VSA-100 brought with it some innovations to enhance 3D rendering quality. Its full-scene anti-aliasing (FSAA) support was its most lauded addition. FSAA dramatically improved visual quality by smoothing the jagged edges on angled lines. This was the first implementation of anti-aliasing that could be easily used with the vast majority of game titles. Also touted on VSA-100 was the "T-Buffer", named after its creator Gary Tarolli. The T-Buffer allowed some "cinematic" effects to be added to game titles, such as motion blur, depth of field, and soft shadows. Unfortunately none of these effects saw widespread use outside of visual demos.
Unfortunately, VSA-100 was a purely DirectX 6-based card in a time of DirectX 7 hardware. DirectX 7's primary improvement was support for hardware transform and lighting. A T&L unit was a dedicated processor within the graphics chip that could perform model transformation and lighting calculations far faster than the fastest CPUs of the time. The final VSA-100 chips had been delayed nine months and during that time the competition had not only transitioned from DirectX 6 to 7, but NVIDIA also moved to its second generation DirectX 7 design, the GeForce2. Voodoo5 5500 was not equipped with a T&L unit, which its competitors possessed and enjoyed because the game development community was slowly embracing this new boost in calculating power. T&L calculation was still possible in software on the system CPU, and 3dfx did its best to leverage SIMD technologies such as 3DNow! and SSE aboard AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium III. Still, because of the large difference in performance between a hardware T&L unit and then-current CPUs, Voodoo5's full potential was reached only on very fast machines. Fortunately large usage of hardware T&L did not occur until several years after Voodoo 5's launch, primarily with the arrival of programmable shader architectures like GeForce 3. However, Futuremark's 3DMark 2000 heavily utilized hardware T&L and severely punished 3dfx for their lack of support of the feature in the program's final score.
However, there is an option in Voodoo 3/4/5/6 drivers called "Geometry Assist"—utilizing T&L in software. Unfortunately it was in early beta stage and was disabled by default because of incompatibility with most games. However some games (like Comanche 4) were playable with the Geometry Assist set—Voodoo 5 easily outperformed Geforce 256 and Geforce 2 video adapters and even some newer models. With Geometry Assist, 3D Mark and newer games actually see Voodoo's like hardware T&L videocards.
In games, the Voodoo 5 5500 was able to outperform the NVIDIA GeForce 256 and ATI Rage 128 MAXX, but unfortunately 3dfx's new product was late to market and was up against the new GeForce 2 and Radeon instead. The GeForce2 GTS especially was able to easily trump the Voodoo 5 in both performance and price.
The Voodoo 5 5500 came in three flavors: a universal AGP version (2X on down, prototypes were made with AGP4x-interface) with full sideband support, PCI, and the Mac Edition, which was only PCI, though could run in 66 MHz PCI slots. The Mac Edition had a DVI- and a VGA-out, the other versions just had one VGA-out. Only one other member of the VSA-100 family was released but the Voodoo 4 4500 was beaten in almost all areas by the cheaper GeForce2 MX and Radeon VE.
The planned-but-never-launched Voodoo 5 5000 had 32 MiB but otherwise it was similar to the 5500. The Voodoo5 5500's big brother, the Voodoo 5 6000, was never released into the consumer market due to a severe bug resulting in data corruption on the AGP bus on certain boards. Later tests proved that while the Voodoo 5 6000 would have been able to outperform the GeForce 2 GTS, it would have been outperformed by the GeForce 3. The card possessed something that is almost unthinkable in the marketplace at that time—an external power supply. The rear of the card had a port near the monitor output that attached to an AC adapter to provide power to the unit. At the time, 200 W – 300 W power supplies for PCs were the norm, so this may have been necessary for a card that was, by all accounts, very power hungry.
The commercial failure of this family while the GeForce family was growing is generally what doomed 3dfx in the eyes of many gamers and enthusiasts at the time. Nevertheless many die hard fans and nostalgics remain loyal to 3dfx hardware, especially the Voodoo 2 and Voodoo 5, and this community attempts to provide better support for the hardware in newer games and Windows XP.