handbook for the Misplaced Joker 2.

In the meantime, the PowerVR PCX2 chip has its personal 4MB of reminiscence and a jumper to toggle the clock velocity from the unique 66MHz to an overclocked 80MHz. The PCX2 is usually inferior to the Voodoo 3 for many video games, however its distinctive structure could make it able to shockingly-high efficiency in sure titles. Maybe extra importantly it helps PowerVR SGL, permitting retro players to entry the few video games that had been optimized particularly for that API (comparable to Ultim@te Race and the unique Tomb Raider).

Arguably essentially the most attention-grabbing a part of the cardboard is that Anthony has applied pass-through assist. Which means though the Voodoo 3 was designed to be the first graphics adapter in a system, a purchaser may use the Misplaced Joker 2 as an add-in card with a special major graphics adapter. Whereas working techniques of the day will not usually play good with a number of 2D playing cards working concurrently, this performance permits a consumer to implement a sooner AGP card for Home windows 2000 or XP video games, after which reboot into Home windows 9x to play older video games utilizing the 3dfx or PowerVR playing cards.

If you need extra info on the pass-through perform, you may try the handbook for the cardboard. People thinking about selecting up a Misplaced Joker 2 for their very own retro rigs ought to contact the modder at his Fb web page, however be ready to spend out a bit in your extraordinarily unique piece of retro {hardware}: Anthony is outwardly asking some $500 USD for every Misplaced Joker 2 card.

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