LGR – 1999 GPU Upgrade: Diamond S3 Savage4 Pro+


Greetings and welcome to an LGR thing!
And today’s particular thing is the Diamond Stealth III S540 graphics card
from 1999. This is the PCI 32 megabyte version of the S3 Savage 4 Pro Plus
graphics accelerator that was quite a thing at the time period. I was rather
envious of this card back then, because a friend of mine had gotten one and I was
like “holy crap that has twice the memory of my Voodoo 3!” And it can also do things
like 32-bit textures and S3 Texture Compression so in some ways I was
seriously like, lusting after this thing. And in other ways I’m like “nah I’m
rather happy with my Voodoo 3.” I’ve always wanted to go back and take a look
at the Stealth III S540 for myself since back then it was only ever at a friend’s
house. But yeah for the $130 that this cost at the time, I mean, this was pretty
awesome. It had support for the larger 2048×2048 textures, 32-bit color depth
instead of just 16-bit in games, OpenGL, Direct3D, and the Savage 4 mode if your games supported that. But yeah I got this one new-old-stock. I saw it a couple years
ago on eBay and just had to pick it up. So let’s open this thing up and see what
you get inside. I’ve been curious to dive into this thing again for a long time I
haven’t used one in probably 17 years. So, inside the box you get another box, and
inside that box you get a bunch of little boxes. They’re kind of just like
folded over bits of cardboard that you would think there’d be some other stuff
under there — some adapters or cables or something, but nope. Yeah, you get the
driver disk from Diamond here. And a lot of companies made these things, just
all sorts of companies manufactured their own using this chipset. And you
also get the graphics installation guide here which is not much. You literally get
seven pages just telling you how to install crap and then the rest of its in
a bunch of other languages so it’s just like “yeah install the drivers, you moron.”
And finally, mmm the main event. Still wrapped up in its anti-static bag here is
the video card itself. And it’s a pretty simple-looking thing,
just some chips for memory and controllers, and… I don’t know what
else. I’m just making crap up at this point because I am not an expert on
graphics card chips and what they all do. But you can see that the entire board is
not populated, they just used the same ones for different models. There was an
AGP one and then there was an extreme one and all sorts of other things. The
main event though is the chipset itself: the Savage 4 Pro Plus under this
little heatsink. Not a whole lot going on and really who cares because the
software and the games and stuff, that is what’s gonna be important. So let’s go
ahead and get this thing installed, and for this event I have chosen my
Packard Bell Multimedia 955 that I restored here on LGR not too long ago
specifically for this kind of purpose. it’s just a 333MHz AMD K6-2 based system, and other than upgrading it to Windows 98SE and a
Creative DVD-ROM drive with an MPEG-2 card I haven’t done much to it. So let’s
just get it open once again and look inside at the lovely cable management
from late 90s Packard Bell, mm. And as you can see I only have two PCI slots in
here and they’re both filled up. One with that MPEG-2 card and the other with an
ethernet card. So I’m going to take out the ethernet, I’m not using that at the
moment. And you know, really I don’t necessarily need the MPEG-2 card
either since this Diamond card can do the MPEG-2 compression for the
DVDs. But whatever, gonna leave it in there for now and just get the card
installed in that slot that was once taken up by the ethernet card. And while
this Stealth III did not require a passthrough, that MPEG card does. And that
was for the DVD-ROM that I did an upgrade video on a while back. So it has
this little passthrough cable that goes from the card, that is MPEG-2
compression, to the graphics card that we’re now installing here.
All right time to start her up and see what happens! *computer fans and beeping noises* Cool! And that is a good sign there,
the Stealth III S540 logo — well, the information pops up there before the
BIOS and everything seems to be just fine! So let’s go ahead and start up the
driver installation process. And yep simple enough it’s just your standard
driver install for Windows 98SE. And it sees it just fine from the software on
the disk. It restarts and… nothing happens. *nervous chuckle* Yeah it just completely froze, so that’s
fun. Did a few more restarts and tried the drivers again, it still froze. Every time
it tried to start Windows. So I thought “ok maybe it’s conflicting with the MPEG-2 card or something,” I don’t know maybe it’s an easy fix like that. So I just
ripped that thing out and started it up again, and once again nope. Nothing whatsoever just refuses to start. So I booted it up into safe mode and ripped
out all the drivers and reinstalled them from there and made sure that nothing
was conflicting and you know, all the normal troubleshooting crap. Restarted it
and dang it once again, nothing whatsoever. It just starts, installs the
stuff that it needs to, and nothing. So I was all “ok maybe it’s the drivers themselves,” so I downloaded some other ones and tried those and nope. It freezes in pretty much
the same spot. And at this point I am getting thoroughly frustrated. And you
know, who knows what it is, there’s no way to actually like, disable the integrated
video chip that was in the computer. It’s an ATI Rage 2C. I tried messing
