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Second-Tier Developers in 2004

The other developers of desktop graphics solutions behaved listlessly this year. S3 Graphics issued another series of announcements dedicated to the quite interesting DeltaChrome processor that belongs somewhere at the bottom of the mainstream class. Graphics cards on this GPU even emerged in Japan (they had taken half a year to reach the shops!), and then in Europe, too, supplied mostly by Club 3D. S3 Graphics is of course unlikely to pretend to a good slice of the market, but at least they got going. Otherwise, the company follows in the wake of the giants developing a shader complier for faster execution of shaders by its GPUs and preparing to launch the higher-performing GammaChrome processor that also supports the new PCI Express bus.

XGI’s position is less solid: the aggressive attempt to invade the graphics market ended in a total failure. You can refer to our review of the Club 3D Volari Duo V8 Ultra graphics card for details and reasons for that. Nasty performance, undisguised reduction of the image quality to boost this performance, various bugs and flaws in the software – this all crushed the XGI Volari series in the very bud. Still, the company doesn’t give up, but goes on developing new GPUs. Particularly, they promise a GPU with support of Shader Model 3.0. They also showcased an operational prototype of a PCI Express graphics card at Computex Taipei 2004, but the support of the new interface is realized through an AGP-to-PCI Express bridge.

XGI’s future remains vague: besides the aggressive attitude it takes a competitive architecture to release a competitive graphics processor. Right now, XGI doesn’t seem to have such an architecture on its hands. The Volari, however thoroughly redesigned, won’t solve the problem, while the development of a new architecture would require too much time, and XGI doesn’t have that time since ATI, NVIDIA and even S3 Graphics are not just marking time. The desktop graphics market is a dainty pie and one that seems to have been knifed up already – the current players don’t want others to join. Of course, it’s possible to pick up the crumbs left after the feast of the giants, but it’s a resource-consuming, unrewarding and unprofitable business.

 
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