TrueSpeed Video gets faster and faster

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, January 14, 1994

TrueSpeed W32i 2meg VL-local bus Video Accelerator board

from Ready Computer International
113-12838 Clarke Place
Richmond, BC V6V 2H5
(604) 270-7618
(604) 270-7658 fax

list price $279 (US$)

When I was a kid in the 1950s (careful Alan, you're dating
yourself!), we had a neighbor who bought a new Detroit car every

Our family wasn't like that; we got a new car every seven or eight
years. After all, what was the point? What really made a 1958
Buick better than the 1957? The DynaFlow holes were in a different
place, that's all. But better?

In computers, however, this year's model really is better... Even
though, as PC Magazine's Bill Machrone once said, "The computer
you really want ALWAYS costs $5,000", whatever price you can
afford to spend will get you much more now than a year or two ago.

And that's nowhere truer than in the video card sub-market. Only
here, it seems like the product lines are completely replaced
every few months.

It was only last September that I reviewed three video cards
making up the 2-the-Max line up... ISA cards featuring the Cirrus
Logic and S3 chips, and an even faster VL-local bus card using the Cirrus Logic

Well, the standard has increased once again. While just a few
months ago, these cards, with 1 meg of RAM on board defined the
then-current standard, now we're looking at a new generation of
cards with 2 meg RAM, and even faster chips.

That's important for many users. More RAM means more colours at
higher resolutions, making it possible to get the most out of the
more and more common larger monitors.

And as the Windows near-monopoly on our desktops continues, faster
video makes it possible to forget that at one time many people
used to joke about running Win-Doze. Now you can scroll down a
word processing document and not have to wait for your screen to
catch up.

While there remains a market for high-end boards, such as the $
899 (US list) Matrox MGA Ultima, the new 2-the-Max TrueSpeed W32i
is priced at a more affordable range, with a $279 (US) list. And
it provides most of the performance and features of products costs
two or three times as much.

It uses the ET4000/W32i chip, a Windows accelerator chip from
Tseng Laboratories. While designed to optimize Windows
performance, boards built around this chip were also the fastest
at running DOS software in a recent magazine review. Even though
it uses conventional DRAM, rather than faster VRAM chips, it rated
among the highest tested at 256 colours at 800x600 resolution. And
using DRAM helps to keep the price reasonable. As a VL-local bus
card, it can only be used in motherboards which support this bus,
but that includes nearly all new computers.

Jumpers on the card permit it to be used with motherboards running
as fast as 50 mhz, speeds which posed problems for many earlier
local bus cards.

One drawback, however... unlike some other 2 meg video cards, this
board does not support 24-bit colour at 800x600 resolution,
although it will support as many as 256 colours at a maximum of
1280x1024 resolution. If you need to work with 24-bit colour, you
are forced to remain at 640x480 resolution, just as with the older
1 meg cards.

As well, the manual is a bit vague, and the installation program
is rough. Software drivers are included
for Windows 3.1 (including a photocopied sheet to make up for gaps
in the printed documentation), along with AutoCad, Lotus 123, Word Perfect,
WordStar, GEM, Ventura, and 8514A enulation. There are no OS/2
drivers included, however.

This fast board is an attractive, affordable choice for users buying new
systems, or upgrading from a less-capable local bus video card.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan