It is really hard to draw a definite conclusion about S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro performance according to the results we obtained in our today’s test session. The product performed too ambiguously as you may have noticed.
In some games, such as Unreal Tournament, ?ALO, Tron 2.0, Max Payne 2, F1 Challenge and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, the new S3 product performed pretty well. On the other hand, in many other games the newcomer suffered a total fiasco despite its higher working frequency and new driver.
OpenGL driver is still very raw, so the performance in games using this API is extremely low. As for full-screen anti-aliasing, we can say that S3 doesn’t support FSAA at all now. The only available 2x super-sampling mode failed to provide an acceptable performance level in any of the contemporary games supporting FSAA. So, it doesn’t make sense to enable FSAA on about S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro in most cases.
Yes, DeltaChrome features go beyond DirectX 9 specification, but will these features be really demanded even when the game developers start supporting them? Of course, not, if the performance level of this solution remains as it is now.
If we take a more abstract look at the whole situation, we will see that the most powerful S3 Graphics product, which is intended to compete with RADEON 9600 XT and GeForce FX 5700 Ultra, doesn’t suit well this goal. It can compete with the morally and technically outdated GeForce FX 5600 Ultra and RADEON 9600 PRO, but the updated mainstream solutions from ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corporation do not leave S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro a single chance. There is even not a single piece of evidence that the situation may change for the better in the future. Of course, we are a little bit optimistic about S3 claiming that its S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro can support working frequencies higher than 325MHz, but the question about its ability to eliminate the architectural issues remains open. What we can say about the future of S3 products is that the company is looking forward to deliver faster chips for PCI Express x16 bus later this year. Moreover, the firm is already working on the next-generation architecture beyond DeltaChrome and DirectX 9. In addition to hardware S3 Graphics needs to polish the drivers really well, and luckily we do see some progress in this direction already. But a lot still needs to be done before they come to the final driver version.
The only remarkable thing about the video processing unit from S3 Graphics so far is its unique opportunities to play and process video data, as well as hardware image rotation, which can be quite useful for the owners of LCD panels supporting portrait mode. The mobile device builders will also like low power consumption of the new S3 solution. All other feature of the new DeltaChrome are not exclusive and are also available in competitors’ products. The S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro product is pretty good, but it is evidently being late for the mainstream market, which may turn fatal for it, as the market develops very rapidly nowadays.
Initially S3 DeltaChrome S8 graphics cards will be available in Europe, Asia and North America in 2004 in that order respectively (with S8 Nitro to be available later). Pricing will be set to DeltaChrome S8 - $139~$149 and S8 Nitro at $169. Besides Club 3D S3 Graphics is currently working with a major AIB in Taiwan. This and other AIB partners are expected to be disclosed in near future.
Will DeltaChrome remain up-to-date by the time mass products hit the streets? Everything depends on S3 Graphics now and its ability to act real fast to win its niche in the desktop 3D graphics market.