THE HERCULES 3D PROPHET 4500 ought not to be a shock to the graphics market. Its technology has been around since the beginnings of consumer 3D graphics, from the Matrox m3D add-in card to many of the arcade machines in Sega's Virtua series. I used to visit video arcades just to gawk at those games in wonder. Even the Sega Dreamcast used the same PowerVR technology.
Not too long ago, we reviewed a video card based on the original Kyro chip, the PC's incarnation of the PowerVR Series 3. We decided it was formidable competition for GeForce2 MX-based cards, but a few driver glitches and lackluster performance held the Kyro back. We didn't really write it off, but we didn't expect the Kyro to challenge ATI or NVIDIA for the affections of PC enthusiasts, either.
Hercules' 3D Prophet 4500 is a shock, though. As enthusiasts, we simply expected to be choosing between GeForces and Radeons for the foreseeable future, and this card is an attractive third option. It's surprisingly good, and it comes with the backing of Hercules, not a small name in the graphics card business.
Technically, the 3D Prophet 4500 isn't a huge leap over previous Kyro cards; its Kyro II chip is simply a slightly revised Kyro chip capable of running at 175MHz instead of 115MHz. But this chip comes to market with the backing of ST Micro, a chip fabrication company whose past clients include NVIDIA. ST Micro wanted a presence in the graphics market, so they turned to Imagination Technologies, the company behind PowerVR technology, to make it happen. These two companies worked with Hercules to improve the Kyro's drivers and otherwise make the Kyro II product competitive. The 3D Prophet 4500 is the result.
Resplendent in Hercules blue, the card matches TR's swanky color scheme. The 4500 also sports a matching blue chip cooler and fan, which might be overkill for a small, 175MHz chip, but it looks tough.
Beyond that, the 4500 is a no-frills AGP card with only a VGA-style connector on the back. Hercules sells a version of the card with a television output, but our test unit didn't have one. Otherwise, the 3D Prophet 4500 is all about its Kyro II chip.