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The Voodoo 5 6000

The long lost and forgotten GPU

01
September
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As most of you know, the big news in the tech world this week surfaced when AMD determined it would no longer carry the ATI name anymore. Our beloved (AMD) ATI Radeons are now just AMD Radeons. Weird huh? I'm sure some of you were even surprised when AMD decided to invest in ATI a few years back. It appears that it was a healthy decision for the long run, as they have been able to implement chip solutions that incorporate a fresh mix of GPU/CPU power. Basic/business users were able to utilize motherboards with onboard VGA that didn't suck so much ass anymore. HDMI, DVI, VGA, CrossFire support built into the southbridge? Yes please.


AMD 785G chipset


Anyways, all of this got me thinking about video cards and the good old days. No, I'm not talking about the glory days of ATI and the 9800Pro. I'm talking even further back, when you were the shit if you had a P3 933 MHz and 128MB of RAM. The long lost GPU from this time period was the 3dfx Voodoo 5 6000. Now, you must be wondering why you haven't seen this monster or even heard much about it - and if you did, you probably forgot about it by now. Sadly, this monster never saw the light of day. However, the amount of innovation in the Voodoo 5 series by 3dfx at the time was incredible.


3dfx logo


One of the interesting design features built into Voodoo graphics cards was scalability. The name of the chip itself contained the abbreviation VSA, which stood for Voodoo Scalable Architecture. Cards throughout the model range could utilize a single chip design, however, they could run from 1 to 32 GPUs in parallel. Thus, performance would increase proportionally. Cards with multiple chips communicated with each other using the now ever popular acronym SLI, which at the time stood for Scan-Line Interleave. SLI allowed the hardware to break down the graphics processing into separate parts for each chip's consumption - bet you thought that was a new fad nowadays huh? The drawback was added circuit complexity and wasted processing time.


The vanilla Voodoo 5 model was the 5500. It was able to outperform the Nvidia GeForce 256 and ATI Rage 128 at the time but could not compete against the newer GeForce 2 GTS and Radeon DDR. This is where the 6000 came in.


Voodoo 5 6000


The Voodoo 5 6000 had 16 chips of 8 MB video memory, 128MB total. At the time this was insane, as most cards packed 32 MB of memory. It used four 32 bit 166 MHz VSA-100 graphics processors, each with a transistor count of 14 million (compared to Nvidia Fermi cards with 3 billion today). With 4 GPUs and a shit ton of memory, the 6000 drew a lot of power - much more than the AGP specification allowed for. Therefore, it included a external power supply called the Voodoo Volts that needed to be connected to an AC outlet. If this card had been released, the external power supply would surely have turned people off. Internal power connections (like what GPUs have nowadays) would have been a better bet. In fact, some prototype units did utilize an internal power connection.

power supply

So, with all this power, how did the Voodoo 5 6000 perform? It easily bested the top tier Geforce 2 Ultra and Radeon 7500. Later on, it was shown it could compete well with the Geforce 3. Unfortunately, besides 10 pre-release retail spec boards, the 6000 never made it's way to enthusiasts. It was burdened by its complicated design, which resulted in an estimated retail price of $600. Also, 3dfx had decided to manufacture its own boards, instead of spec'ing out their designs to 3rd party manufacturers. This turned out to be a disaster and was one of the reasons for the company's demise.


3dfx accomplished impressive feats with this card but they were bankrupt by 2002, and that was the end of the legacy of the forgotten Voodoo 5 6000.

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