According to an optimistic claim of the company’s CEO, XGI was going to become profitable in the next three years. Journalists and analysts were only questioning themselves what weapon XGI was going to beat ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corporation with?
September 2003, the new graphics company announces a new series of graphics chips – XGI Volari. The Volari V5 and V8 chips took in all the development from the Xabre II project and received DirectX 9 support. But the most exciting thing about them is their ability to work in dual-processor configurations.
Historically, multi-chip graphics solutions of the consumer class have never been popular. There are precedents: the Voodoo2 SLI was too expensive to be of any use, while the ATI Rage Fury MAXX performed well enough, but met an abominable competitor, the higher-performing GeForce256. ATI’s creation was also undercut by its driver-related problems. The Voodoo5 5500 from 3dfx also carried two chips onboard. It cost $399, but was anyway slower than the GeForce2 GTS. Thus, dual-processor consumer graphics cards have never been a success, but XGI decides to give them another try, hoping to avoid the traps the other companies have been caught into.
The Volari V8 carries two vertex-processing units (4 in the R350/360 and 3 in the NV35/36/38), four pixel shader units and eight rendering pipelines. The cheaper Volari V5 has only two shader units and four pixel pipelines. Both Volaris access the graphics memory across a 128-bit bus – that’s a mainstream solution by the standards of the end of 2003.
The Volari looks appealing on paper. It is also paper that XGI signs contracts with graphics card makers on. October, Club3D announces its plans to produce Volari-based products. It is also rumored that companies like ASUS, CP Technology, Gigabyte and MSI are also interested in this graphics processor.
XGI assures that it has everything necessary to manufacture and sell the chips and everyone believes that in August and September. Meanwhile, Volari-based cards don’t appear in retail in October as well as in November and December. XGI keeps silent. In spite of the zero sales, the heads of the company are optimistic about their plans to have 10% of the world’s GPU market in 2004.
Matrox Graphics, PowerVR – Living Underground
In early summer, new versions of the last-year Parhelia from Matrox Graphics sidle into the market. They are even slower in 3D now and come under names of Millennium P650 and P750. Being basically 2D solutions, the new Matrox Millennium GPUs are too expensive to be accepted by the mass market.
As a first rumble of the battle to be fought in the fall, the employees of the half-forgotten PowerVR suddenly release two papers on pixel and vertex shaders of the next generation. So far, PowerVR has no DirectX 9.1-compatible chip. We’ll see in the next year whether it will have one.
Meanwhile, ATI Technologies is enlarging its presence in the graphics market quite dramatically. According to Mercury Research data, published in summer, ATI owns 87% of the high-end market in the second quarter of the year.