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Diamond Multimedia: Return of the King?

Diamond Multimedia has a rich history, one that not many other graphics card makers can boast of. Back at the times of the ISA bus, when the PCI interface was only beginning to conquer the x86 world, Diamond Multimedia was already producing graphics cards based on chipsets from Tseng Labs and Cirrus Logic. Later on, the company earned a name for itself releasing the Diamond Stealth graphics card series. Early models were based on the then widespread 2D chips developed by S3 Graphics, but then 3D accelerators, based on S3 ViRGE and Rendition Verite processors, were added to the Stealth series as well.

Of course, those products cannot be regarded as full-featured 3D accelerators by today’s standards. Nvidia’s first solution, also employed by Diamond in its products, was not such, either. The NV1 processor was installed on a multifunctional card that combined a 2D/3D accelerator and an audio processor with support for wavetable-based MIDI synthesis, but that product did not really take off due to the lack of support for polygon-based rendering. The chip used quadratic texture maps instead of polygons whereas Direct3D, which uses polygons as the main primitive, was already becoming the number one standard in the world of PC graphics.

So, it was the release of the Monster3D card, based on the revolutionary 3dfx Voodoo Graphics chipset, that proved the real breakthrough. The name of Diamond Monster 3D became a legend among gamers whereas the audio card series Monster Sound, based on Aureal technologies, took its place among high-end gaming audio solutions next to Creative’s Sound Blaster Live!.

In 1999 S3 Graphics announced its purchase of Diamond Multimedia which was the beginning of the decline of the world-famous Diamond brand. S3 wasn’t much of a success. Its solutions were beset with problems. We can recall the inoperable T&L unit in the Savage 2000 chip which, ironically enough, was to become the world’s first GPU with support for hardware transformation and lighting. S3 Graphics eventually became part of VIA Technologies while the Diamond brand remained the property of SonicBlue, a company that was to produce multimedia products like MP3 players, but not graphics cards. July 2000 S3 announced that the Diamond Multimedia department was closed and the once-famous name was forgotten after a while.

The restructured company emerged on the market again in 2003. The rejuvenated Diamond Multimedia announced the return of the legendary brands Viper and Stealth and also took a neutral stance towards the GPU developers, without giving preference to any of them. One of the new Diamond cards made it into our test labs in 2004 but it was an entry-level solution on the already outdated ATI RV280 chip (for details refer to our article called Diamond Stealth S110 Graphics Card Review).

The new Diamond Multimedia had more advanced solutions to offer as well, yet the name of the company didn’t sound as loud on the market as it had used to. Diamond did not offer truly exclusive products. It is only recently that the company caught the spotlight by announcing an update to its Viper series with graphics cards based on ATI Radeon HD 2000 GPUs. The legendary brand returns for real with the announcement of the fastest available version of ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB that has a graphics processor frequency of 825MHz. Some of these new cards come with the standard GPU and memory frequencies, though. We’ll discuss one such Diamond Viper HD 2900XT 1024MB GDDR4 in this review.

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