A few months ago in the end of 2003 we posted a detailed review of a new product form S3 marking that the company returns to the graphics processors market (see our article called The Return of S3: DeltaChrome Graphics Card Review for more details). On that day we reviewed the features and tested the performance of a new graphics adapter based on S8 DeltaChrome chip. Although this eight-pipeline newcomer was not free from certain drawbacks and bottlenecks, which we are more inclined to consider “children’s diseases”, it performed pretty well in our tests despite low working frequencies and not finalized drivers.
Despite some rawness of the product, DeltaChrome boasts a number of unique technologies, such as Chromotion video engine, which doesn’t have any analogues today, and is responsible for real-time video streams processing. Also the developer claimed that their solution supports complex vertex and pixel shaders going far beyond those specified by DirectX 9 spec. If you are looking for more details on DeltaChrome specifications, please see the corresponding article now.
During the tests of the new S3 features we discovered what we thought was a unique anisotropic filtering algorithm developed by S3 Graphics and implemented in their new solution, which allowed performing this filtering without any performance losses even at the maximum 16x level of anisotropy. This has always been a trump of ATI solutions only, but not any more. As for full-screen anti-aliasing, at that time they implemented only a very resource-hungry 2x super-sampling algorithm, even though the developer claimed that their solution should support multi-sampling. Moreover, this super-sampling didn’t work in resolutions beyond 1024x768 and conflicted severely with some games. Of course, we shouldn’t blame the VPU engineering team for that, it was within the software developers’ responsibility, as they were supposed to ensure the corresponding support in the drivers. However, as you know the drivers have always been a stumbling stone for S3, so this situation is not at all surprising.
Nevertheless, the launch of the new S8 DeltaChrome didn’t turn into a fiasco, like the situation with XGI Volari. Besides the above mentioned drawbacks the new chip also boasted a number of indisputable advantages, which turned it into a very attractive solution. I should admit that it was a very good start for a newcomer in the 3D graphics market, since the long-term absence of S3 Graphics on the 3D graphics stage turned it into a newcomer by now. As the desktop VPU market develops very rapidly, even a one-year absence is drastic for the company, and they will have to start pushing their way through anew.
Despite this pretty successful return of S3 Graphics, the VPU working frequency was still too low, especially against the competitors’ background. So, even despite the 8 pipelines the less efficient architecture of the new chip wouldn’t let it go neck and neck with the mainstream favorites, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra and ATI RADEON 9600 XT. Moreover, the production of the graphics adapters based on the new S8 DeltaChrome F1, which were intended to compete with RADEON 9800/PRO and GeForce FX 5900 has never started, as the S3 solution with 128bit memory bus couldn’t successfully compete with the 256bit memory access of the rivals.
S3 Graphics seems to have expected a situation like that, so they decided to introduce one more product in their new family, which could compete on equal terms with the mainstream solutions from the industry leaders. In this situation the company decided to go the simplest way: to increase the chip working frequencies. The new chip is also called DeltaChrome S8, but also acquired a word “Nitro”, which stands for higher performance. This is exactly the product we are going to review today. We will try to figure out how greatly the performance of the new solution grew up compared with the predecessors, and will also see if the company’s software developers managed to eliminate the bugs in the drivers discovered earlier.