around with stuff in the BIOS, I tried disabling it in Windows, I tried
everything that I think of that would possibly work. And while none of it did…
in fact, the only way I could get it to boot again was taking out the Stealth III
entirely, so that totally defeats the point. Yep screw this “Packard Hell.” I can
see why this little sticker was on the front there, the “power on and off.”
Yeah you’re gonna need to use that a lot because this thing friggin sucks.
I knew it sucked that’s why I wanted to upgrade it with this card, so you could
see the dramatic difference. But it sucked a little too much! So what I’m
gonna do is move on to my tried and true Windows 98 PC that I threw together
with random parts. It’s got an AMD Athlong 750 megahertz, pretty much the equivalent
of like a Pentium 3 800MHz. Which would have been quite high-end when this
card came out but still appropriate for when I played with it back in the early
2000s. And yeah this time around drivers, software, everything installed perfectly
first time, so screw that Packard Bell. Well almost everything was perfect, they
popped up this Diamond registration with this really dramatic music. And yeah you can’t actually exit out of this, you have to start it and then cancel it if you
don’t want to register. Which I don’t because who cares. And then immediately I noticed that it also installed this obnoxious pop-up menu. It changed the
right-click menu entirely and then also the Start Menu was just popping up all
over the place with left click. What’s the point of that?! So I went and disabled
that immediately, the stupid Diamond tools that it installed are really
obnoxious. There’s also some useful stuff with their In Control Tools ’99. Like
the graphics properties you can go and change the color correction as well as
enable and disable some stuff for Direct3D and OpenGL, like the fog table
and VSync. But yeah let’s just go ahead and get to some games, starting with
Midtown Madness, which was the game that my friend upgraded his computer with
this card for back in the day. And was one that I really wanted to run on my
Voodoo 3, and did indeed do. But first up here let me just show you how it looked
if you didn’t have any of these cards installed at all. No 3D accelerator, this is what you’ve got. So it was just a 2D software renderer that
was using your computer’s CPU and your 2D chipset, or whatever you had
installed on your computer for graphics. And here you go!
Admittedly not the very worst I’ve ever seen in this case because it is a fast
CPU. So it could do some good software rendering. But it is absolutely night and
day compared to the S3 Savage 4 Pro Plus, holy crap. Better textures all around,
lighting, cloud shadows, car reflections, skid marks, smoke from the tires,
environmental effects like fog and others it’s just fantastic. Seriously an absolute crazy difference. Ah and you know the higher
resolution and better frame rate as well, this is running an 800×600. I’m not
sure if it’s in 32-bit color in this case. I’m not entirely sure if the game
even supported it, I don’t remember seeing that as an option. But yeah it just looks
friggin great. Another thing that I was really curious to check is to see what
the comparison would be like between the Voodoo 3. I had a Voodoo 3 2000 back in the day. Because I always remember it looking just a little bit better on the Stealth
and it seems that I was right! Like, my memory wasn’t actually failing me this
time. It’s not a massive difference but I do see greater color depth and sharper
textures all around. I do think that the smoke behind the car coming up from the
tires and whatnot looks a little smoother on the Voodoo 3
but like, overall it just looks much better to my eyes on this Savage 4
Pro Plus. And yeah this was one of those experiences that like, while I couldn’t
prove it at the time… like we never put our computers side-by-side or did any
crazy benchmarking or direct image comparisons like you can do now with
video capture and all that stuff… I always thought that it looked a little
bit better on my friend’s computer than it did on mine. It certainly ran better
because he had a faster CPU than I did, I was running on a 233MHz K6. But
like, just visually I thought it looked better. I mean to my eyes it does. So it’s
really cool to be able to see this again and just not like, rely on 17 year old
memories. This is how I remember playing Midtown Madness a lot, I played it a
bunch at their house and this was one reason why: this card was awesome for
this game. Another game that the S3 cards of this
era we’re really good with is Unreal Tournament, specifically the Game of the
Year Edition. Because as you can see it does directly support the S3 Savage 4
and many many other things, but in particular when you installed disc 2 of
the GOTYE here you could choose to include the high-res compressed textures.
This was like 200 megabytes more of the S3TC format textures, and you
specifically needed one of these kind of cards in order to get it working, at
least at the time. And then yeah, once you started it up you would choose this S3
MeTaL for Windows. Hehehe, “metal.” I wish there were more graphics options today called
METAL. But yeah let’s just go through the fly-through here from the
introduction of the game. And I mean it’s not a huge, massive difference right here.
It is running in 32-bit color so you get better representation of things like
grays and blacks and all those kind of darker colors. Whereas on the Voodoo 3,
