What's the Best NuBus Video Card?

Originally published 10 October 2000 as a Mac Daniel column for Low End Mac.
Rated "Best of Mac Daniel" (top 15 most-read columns) from six months after its publication until it was pulled from the site.

Q: What are my options on upgrading my 8100's video? I'm currently using the PDS video (2 MB), which is fairly tame. Do I buy the memory upgrade to get it to 4 MB, or does someone make a much better PDS card?

A: While buying the RAM upgrade will certainly be inexpensive (around US$50 at worst), it probably isn't the most cost-effective solution.

Radius made a line of excellent video cards for Nubus Macs: the Thunder IV GX series. If you need the higher resolutions, get the 1360 or the 1600 version, but if you're just driving a 17" or smaller monitor, the 1152 will probably suffice. Expect to pay between US$75 and US$150 for any of the aforementioned cards on eBay. Any of them will be significantly faster than the built-in video on the 8100; most claim an improvement of 10x or more.

Other accelerated video options are available, but none are as fast as the Thunder IV series cards. Most of the other Radius and SuperMac Thunder cards are good, but they lack the wicked fast acceleration provided by the AT&T DSPs. Stay away from the Thunder II series, because Radius' web site says that they will actually slow down performance on NuBus Power Macs. The Radius Thunder 24GT can accept the PhotoEngine daughtercard (which adds the four DSPs) as an upgrade and is usually substantially cheaper than the Thunder IV GX series cards, so you might be better off buying this card and a PhotoEngine card to go with it.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson