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S3 Chrome S27 at a Glance

Since we’ve got an engineering sample rather than a final version of the product, the graphics card was accompanied with just a CD with the driver. We can proceed right to the PCB design and the cooler.

Fujitsu’s 0.09-micron tech process helped S3 Graphics reduce the power consumption of the Chrome S27 even below the level of the GammaChrome S18. There was no need for a complex power circuit and the PCB design of the new graphics card has become even simpler and its size smaller.

Most of the PCB is just blank: the left part is occupied by a few power elements and even this simple circuit is not fully assembled – there are two switching transistors instead of four. The nearby holes suggest that the transistors were supposed to be cooled by small passive heatsinks, but the heat dissipation must have proved to be so low that no cooling was thought necessary. You can also see a single-channel TMDS transmitter from Silicon Image which is responsible for the card’s single DVI-I connector. There is a place on the PCB for a second connector, but it is occupied with an ordinary D-Sub output that is not so often installed on today’s graphics cards.

The right part of the PCB seems even more desolate – it is mostly screened since the memory chips are very near the GPU. The path between the memory and the GPU is short to minimize interference and ensure stable operation of the memory chips at high frequency. On the reverse side of the PCB there are only seats for additional memory chips to increase the memory amount from 128 to 256MB.

Despite the eight pixel pipelines, the die area is very small thanks to the 0.09-micron tech process. The new chip’s codename, 86С830, reads like a typical codename of an S3 GPU. Our sample of the Chrome S27 was dated the 20th week of 2005. The chip doesn’t have a frame, like the one on the GammaChrome, to protect the die from chipping and we don’t like it. The final version of the graphics card will be equipped with a rather massive cooler on heat pipes and the GPU may be easily damaged if the card is handled carelessly. The GPU on our sample works at the specified frequency of 700MHz which, again, was made possible by the advanced tech process developed by Fujitsu.

The memory marking is a sign that S3 Graphics is now really keeping up with the times. The card carries Samsung K4J55232QG-BC14 chips of GDDR3 memory in the modern 136-pin packaging. Four 256Mb chips with 2Mx32 design suffice for 128-bit memory access. The empty seats on the reverse side of the PCB suggest that the Chrome S27 may come with either 128MB or 256MB of memory. The chips has an access time of 1.4 nanoseconds which corresponds to 700 (1400) MHz frequency they are actually clocked at by the card. The fast memory ensures a bandwidth of 22.4GB/s which should positively affect the performance of the S3 Chrome S27, but the cost of such chips is rather high and may negatively affect the cost of the product which is positioned into the below-$100 sector. The memory chips are not cooled on the engineering sample of the Chrome S27, but are going to be cooled on the final version of the card.

The card will also be equipped with an aluminum cooler consisting of two heat-spreaders connected with a heat pipe, and a small fan, but our sample carries a once-popular Thermaltake Orange Orb cooler, painted black and rather noisy (the specified noise level is 30dB). The fan connector has three pins and the Chrome S27 is evidently able to keep track of the fan speed or even control it if necessary, but the cooler installed on the engineering sample lacks a tachometer and the third pin of the connector is not in use.

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