Articles: Graphics

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S3 Graphics. This means a lot to the elder generation of the PC enthusiasts, because in those good old times most personal computers were equipped with the graphics accelerators from this company. I believe that each of you who used to be interested in hardware in those times can easily recall such names as S3 Trio and S3 Virge.

As soon as 3D era arrived, the company didn’t want to stay behind such well-known developers as 3dfx, NVIDIA and ATI and launched a pretty successful solution from the technical point of view aka S3 Savage3D. I have to stress here that S3 was a pioneer in the texture compression techniques, so that its new 3D solution could process high-resolution textures at the expense of very small performance reduction. One of the texture compression methods is still called S3TC, which indicates its origin very clearly. The first game to support S3TC appeared Unreal, and the bundle of another Epic game, Unreal Tournament, even included a CD-disc with high-resolution textures, which allowed the happy owners of S3 Savage3D and Savage4 graphics adapter enjoy high-quality clear-cut textures in full. However, Savage3D has never become as popular as it actually deserved. At that time the game developers didn’t pay due attention to the features offered by S3TC, and raw drivers turned into a true disaster for the S3 Savage3D graphics card owners. Unfortunately, the next baby of S3 Graphics, Savage4, followed in the footsteps of the predecessor. Even though it demonstrated pretty high performance and boasted one of the best levels of image quality in the market, constant problems with the drivers did their dirty deed: the newcomer from S3 failed to win the users’ hearts and become truly popular.

The end of 1999. NVIDIA is rushing to finish the new GeForce256 chip, which was claimed to be a revolution in the 3D graphics field. The official product announcement is scheduled for September 1, 1999. Suddenly on August 30 S3 Graphics launches Savage2000, the world’s first graphics processor featuring hardware means for geometry processing. It was just one single day, but it completely ruined all NVIDIA’s attempts to make a loud announcement. It looked like S3’s triumph, but… Regrettably, the situation was not that rosy at all. The thing is that the first graphics cards on S3 Savage2000 were shipped with the disabled T&L engine, which completely eliminated all the advantages of the new solution.

S3 was little by little losing its ground and finally, on April 11, 2000 they announced their desire to sell the Company’s graphics division to VIA Technologies for about $323 million. As a result of the internal S3 restructuring the company was transformed into SONICblue focusing on consumer electronics and at the same time being one of the S3 Graphics shareholders alongside with VIA Technologies. The new S3 Graphics Company didn’t manage to stand out in any way in the desktop graphics market, although it proved pretty active in the integrated chipset field and mobile graphics market. As you know, ProSavage and Twister product lines were built with the graphics solutions developed in the times of savage4 and Savage2000.

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