Rare Graphics Cards – Trident Blade XP

Welcome to the 2nd of episode of Rare Graphics
Cards. In the previous video, we took a look at the
popular, but elusive Videologic PCX2. This time however, we’ll be testing something
much less known and somewhat rare, but for very different reasons. The chip we are looking at today is none other
than the Trident Blade XP. This was actually Trident Microsystems’ very
last commercial desktop graphics chip and was aimed at the low-end to mainstream markets,
at least on paper, because history would prove to be much harsher to it. As always, we have to get the company history
out of the way first. We’ve already covered Trident Microsystems’
early years in a separate video for our “Worst Gaming Cards” series, so if you feel like
learning about Trident’s early cards all the way up to the 3DImage 9750, then click on
the link in the description. The 3DImage 9750 was released in 1997 and
was quite a successful product in terms of sales. Unfortunately, from a gamer’s point of view
it was a disaster. An enhanced model, the 3DImage 9850, was released
in the same year with support for AGP 2x added in to the mix, but it fared much worse commercially
and shared pretty much the same bad habits as its predecessor. So it ended up pretty much forgotten and is
quite hard to track down nowadays since almost no one wanted it at the time. It took Trident a couple more years until
they released what was arguably their first really usable 3D Accelerator. That would be the Blade 3D chipset, which
offered good image quality and was able to run 3D games adequately at 640×480. Unfortunately for Trident, the competition
had already began using dual pipelined chips with 32MB of memory and 800×600, 1024×768
and even higher resolutions were already feasible for such cards by the time the Blade3D arrived. Blade 3D was stuck to a single pipeline with
8MB of memory, so it had no chance of competing with the big boys and it ended up in the low-end
bracket. The following year, Trident announced a new
chip with dual pipelines, clocked at 200MHz and support for up to 32MB RAM. This was the Blade XP, but of course there
were some delays and the new chip eventually hit the market in 2001 with a more realistic
clock of 166MHz. Along with the Blade XP, some lower end variants
called Blade T64 and Blade T16 were also announced. The T64 was downclocked to 143MHz and was
limited to a 64bit memory bus, whereas the T16 model had even lower clocks and featured
only 16MB of memory. The Blade XP was supposed to feature a 128bit
memory bus, which along with the announced 332 million pixels/sec and 1328 million texels/sec
could have proven to be a worthy competitor. Sadly, the only known 128bit version seems
to have only been presented at Computex 2001 and reviewed by Tom’s Hardware. And as you probably expect, it was the slowest
of all tested cards, with the SiS 315 beating it and the GeForce2 MX400 producing a score
that was twice as high. So, the few manufacturers willing to use the
Blade XP on their products never bothered with the more expensive 128bit memory bus
and instead released cards limited to the cheaper 64bit memory bus. The Blade XP moniker quickly disappeared from
chips, Trident’s official website and all marketing material, replaced by the Blade
T64 instead. The card we tested comes from an unknown manufacturer
and like pretty much all the other models around is limited to a 64bit memory bus. Core and memory clocks come in at 166MHz and
the memory size is 32MB of SDRAM. For the comparisons, we’ll be using the 2
years older Nvidia Riva TNT2 Pro clocked at 143MHz. Memory size and clocks are the same, but the
Riva has a 128bit memory bus. Much like the Blade XP, it too supports AGP4x,
DirectX 6 and OpenGL 1.5. With its 2 pipelines able to render only 2
textures per pass, the Riva TNT 2 should be a clear loser, at least on paper. So, let’s take a look at the harsh reality. Unfortunately, driver options offer only the
bare minimum, with the only available settings being desktop and video color tabs. Not a single option related to 3D! This means that some tests might be limited
by V-Sync, because we haven’t found a reliable way to turn it off at all times. In 3DMark 99 Max both cards showcase good
IQ with no missing effects. The Riva is however about 33% faster in all
tests. Texture rendering speed tests reveal some
not so fair tricks to increase the Blade’s performance. The Fillrate test shows that the Blade XP
lost a huge amount of its on-paper performance specs somewhere along the line. We’re seeing a deficit of around 1200mtexels
compared to a mere 61mtexels on the TNT2. Also, Trilinear Texture Filtering decreases
performance by a whopping 34% compared to just 10% on the TNT2. Incoming is about 3 times faster on Nvidia’s
card, although it’s still playable on the Blade XP. GLQuake paints a similar picture, with the
Blade XP being 3 times slower than the TNT2 and having a hard time to maintain 30FPS on
average. The more modern Quake 3 Arena demo along with
the 800×600 resolution proves to be a little too much for the Trident card. Half-Life shows some good numbers, which sadly
only really occur in smaller areas. Once you enter bigger areas, the framerate
drops below 30FPS. Expendable is almost playable at 800×600,
but lowering the resolution to 640×480 is definitely the better choice here. Unreal averages 24fps at 800×600, again proving
that it’s a little too much for the poor Trident. The Riva TNT2 on the other hand is nearly
twice as fast. The Unreal Tournament demo showcase better
framerates at around 33FPS, but the tested level is filled with small areas, so larger
maps could cause greater slowdowns. The Riva comfortably distances itself at 70FPS. AvP Gold at 800×600 and 32bit color depth
makes for a surprisingly demanding game, with the Blade XP never managing to break the 20fps
marker and the Riva barely staying above 30FPS. So, i guess it’s time for our conclusion then and
the Blade XP only really has 2 advantages on offer here; Its very low price-point at
release and the lack of any visual errors thanks to its mature drivers, at least as
far as older games are concerned. On the weak side, its tragically low fill-rate
and texel rate result in 2-3 times worse framerates compared to a 2 years older Nvidia Riva TNT2
Pro. Games that came out around its release date
are barely playable at 800×600, with 640×480 often being a better idea. In addition, the drivers and the options offered
to the user feel as if they jumped all the way back from 1995, without a single 3D setting
to toggle or otherwise tinker with. Worse yet, if you’re still interested in this
card for some reason, you’ll probably have a hard time locating one, as they were mainly
sold by noname brands and companies in few numbers, so not many of them tend to show
up on E-Bay. Because of its very low performance and inability
to compete even with mainstream hardware from 1999 we award the Trident Blade XP with 3
stars, mostly because of its good IQ. If you need another reason to leave this card
to collect dust on some collector’s shelf, then take a look at Quake 3’s demo2 smooth
experience on the Blade XP. Thanks for watching and see you in another
episode of rare graphics cards!

