Just don't listen to her wail...
The third dimension of video games is here. No longer happy with 2D textures and sprites, video game characters now have the freedom to explore height, width, and depth. Unfortunately for video game players, however, this new freedom comes with a price tag. For PC gamers, that price tag is high.
Almost all 3D games released nowadays require some sort of 3D acceleration card above and beyond your computer's basic video card. In recent years, the most popular chipset has been the Voodoo chipset from 3Dfx. Setting the standard for most of the industry, Voodoo2 cards run about $110-$150. Of course, in order to run the 3D card, you also need a 2D card to run non-3D applications (such as your desktop, word processor, 2D games, etc.). The solution? The 3D Blaster Banshee from Creative Labs.
We're really into consumer-minded hardware, and it's here where the Banshee really shines. The 3D Blaster Banshee card is a 16MB 2D/3D card running on the Voodoo2 chipset. Being a 16MB card, the 3D Blaster Banshee from Creative Labs can run almost any resolution you can imagine. I was able to run applications in 32-bit color all the way up to 1600x1200, though that made things a bit too small on the monitor. Even if you have a moderately good video card, the 3D Blaster Banshee is probably a better 2D card, with 128 bits of 2D power.
As for 3D, the 3D Blaster Banshee looks downright beautiful. For the layman, the only real difference between the Voodoo Banshee and the Voodoo2 is the lack of one texture set. This results in an almost unnoticeable Voodoo2 graphical advantage. That's it.
Though the Banshee is slightly less powerful than an actual Voodoo2 card, it's still a good option for most gamers. If you already have a high-end 2D card (Intel's i740, for instance), the Voodoo2 card might be a good choice. But for anyone buying a new computer or wanting to upgrade for ease of operation, the Banshee is the logical (and more affordable) choice.
As is the case for all hardware, installation has to be taken into account. For new computers or computers with only one 2D card, installation is a breeze - just remove your old card, put in the new card, and run the setup. Unfortunately, I ran into trouble when I had to remove both my 2D card and my Guillemot Gamer 3D Voodoo card. Thankfully, the tech support at Creative Labs was helpful and we were able to get the card working well.
With a price tag equal to or less than your average Voodoo2 card, the 3D Blaster Banshee is the perfect solution for a person trying to turn their computer into a gaming machine. Though Voodoo3 and the impressive TNT 2 are on the horizon, you can always piggyback the Voodoo3 card off the Banshee for maximum power. Of course, that might be a case of overkill...