which could only do 16-bit color, everything just looked a little more
green and got like, more banding and stuff in between the color ranges. It
just didn’t look quite as nice, but honestly the color depth wasn’t a huge
deal to me at the time. I really didn’t even notice until years later when I
became aware of that. What *did* make a massive difference though, and I was
super envious of, was the S3 Texture Compression just look at this
direct side by side right here. Like this is just your normal, you know Voodoo 3 or Direct 3D mode right here, and then you go to this, holy crap! It’s like a
generation ahead! Look at that again I mean, it’s just muddied regular kind of
late nineties textures… to this right here, it looks fantastic. And if you can
see the average frame rate up there it runs better too in the S3 mode. Now, not
every single texture in the game looks better, but most of them do. And
admittedly it’s not something you’re gonna notice if you’re just playing the
game because it’s super fast-paced and all that kind of stuff. Like you know,
you get to playing it who cares, everything’s moving around so quickly
you’re not gonna look at the wall textures. But I was a burgeoning graphic
snob at the time so *I* was looking at wall textures. You know I’d get games
specifically to benchmark them between me and my friends’ different graphics
chipsets. I had the Voodoo 3, friend had the S4, another one had a Matrox
Millennium something or other. You know it was all sorts of different things we
were trying out, and it was just that golden era of being able to play around
with different graphics chipsets and see which ones did which.Because like
everybody had their own exclusive modes, and then as OpenGL and Direct3D started
to take off and more and more games were using those and they worked across all
cards, some ended up coming out on top and had better support for Direct3D or
OpenGL. And then others were kind of left behind because they weren’t necessarily
made for that, and they were more geared towards like, their own proprietary
formats or APIs. You know it was just a weird, fun time, and also
frustrating because like, you could buy a card and then six months later nobody
was supporting it anymore. Good stuff. And then finally I wanted to try out Max
Payne here from 2001 because I thought that maybe this would push the card a
little bit. And well, yeah, it pushed it all right, look at the introduction here! I
mean it looks kind of awesome but that’s not that’s not how it’s supposed to look.
That New York snowstorm has completely changed the atmosphere, hehehe. Uhh yeah that’s how it’s supposed to look running on my Voodoo 3. You know I’m surprised my Voodoo 3 — this is a 3000 that I’m
running it on here but yeah — I was surprised that it worked just fine with
it. 16-bit colours of course, not 32-bit, but
hey whatever man at least runs it. And yeah the actual gameplay was okay. Just
seemed to be that introduction sequence that had real problems with the colors
and textures. But it’s a slideshow, or it’s getting to that territory. It’s just
not handling this game very well at all. Again it’s got 32-bit textures which is
kind of cool, but swapping over to the Voodoo 3 here — even with the 16-bit
textures and stuff it just runs way better. Granted, again this is the Voodoo
3 3000 AGP that I’m using here, so it does have a little bit of a leg up on
the Savage 4 Pro Plus just in terms of a little bit more horsepower. You know, you
have the AGP bus and a higher RAMDAC and stuff like that but yeah. I was
really surprised at how badly this Savage 4 handled Max Payne, even with the newest drivers that I could find and the Max Payne patch updates and stuff like
that, it just didn’t handle it very well at all. But yeah that’s about it for this
particular video on the Diamond Stealth III S540: a card that I have some fond
memories of using even though I never actually owned one, or used one in one of
my own machines, until this very video. And would I recommend it for one of your
Windows 98 machines? Absolutely, in certain cases and if you were to get the
higher tier like, “Extreme AGP” version. But yeah, for the games that work really well
with it I mean, it works really well. And looked better, I think, than a lot of its
competition from the time period. However the big reason that I wasn’t too bummed
about not having this back in the day was because it
didn’t do Glide mode games. And in the late 90s there were just a ton of games
that did that Glide API. The 3Dfx mode was something that I really wanted
because certain games — like I remembered Nuclear Strike I believe — it just did way
better with a Glide mode card and it looked kind of like garbage in Direct3D.
Maybe I’m not remembering that correctly, I haven’t played in years, but there were
certain games that just looked better in Glide mode or that was the only 3D-accelerated mode that they supported. And Direct3D and OpenGL wasn’t quite
a thing on certain games at that point. Yeah there weren’t a ton of games that
were like that, but those few that did it I was happy to have that extra bit of
support. But yeah I just have fun comparing late 90s graphics cards
and 3D accelerators that are kind of from that era. I don’t know, it’s just
really fun to me and I think it always will be. So if you enjoyed this do stick
around — I do this kind of thing every so often and all sorts of other stuff every
Monday and Friday here on LGR. And as always thank you very much for watching!