15 thoughts on “Rare Graphics Cards – Trident Blade XP

  1. Hah I have one of these in a system right now! I've actually owned or currently own and use several of these rare, poorly performing cards that you've featured on this channel. I find this fact amusing.

  2. I see one Trident Blade T64 still available used for sale up on the USA Amazon website as I am writing this if you're a collector
    I don't see any on eBay though.
    Edit I purchased one completely new in the box a Jaton 3DForce G-32 (Trident Blade T64) which I will keep unopened (sealed).

  3. CyberBlade XP2 (Trident 9960) is still DX6 only, no full DX7 support and no T&L, but it actually runs Half-Life 2. It was used in VTBook 3D. Click on my channel, it is the latest 3 videos right now.

  4. The first 3D accelerator I tried to game on was a Trident Blade 3D chip integrated into my family's Compaq Presario. Did an OK job at Star Wars Episode 1 Racer! I wonder what relation that chip had to Trident's products.

  5. Had different Blade/CyberBlade variants in laptops over the years (Porteges, even Thinkpads :/), but never even crossed my mind to try and play any games due to Trident name alone.
    Wow, it actually has usable drivers :o, no wonder OEMs picked it up for laptops, ~3 year old desktop performance level on the budget.

  6. TNT2 Pro jest za szybka do porównania i w roku 2001 nie była już produkowana. W 2001 roku jeszcze były produkowane Riva TNT2 Vanta i M64 – obie z szyną pamięci 64bit. Mam Riva TNT2 M64 32mb z PCB 0208 (luty 2002 rok) i to jest rywal Trident Blade. W 2001 to były tylko wyświetlacze pulpitu, bo do aktualnych gier potrzebny był Geforce2MX. W 2001 kończono produkcje gf2mx i zastąpiono go gf2mx200 i gf2mx400. W lipcu 2001 kupiłem Herculesa 3D PROPHET 4000TX 32mb (KYRO 1) za 275pln (69$/80euro). Inne : najtańszy gf2mx200 (64bit)312pln, gf2mx400 (128bit) ~400pln, Geforce1 DDR ~350pln, Hercules 4500 64mb (KYRO 2) 550pln, Geforce2GTS 650pln. Mój KYRO 1 był tak szybki jak gf2mx400 😀
    ( language: polish )

  7. It's pretty obvious that Trident and 3D were never really meant to go together. The Blade T64/XP's really only a challenge for the old 3dfx Banshee and TNT2 M64 in performance – which I suppose isn't that bad when you consider that it's meant to be slapped into really cheap entry-level graphic cards.
    Image quality is pretty good though. It certainly looks every bit as good as the higher-billed chips, if it isn't anywhere near as fast.

    I can't help but wonder how much of an effect overclocking the memory bus would have. I get the feeling that the T64's being severely hampered by its narrow 64-bit memory path, so boosting it up further might have a considerable impact.

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