Drivers and Stability
The S3 driver utilities haven’t changed much since the GammaChrome S18 (for details see our article called S3 DeltaChrome S8 Gets Nitro Acceleration: Review of the Revamped S8 ); the main difference is the color of the control panels which is now blue rather than yellow. There is, however, very little new behind the pretty interface. You are still offered nine tabs with the same settings as we described in our earlier reviews of products from S3 Graphics.
The tabs give you access to all the user-adjustable parameters of S3’s graphics cards, but we think it would be easier and simpler for the user to work with a single menu (like NVIDIA’s ForceWare) or with an independent applet (like ATI’s Catalyst Control Center).
The number of video and 2D-related settings is still impressive, but full-screen antialiasing remains unavailable for OpenGL applications. There are very few OpenGL-related settings. You can only choose the level of detail and anisotropic filtering level and to enable/disable VSync. DirectX settings are somewhat more numerous and include 2x and 4x FSAA modes but this is still only super-sampling. FSAA is actually not very important for graphics cards of this class as they can’t deliver a playable frame rate in today’s games even in low resolutions if you turn this feature on. However the competing solutions do offer full FSAA support and the end-user may prefer them just because they offer more functionality for the same money.
We have noticed great improvements in terms of stable operation of the driver as opposed to version 126.96.36.1994-15.14.10e that we used in our tests of the S3 GammaChrome S18 Pro. The version 188.8.131.523-15.17.14h driver that we received with our sample of the S3 Chrome S27 is stable, despite its prototype status. We only met two problems: Battlefield 2 hung up when loading a level if FSAA was turned on. Another problem was the image quality in Age of Empires 3 :
The card was absolutely stable in all other cases, providing the same image quality as the competing products. These problems have been reported to S3 Graphics and they have responded that these issues will be addressed by a driver update.