STB has often been considered a power competitor in the video industry, with their high speed PCI accelerators dominating the low end desktop market as well as the gaming industry.  However, STB faced their biggest challenge when equipped with nVIDIA's powerful Riva 128 chipset...the challenge?  To produce a card whose main competitor would be Diamond's outstanding Viper V330.  Did STB succeed in surpassing Diamond's mark of excellence with their Velocity 128 or were their efforts made towards a lost cause?


Video Card Specifications

Interface: AGP 1x / PCI 2.1
Chipset: nVIDIA Riva 128
RAM: 4MB 100MHz SGRAM
Data Path: 128-bit
Horizontal Sync Signals: 31.5kHz - 108.5kHz
Vertical Refresh: 43.5Hz - 200Hz
RAMDAC: 230MHz
TV Output: Yes (640 x 480)
Video Playback: MPEG-1, Indeo, & Cinepak Supported
Supported Resolutions: 640 x 480 - 1600 x 1200
Supported Refresh Rates: 60 - 200 Hz

The Good

We can automatically rule out the performance factor in the comparison of the STB Velocity 128 and the Diamond Viper V330...why?  Because the raw performance of both cards is virtually identical.  However the real world performance of the STB Velocity differs from the Diamond Viper mainly due to the quality of STB's drivers in comparison to those of Diamond for use with the Viper V330. 

Like the V330, the Velocity 128's power extends from nVIDIA's Riva 128 Chipset which provides the user with outstanding 2D performance in addition to 3D performance second only to 3Dfx's own Voodoo chipset.  Upon installing the Velocity 128 Windows 95 detects the card as a Standard VGA Adapter, and since you most likely don't want to run your new $200 investment in 640 x 480 x 16 colors you will want to pop in STB's installation CD.  The AGP version of the Velocity 128 is currently only available in an OEM version with no software bundle (like the Viper V330 - AGP), however the PCI version is offered in a retail flavor for an added cost.  The test system used an OEM AGP Velocity 128 which came with a single CD placed in a tri-fold quick installation guide.  The guide completely documents the software installation of the STB Velocity 128 drivers, however the hardware portion of the installation is left up to the user.  Although the installation is simple enough, it would have been nice to have a quick reference card for first time upgraders to use for added safety.   Nevertheless, the installation process of the Velocity 128 carries on fairly quickly, it is highly recommended to remove all previous graphics card drivers before installing the V128 in order to avoid any possible conflicts.  Attempting to install the V128 over a previous installation of a Matrox Millennium II on the test system proved this theory when the card would not properly configure itself, requiring a quick boot into safe mode and the tweaking of some color depth/resolution settings.  A 30 second removal of previous graphics drivers can save you hours of debugging and hassle with the Velocity 128 or any graphics card for that matter.

The Velocity 128 itself features a standard PC monitor connector along with an optional Composite Video Output connector and a S-Video Output for using your TV as a monitor.  That doesn't mean, however, that you can buy a 21" TV and use it as your monitor, because chances are, you won't want to.  The quality of the Composite or even the S-Video outputs on any graphics card doesn't even come close to the crisp images you will see on a standard VGA/SVGA monitor simply because NTSC TV's are limited to 525 horizontal scan lines which isn't even remotely close to the resolutions you can achieve on an economically priced monitor.  The AGP Velocity 128's interface connector is split into three sections, while only two of them make contact with the AGP slot, the third one merely hangs down over the slot.  Normally this won't pose a problem, however some motherboards have placed transistors or other obstructions in that very spot, so before purchasing the V128 be sure to double check your AGP slot and make certain that there are no obstructions that would be in the way of the installation of the V128 (the Diamond Viper V330 AGP also suffers from this design, so for those of you interested in the V330 AGP card be careful as well). 

STB included a fairly standard drive utility package with the Velocity 128 - their own STB Vision Desktop Utility which allows the user to switch desktop resolutions/color depths on the fly without having to restart the computer.   If you wish to take advantage of the OpenGL support of the Riva 128 chipset then you must use nVIDIA's Alpha drivers in place of your video card manufacturer's custom drivers, you can obtain the Alpha OpenGL drivers from RIVA Extreme on their drivers page among other places.  The performance of games such as GLQuake/2 using these drivers on the Velocity 128 is well above average, much higher than one would expect from drivers not even in the beta stage of production.

The Bad

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