100 thoughts on “LGR – 1999 GPU Upgrade: Diamond S3 Savage4 Pro+

  1. Savage 4 chipset cards had compatibility issues with certain motherboard chipsets. If I am not mistaken ALI chipsets was one of them. Same issue with other S3 display cards of the era.

  2. I remember this chipset, when S3 was pushing the texture compression feature. Still, I think nvidia and 3dfx were a notch above at the time.

  3. I had a few of the early 3d accelerators; S3 Virge, Rage… It wasn't until I bought a used SLI Voodoo2 setup that I actually had a 3D accelerator that was worth using. It was a sad day when a little TNT2 pretty clearly outperformed the massive pair of Voodoos.

  4. I didnt know that the first Radeon card was also known as they ATI Rage 6 🤔 Always learning something new from LGR!! Thanx

  5. I had the older Savage PCI card it was a massive improvement for many games. Good times back then, 2019 $999 Stand lol. Screamer PC racing game was a DOS based game played it thousands of times, the best PC racing game ever made.

  6. If you continue your upgrade, you will end at a RTX2080ti in like 3 years… with a pentium processor… hmmm.. sounds like an interesting experiment….

  7. This was'nt really a GPU back then. Just the basic 3d acceleration. The GPU really started at the first geforce and radeon 7500 or so.

  8. Yeah S3 wasn't good. 3DFX Glide was a cut down version of OpenGL
    Let's forget all that and use the Sapphire 3850 HD or the Power Color Radeon 4890

  9. Unreal Tournament on S3 looks exactly equal like It did on my Creative GeForce 2 MX 32Mb DDR . These was my "card", I use it many years, intially with a K5-2 300Mhz, and later with an awesome Duron 900Mhz on an Aopen AK-77 MBO that was running faster that my father HP Pavillon machine with an Athlon 1Ghz. Even I managed to run Doom 3 on these card, using the Voodoo patches to resize the textures.

  10. I had the Creative Labs version of that Savage4 graphics card back then. It was called Creative Labs 3D Blaster Savage4 Pro. I also had that same Creative Labs MPEG2 Dxr2 DVD kit from the video in my Packard Bell back then too. I had a 1997 Packard Bell Platinum 2240 series tower back then and I upgraded it with Creative Labs stuff. Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live Sound card, Creative Labs Modem Blaster 56K modem, Creative Labs 3D Blaster Savage4 Pro, and a Creative Labs DVD-Rom drive. I was a Creative Labs nut back then in the 90s.

  11. 32mb of memory??? Dude… You´ll never use that much memory, there is no game that will use 32mb of memory.

