Voodoo Omen review: Voodoo Omen

3D graphics and gaming performance
Using two 256MB Nvidia GeForce Ultra graphics cards in an SLI configuration, the Voodoo Omen performed well but not as great as we expected. To be fair, SLI is still a relatively new technology, and as such, it's both temperamental and in a state of flux; we expect a steady stream of driver updates over the next several months. We tested the Omen with the drivers it came with, in this case Nvidia's most recent public driver, Forceware 66.93. Other vendors' systems came to us with various incarnation of a nonpublic Forceware 71.xx.

The driver disparity is likely the reason why the Omen didn't perform as well as, for example, the ABS Ultimate M6 with its pair of Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT cards, which technically should be slower that the Voodoo's twin GeForce 6800 Ultras. The constantly changing graphics-driver landscape means that 3D test scores are always evolving. Obviously, the Omen is a fast upper-tier gaming PC, but we're used to seeing Voodoo PCs perform at or near the top of our 3D tests. Its frame rates on our Far Cry and Half-Life 2 test could increase (or potentially decrease) with a new driver. As long as you keep the 3D driver software current, however, you shouldn't have anything to worry about in terms of its graphics performance.

Far Cry Custom Demo Rebellion (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Far Cry 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Far Cry 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF  
Note: * CPU and graphics are overclocked.
** Just graphics is overclocked.

UbiSoft Entertainment's Far Cry is a recent addition to our gaming benchmark arsenal. Far Cry is a DirectX 9.0-based game that uses Vertex Shader 2.0 and Pixel Shader 2.0, as well as plethora of advanced rendering techniques. As such, it is very demanding on a graphics subsystem and is therefore an excellent tool for evaluating high-end graphics cards. We run a custom demo on the Rebellion level and run it two times each at a 32-bit color depth and at resolutions of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are set to 4X and 8X for both resolutions during our 1,600x1,200 tests. After installing the retail game, we patch it to version 1.1. This update supports Pixel Shader 3.0 but only for those graphics cards that support Pixel Shader 3.0--all other cards will still use Pixel Shader 2.0.

Half-Life 2 Custom Demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF  
Half-Life 2 1,280x1,024 4xAA 8xAF  
Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Note: * CPU and graphics are overclocked.
** Just graphics is overclocked.

Valve Software's Half-Life 2 showcases some the latest in DirectX 9.0 image quality, accompanied by tremendous GPU taxation. Those factors, and its vast popularity among PC gamers, make it an ideal game to test a desktop's 3D capabilities. Using a demo file created in our Labs that incorporates all of the game's taxing features, Half-Life 2 gives us a great indication of how a PC will handle today's most challenging 3D games.

Our custom demo is set in the Canal level and encompasses advanced effects, such as light from the flashlight as well as water effects. We make sure to update Half-Life 2 with the latest patches before we start testing. Depending on the type of system being tested, we perform two runs of the demo at a resolution of 1,024x768 for lower-end desktops, then an additional two runs each of the 1,280x1,024-resolution and 1,600x1,200-resolution tests for high-end systems. We configure the display settings via the game's own options screens, not the Windows graphics driver settings, and within the game, antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are set to 4X and 8X for all resolutions.

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

ABS Ultimate M6
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT (PCIe, SLI); two Seagate ST3200822AS 200GB 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Silicon SiI 3114 SoftRAID 5 controller

Alienware Area-51 ALX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two WDC WD360GD-00TNA0 36GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Alienware Aurora ALX SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe, SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller

Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe, SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; WDC WD2500JD-50HBB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Silicon SiI 3114 SoftRAID 5 controller

Voodoo Omen
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce4 Ultra SLI chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 500MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe, SLI); two Seagate ST3160827AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA ; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller

The Voodoo Omen comes with a limited one-year PlatinumCare warranty, which provides the repair or replacement of defective hardware. While Voodoo does not provide onsite service, it does pay for shipping in both directions, but we think a three-year warranty should be standard for such an expensive machine, especially one that's overclocked. You can upgrade to the three-year plan, but it will cost you an additional $348. The last time we reviewed a system from Voodoo (in January 2004 we covered its hybrid-form-factor Voodoo Hexx machine), Voodoo told us that it hoped to implement 24-hour phone support in a few months from the time of the review. It's more than a year later now, and it looks like Voodoo still hasn't been able to make 24/7 support work. As we said in our review of the Hexx, we think this lack of coverage shortchanges buyers, especially in the case of the Omen, where you've spent nearly $7,000 for the system. Under the current plan, toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., ET. You can also contact support via e-mail.

We made three calls to tech support and were impressed by the quick and helpful responses we received on each occasion. Our e-mail requests, however, met with a much slower response. Voodoo did answer our question, but it took the support staff two days to respond to our message.

Online assistance, including driver downloads, newsletters, and a community forum are free when you join the Voodoo Tribe, an exclusive Voodoo PC owners club.

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    Voodoo Omen

    Part Number: VOO-SYS-OMEN-X121A Released: Jan 1, 2005
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Release date Jan 1, 2005
    • Video Memory 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM
    • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra
    • OS Provided Microsoft Windows XP Professional
    • Monitor Type None.
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