Ask Dr. Damage: Savaged by S3?

I've been doing this for a while both formally and informally, so let's just get it over with and add "Ask Dr. Damage" as a regular feature here at TR. Sean kicks it off with a toughie.

Sean writes:

Dear Damage,

I purchased a Viper 2 ( Savage 2000 chipset ) from Best Buy about a 8 months ago. I quickly learned that the drivers for it suck, and that it doesn't even perform the actions desribed on the box ( to this day some of them are faulty ), not only are advertised features not working, but the support for games, even older ones is terrible ( ie Texture Corruption, Fatal Errors ). And with the news that S3 is shutting down its graphics department, I am stuck with a cheap worthless card.

GETTING TO THE POINT, I emailed an employee spokesperson for S3 and told him I wanted a refund or an equal trade for my card since it fails to deliver advertised functions and compatibility. He responded saying that I could not get a refund, and that all I could possibly do was trade my card for an older Diamond TNT2 Ultra card, ( which is older, and slightly slower, as you know ). I emailed him again and told him that I was to consult the Better Business Bureau if S3 was not refund me, as False Advertisement is not something I take lightly. To this day I have awaited a response, and also notified him a second time with a similar Email regarding my complaint.

SO, you being a person whos "in the business", what should I do ? I really feel cheated by them as this card costed me $200 when I bought it, which is the amount I COULD have bought a GeForce for.

Thanks For you Help
-Sean, cheated customer

What can I say? Sean, I feel for ya, man. Bad Video Chip Hell (and especially its innermost circle, Bad Video Driver Pit) is not a happy place to be. The S3 Savage 2K sure as heck didn't live up to its billing, and the whole T&L thing, in particular, was a fiasco. You're right; S3 sold the chip with integrated transformation and lighting support, but they didn't supply drivers to turn on the T&L engine for a long time. (Not that it mattered, since it turned out the Savage2K T&L engine actually slowed things down on most systems.)

Thing is, I don't think you're in a very good situation to be expecting reparations from S3. They dumped their graphics biz, spiked Diamond's card biz, and hurriedly crossed the Rio into the promised land of the "Internet appliance" market. They don't have any real stake in making their graphics customers happy, and short of a class-action lawsuit (which I think would have some real merit), you're probably not going to get much out of 'em.

Here I should pause and say that Bad Video Chip Hell is why TR and sites like it exist; we review this stuff so you can know beforehand what you're getting into. Hate to rub salt in a wound, but I had to say it.

As for your present predicament, I think you're fortunate that S3 bought Diamond in a murder-suicide. I wouldn't hesitate to take them up on their offer of a TNT2 Ultra card. TNT2 Ultras aren't bad cards, and they should continue to get driver updates from NVIDIA, unlike the Savage 2K. I'd probably turn around and sell the TNT2 Ultra on eBay, then grab a GeForce2 MX for just over a hundred bucks. You could eliminate a step by just selling the Savage 2K on eBay, but I have to wonder if the TNT2U wouldn't command a higher price.

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