  12. ALi Chipsets are known to have some drama with GPUs no matter PCI or AGP ones. 19 Years ago we were battling one such AMD system with a Riva TNT 2 on it and we were able to get full stability on the next year by which time in the era of K7 and P4 and GeForce 2 the K6 system was already heavily outdated for gaming but we were successful with some modded chipset drivers. Back then Google was still gaining popularity and on a 56Kbps modem searching in Yahoo and browsing and downloading was really time consuming effort. S3 Savage 4 also had troubles with the VIA KT133A chipset in the beginning so I swapped mine for a Riva TNT 2 as far as I know they were later able to resolve the problem.

  13. i had this one.. before i got my money saved up for a 256MB nvidia card ;_; … those were the days .. i also remember these cards hating OpenGL based engines..

  14. Oh my oh my, installing new graphics cards in a PC with an already intergrated graphics chip………….yes, your in for a real lousy afternoon! Remember installing my voodoo 3 in an IBM aptiva with an intergrated ATI graphics chip, i still dont know how i did it! All for quake 3 and unreal tournament, worth it!!!!!

  15. This was my first graphics card ever! It was so awesome being able to plug this into my 486DX266 and finally get to play games with 3D graphics. Of course, not having a Pentium was still a problem for me, even after I upgraded to a used DX4, so when I got my first minimum wage job a couple years later I build a Celeron 500 system and bought my first GeForce card, an Asus Geforce 2 Pro Deluxe. Still, I loved Diamond and am sad that they haven't done anything of relevance in the graphics arena since this card. In my opinion, the Stealth 3 was far better than the competing Voodoo of the time. The Voodoo wasn't even actually a video card, instead requiring you to daisy chain your monitor between a VGA card and the Voodoo 3d Graphics Accelerator, what a hassle that caused for much annoyance.

  16. what you have to do is uninstall the rage software then remove the ati graphics software and without restarting install the stealth3 software again.try to assign as first boot device under win98 se and did you check for a pin on the mobo to to disable onboard graphics.

  17. I used to have an old diamond stealth card with an ati chipset. Idk what model it was cuz I was a kid but I used it in my Pentium 3 800mhz.

  18. I remember now that back in the days of Midtown Madness my 3d card had optional 3d glasses. Anyone remembers what card that was?

  19. My first graphics card was the Voodoo 3 oh man I loved it so much! Got to play doom with it and half life and starcraft, good times!

  20. I had this card also at this time. It handled Ultima IX on my brand new year 2000 Celeron 500 MHz very well. What a time…

  21. I always bought budget cards based on the Trident chips. One time I treated myself to an Ark Logic 2000 based card. That was the best in DOS gaming.

  22. I wish I could go back in time and take a greater interest in technology back then… althoughi was pretty young and there was terrible internet access in my place, but i think tech has always been very interesting

  23. I had one of these Diamond cards back in the day. Piece of shit. If my system (an IBM) wasn't locking up, it was giving me unplayable frame stuttering in games. Shame, I so badly wanted to use S3TC and the Metal API with Unreal Tournament (my on board video was an atrocious ATi Rage Pro). Nice video though!

  24. No wonder your first system froze on installation – it has an ALI chipset. That's almost as buggy as Windows ME. I found my ALI chipset mainboard a nightmare to configure, and drivers were neither reliable nor readily available. I never in my life bought another ALI mainboard, and I was all the better for it.

  25. Lol when i was a Teenager my first Card was a voodoo2 in a Fujitsu Siemens Pc Pentium 2 350MhZ.Antialiasing and 3dfx was a big thing back in the days.i overclocked the voodoo as much as possible and it only worked stable without pc casing😂later in my first job i buyed the voodoo 4 4500 PCI version from my first pay.roundabout 400€ i think.man the old pc days we're awesome.Today it has not this Magic anymore

  26. The video card that I had back then
    Was the MX mx400 64 megs of RAM and then later I upgraded to the 128 megs of RAM same card MX mx400
    And I purposely made sure I bought bothcards just so I can play unreal tournament and doom-doom2 and quake and quake 2

  27. bought the voodoo 3500 agp for unreal tournament half life and avp and I never wanted another card until the voodoo 5 was announced. at the time that diamond only worked when I installed it on a machine running ubuntu.(but I didn't know much back then)

  28. Oh I remember the joys of 90's computer installations and nothing working. I really miss the LAN party days playing Unreal, Red Alert 2, Warcraft 2 and Diablo 2 in my friend's basement during the weekends eating pizza, junk food and soda.

