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Hercules' 3D Prophet 8500 128MB graphics card

The Radeon 8500 gets dolled up in blue
— 12:00 AM on July 11, 2002

Manufacturer Hercules
Model 3D Prophet 8500 128MB
Price (street) US$150
Availability Now

NVIDIA'S GEFORCE4 Ti 4600 is the undisputed king of 3D graphics performance, and at over $300, it should be. But there's a whole world of sub-$300 graphics cards, and though they might not deliver the absolute fastest possible performance in a given game, they're often fast enough for the vast majority of us. Some of these midrange cards, like Hercules' 3D Prophet 8500 128MB, are even able to slip under the $200 price point, making that video upgrade a lot easier on the wallet.

The 3D Prophet 8500 128MB is Hercules' second Radeon 8500-based offering, and since we were quite taken with their 3D Prophet FDX 8500LE, we decided to take this new card for a spin. The 3D Prophet FDX 8500LE was a budget card at the low end of the Radeon 8500 scale. This time around, however, Hercules has gone high end with a Radeon 8500 that's running at full clock speed, with 128MB of DDR SDRAM, and that's begging to be overclocked.

What kind of 3D performance does $150 buy you these days? How does the 3D Prophet 8500 128MB compare with a slew of other graphics cards? Are blue PCBs really faster? We lay it all out for you today—with graphs too.

The card
Hercules has dressed this card up in blue for those of you who care what your PC's internals look like. Although red is technically a faster color, at least in terms of its wavelength, the 3D Prophet 8500 128MB's cool blue hues may give it an edge in the summer heat.

Whatever. At least they don't call it 'Blueberry.'

Hercules keeps the blue theme going

Other than the colored PCB and additional heat sinks, Hercules hasn't done anything radical with the 3D Prophet 8500 128MB's layout. That's a good thing, because we don't need anymore video cards coming in as big as NVIDIA's GeForce4 Ti 4600.

RAM on the back, and more heat sinks

Fitting 128MB worth of memory chips on a graphics card without stretching out the PCB requires that some of the RAM see action on the back of the card, something that's becoming more and more common.

DVI, VGA, and S-Video outputs populate the backplane

Hercules goes with standard fare for the card's backplate, giving you S-Video, VGA, and DVI outputs. The 3D Prophet 8500 128MB does support multiple monitors, but unfortunately not two analog VGA CRTs. Supporting two analog monitors requires a second RAMDAC, and that would have added to the cost of the card. I probably would have also complained if there wasn't a DVI-to-VGA adapter included in that case, so the amount of money that Hercules saves with its setup isn't trivial.

Despite what Matrox tells you, multiple monitors don't have much to offer the gaming community. At least not yet. The 3D Prophet 8500 128MB isn't being pushed as a workstation card, and rightly so; the blue PCB would probably be a little radical for the suit-clad higher ups. In the end, I can forgive Hercules for limiting the multi-monitor capabilities of the 3D Prophet 8500 128MB. You might even be able to use this as a convenient excuse to buy that DVI LCD you've been eyeing.

ATI has an odd habit of not disclosing the clock speed of its graphics cards. Sure, you can find the specs online, either via Google or one of our massive chip specification tables, but that's not going to help your average retail consumer much.

Advertising clock speed, right out in front

Hercules, on the other hand, puts the core clock speed of its 3D Prophet FDX Radeon 8500LE right on the box. With the 3D Prophet 8500 128MB they take things one step further, including both the core and memory clock speeds right there in white and red on glossy cardboard. Of course you're not limited to 275/275, but we'll get to that a little later.