So we have tested the new S3 Chrome S27 graphics processor and the graphics card based on it, and to what result? S3 Graphics has done much work since the GammaChrome announcement and the new Chrome S20 architecture, if not absolutely new from ground up, is still a big step forward over the company’s earlier products. The low clock rates of the graphics cards on Delta and GammaChrome processors are to be forgotten – the advanced 0.09-micron tech process from Fujitsu helped S3 set a new record reaching a GPU frequency of 700MHz! Combined with a new GDDR3 memory controller, larger caches and more registers, this proved to be enough to make an appealing entry-level graphics card.
The gaming tests suggest that the S3 Chrome S27 is quite competitive against ATI RADEON X1300 PRO, RADEON X700 and GeForce 6600 GDDR2, thanks to its amazingly high GPU and memory frequencies and despite of lower-than-expected efficiency of execution. The power consumption of the new card is the lowest in its class. Even the RADEON X1300 PRO with 4 pixel pipelines and 2 vertex processors clocked at a lower frequency consumes more power than the Chrome S27, with its 8 pixel and 4 vertex processors, does.
The Chrome S27 also did well at video processing tasks, keeping the CPU load low during playback of WMV HD, DivX and MPEG-2 video formats. With its updated Chromotion engine the graphics card seems to be an excellent choice for a home multimedia center.
Unfortunately, there are still some issues that we found a while back with the DeltaChrome product, particularly the lack of useful FSAA, very few OpenGL driver settings and so on. We found two games that did not work perfectly with the Chrome S27, one had some instability issues on the Chrome S27 and the other had image-quality problems. We know of such problems with the 3D shooter Battlefield 2 and the real-time strategy Age of Empires 3 , but there may also be compatibility issues with games not on our benchmarks list. It is probable that a driver update will solve all these problems, it is essential to fix issues like this to allow the board to be accepted by the market, otherwise the prospects of such product will definitely not be bright.
The control panel of the S3 driver needs to be improved. The design of the panels has become more up-to-date, but the concept has remained the same. We think that nine independent panels are less convenient to work with than a single menu like in NVIDIA’s ForceWare or a separate applet like ATI’s Catalyst Control Center.
Besides the interface, the lack of normal support of full-screen antialiasing seems to be a grave problem. Like the previous series of graphics processors from S3, the Chrome S20 series supports only super-sampling which offers high antialiasing quality but at the tradeoff of a tremendous performance hit. In most games the frame rate sinks below playable if you turn it on. The entry-level cards from ATI and NVIDIA use the more economical multi-sampling and allow you to enjoy an anti-aliased picture at a high enough speed on, at least, mature games. . S3’s driver doesn’t support FSAA in OpenGL applications and this should be corrected, too.
The new product from S3 Graphics is interesting overall, yet it is not free from some drawbacks. If these are promptly corrected, the Chrome S27 may make a worthy opponent to GeForce 6600 GDDR2 and RADEON X1300 PRO. We don’t know yet the cost of the product. The PCB design of the Chrome S27 isn’t very simple, and the 1.4ns memory isn’t very cheap, and producing chips on Fujitsu’s facilities can hardly be cheaper than on TSMC’s. Considering the price cuts from ATI Technologies and the low price of GeForce 6600/6600 GDDR2, the S3 Chrome S27 only has any chance at all when it is going to sell in mass quantities at a price of less than $100. This will also depend on how well S3 Graphics collaborates with graphics card manufacturers.
- High performance for its class
- The lowest power consumption level
- High GPU and memory clock rates
- Compact and simple PCB
- Chromotion 3.0 video engine
- Hardware image rotation support
- HDTV support
- Compatibility problems with certain games
- Super-sampling instead of multi-sampling
- Doesn’t support FSAA in OpenGL applications
- Imperfect drivers