  29. Diamond addon software always SUCKED! Morons. But there hardware was quite good. But better use drivers from the chip manufacturer.

  30. This was the worst video card I ever bought. Was not compatible with Half-life . I traded it for a voodoo banshee. Wouldn’t even come close to playing half life.

  31. Haven't started watching before this comment: the Savage graphics upgrades weren't really considered upgrades.

    Voodoo3s and Geforce cards were so much better. But in this era, GLide for the win.

  32. In 1999 I bought the ATI Rage 128, for $200. Those were sure the days. Can't touch a top tier card for anywhere near that price now. It was 32-bit, one of the first, 32 MB of VRAM, and DirectX 7, which seems almost laughable today. One of the primary reasons I bought that card, was that it was one of the only cards to have hardware accelerated DVD playback, which also seems kind of laughable now, but DVDs played like crap without hardware acceleration. It was a good card for gaming as well, though it seemed like only months after release, and ATI released the Rage 128 Pro, which just pissed me off lol.

  33. Seeing the before and after video of the graphical performance brought back some real nostalgia from when I was able to upgrade my gfx card in order to display Quake 2 closer to how it was intended during development

  34. /Remembers dropping over $300 back in late 99/early 2k for a Creative Labs Annihilator Pro 32MB at Babbage's
    Over $500 in 2019 money and just like back then, Cutting edge cards cost big bucks today

  35. Had an S4; being 14 or so at the time, fell for the gimmick of getting an ability to upgrade to a 3D accelerator card w/ 32MB of memory (wow, plenty, given the main box had like 64-96 at the time) without using an AGP motherboard; nope; it's the PCI that bottlenecks this marvel and they I think shot themselves in the foot this way as well – as it was just running very very slow in certain areas, mostly I think due to the abovementioned interface – and therefore the card got synonymous to a certain extent with just being slow. Add the 90's world specifics, word of mouth etc, yadda yadda, S3 off the market.

  36. Not gonna lie, the software rendered Midtown Madness is honestly kinda cute in a low poly aesthetic way. Then again, it's hard to make a Beetle not cute in some way.

  37. I remember feeling so excited installing more ram and new cards. Not just having it, but the clunk of physical insertion. Some like working on cars…
    Now I’m an inept Luddite dependent on a smartphone I hardly understand.

  38. I watched this video long ago and now Youtube has been recommending it, again. I don't know why. But I watched, again.

  39. Ahh yes, those days where the joy of a hardware purchase was replaced by buyers remorse on the way home, that then was replaced by mortal fear of crashing the system, and then an hour of manual backup, just in case, and then hardware install, and then most of the time success and happiness.

  40. I have 98 window 64mb ram pc..
    But wanna install gta vice city…
    I do know have classic game on pc… remember me so noob 10 years ago

  41. Watching the video, I remembered my standard procedure when adding a new video card back in the day. See, Windows 98 drivers were a mess from everyone. Not that they didn't work or were all terrible, but actually a mess, as in installed all over the place and would cause issues if you swapped video cards.
    Because of that, I would always reinstall Windows when changing cards. There were utilities that would try to uninstall all ATI driver bits, or 3dfx, or whatnot, but they rarely got everything. I actually got a couple cards given to me because people thought they were incompatible with their mobo, when it was probably just driver slop.
    I currently have an old school rig with 2 HDDs – one for when I want my Rage 128 Pro, and one for when I want my TNT2 – it really does work much better that way.

  42. For your rage 2 have you tried sci-tech display dr?

    https://atariage.com/forums/topic/291519-scitech-display-doctor-653/?tab=comments#comment-4280718

  43. ~"Buy a card and a few months later nobody is supporting it anymore"…. Revolution 4. It did have great 2d, so paired well with a voodoo2.. But TNT stomped all that.

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