Weitek Power for Windows. (Evaluation)
by Tom Benford
Weitek is probably best known for its line of math coprocessor chips that speed up numeric calculations by several orders of magnitude. But Weitek is also a leading developer and manufacturer of graphics coprocessors, and the Weitek Power for Windows graphics board is its latest offering.
The half-slot board contains Weitek's single-chip graphics controller, the W5086, which effectively off-loads the PC's CPU operations dealing with certain graphics operations. It does this by incorporating the Microsoft Windows Graphic Device Interface (GDI), Bit-Block Transfer (BitBLT), and LineDraw functions in hardware (rather than system RAM) to increase performance.
The board by itself can significantly speed up all Windows and AutoDesk applications (AutoCAD, AutoShade, and others), and it comes supplied with an assortment of drivers for Windows 3.0, ADI (AutoDesk), and other popular applications such as WordPerfect 5.0 and 5.1, Microsoft Word 5.0 and 5.5, Lotus 1-2-3, and Ventura Publisher (GEM version). Although they did not arrive in time for testing and review, new drivers for Windows 3.0 and 3.1 are now available.
The Power for Windows card comes equipped with 512K of video RAM, and it's a fully functional and completely compatible VGA board. While video cards with 1MB of RAM are quite common, the Weitek board actually outperforms Super VGA cards with double the RAM, thanks to its dedicated W5086 User Interface Controller chip, even with DOS applications. Under Windows, the card typically runs applications from two to four times faster.
Installing the board consists of removing or disabling the present video card and replacing it with Power for Windows, connecting the monitor, and loading the supplied drivers. A single 15-pin D connector is provided on the board's mounting bracket.
The Weitek package includes driver software on both 3 1/2-inch and 5 1/4-inch media. An automated installation program makes copying the required drivers and support files to the appropriate Windows directories a foolproof process, and a driver-removal program (for uninstalling the drivers) is also included. Along with the software, you get an excellent 58-page user's manual with all of the information that you'll need to get optimal performance for all Windows applications with this high-performance graphics board.
Although the disk-based READ-ME file warns of the possibility of mouse incompatibilities that may exist with some mice in the super-extended video modes (800 x 600 and 1024 x 768) because of nonstandardized mouse driver implementations, I didn't encounter any problems whatsoever in any video mode using a Microsoft serial mouse.
The Weitek board was a joy to use, producing crisp, flicker-free displays in 640 x 480, 800 x 600, and 1024 x 768 video modes, with excellent color and image resolution even when using a relatively inexpensive multi-frequency analog monitor. The product also lived up to Weitek's claims by producing a speed increase of more than 200 percent in the applications I used it with.