Introduction: a Bit of History
S3, the graphics chip maker, which used to be very well-known by almost every PC user, now is a subdivision of VIA Technologies. They have been trying to return to the desktop graphics market for quite a while now: the last attempt was undertaken on January 7, 2003 when they released their new DeltaChrome graphics processor (for more details see our article called The Return of S3: DeltaChrome Graphics Card Review).
This chip announced as a mainstream solution boasted pretty advanced technical specifications. In particular, it featured 8 pixel pipelines and supported extended DirectX 9 specifications. Besides that DeltaChrome was the first VPU featuring the programmable Chromotion engine capable of processing video streams in real time. It was possible to create an engine like that due to the implemented pixel shaders 2.0+ support. Since DeltaChrome also boasted pretty low power consumption and also supported YPbPr (HDTV) signal output format, it turned out an excellent solution for multi-functional multimedia PCs, which could also serve as home entertainment systems.
Unfortunately, graphics adapters based on S3G DeltaChromeS8 didn’t get very popular because of bblate market arrival and the lack of a North American launch. Of course, early drivers as well as the absence of well-established cooperation with large graphics card vendors also played a significant role here.
A few months later S3 Graphics followed up with the DeltaChromeS8 Nitro graphics processor, which differed from its predecessor by slightly higher working frequency. It works at 325MHz compared with the 300MHz of the S3 DeltaChromeS8. However, the DeltaChromeS8 Nitro faced similar difficulties as the ‘standard’ S8 of market timing and early software.
Having an uphill battle to win the niche in the mainstream graphics market, S3G expanded into the Value segment and announced DeltaChromeS4 Pro graphics solution, which we have also reviewed on our site (for details please see our article called The DeltaChrome S4 Pro: S3 Graphics' Entry-Level Offspring). According to our tests, the graphics card based on this VPU turned out to be a pretty successful product and competed efficiently with GeForce FX 5200 and RADEON 9600 SE, at the same time boasting a number of unique features absent by the competitors’ solutions.
All in all, S3 Graphics’ attempts to win a worthy place in the desktop graphics market appeared to be a slow start. The solutions based on different DeltaChrome graphics processor modifications never actually hit the market in volume, except for Japan.