|The Canopus SPECTRA 2500 from
Canopus Corporation is the first RIVA TNT-powered card that GamesFirst! has had the
pleasure of reviewing. Based on the new nVidia RIVA TNT 128-bit graphics chip, the card
has 16MB of 125Mhz SDRAM and a sweet 250Mhz RAMDAC.
After being very impressed with the Pure 3D II, Canopuss Voodoo2 card, and after hearing all the hype surrounding the TNT chipset, I was excited to get this card. Once again I was pleasantly surprised when I opened up the box and saw a full complement of cables--one for S-Video, one for composite out, and two cables that I didnt expect to see, and whose application was not immediately clear.
It has always been a concern of mine that passing my video signal through the 3DFx card and then out to the monitor was degrading my signal quality. It appears that Canopus has addressed this issue by allowing you to connect your Voodoo1/2 card in a "reverse" passthrough method. The SPECTRA 2500 comes with a cable that passes the signal from the Voodo1/2 card into SPECTRA and then out to the monitor, which eliminates signal degradation when not using the 3Dfx card. The second interesting innovation that Canopus put into the SPECTRA is a internal connection for connecting your Pure 3D II to the SPECTRA 2500--no need for external cables. Just connect the two cards together with the included cable, and plug your monitor into the SPECTRA. Once again, signal degradation is eliminated when not using the Voodo card.
In addition to this, the SPECTRA is video-ready. You can get the VideoPORT 600, which interfaces with the card and apparently can be installed into a 5.25" driver bay for front access to the connectors. I would love to take a peek at this add-on.
Installation of the Canopus SPECTRA 2500 went smoothly. I slid the card into the AGP socket and I was up and running. The driver installation was hassle-free and worked properly. After re-booting, the Canopus button bar appeared at the top of the screen. This application allows you to setup your games with custom video settings. A nice addition--if you like button bars, and its easily removed if you prefer not to have extra programs running while gaming. Installation instructions are complete and include diagrams when necessary. There is also an online help system, along with context sensitive help in the driver windows for each option.
The drivers appear to be well written, and have support for the common APIs (DirectX, Open GL ICD). In addition there are options that allow you to tweak the performance of your card as well as modify some compatibility settings just in case you are having problems with some games, though some of these options come with a trade-off in system stability. A appropriate warning is included should you wish to tweak the cards drivers. Also included in the installation is a nice program called Media Scope. It is basically a super "Media Player" with some nice features and a cool look.
The SPECTRA 2500's performance was nothing short of amazing. OpenGL under Quake II was impressive, as well as DirectX performance. The card maintained its high performance from 640x480 to 800x600, up to1024x768. Not only was the speed rivaling that of a Voodo2 card but the SPECTRAs video quality was superb as well, at least as good as any Voodo2o card available today and a marked improvement over the RIVA 128 chipsets pixely display.
The Canopus SPECTRA 2500 has all the bells and whistles you could ask for in addition to great performance and video quality. The engineers at Canopus have made a card that isnt just a "vanilla" Riva TNT card, but something special. If you are looking for an integrated 2D/3D video solution and demand high performance, the Canopus SPECTRA 2500 is for you.