Articles: Graphics

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Closer Look

Just like S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro, the new solution we are reviewing today arrived in an aristocratic black box saying “S3 Graphics”.

Besides the card we also found there a splitter intended to connect HDTV-compatible devices equipped with a YpbPr Video-Out, a CD-disk with the drivers, doc-files and a patch for Halo game. Unlike the two first S3 Graphics video adapters, which we have already tested in our lab, DeltaChrome S4 Pro solution looks very much like a product ready to go to the store shelves right away. We got this impression due to the fact that there were no additional resistors soldered to the PCB, not temporary elements or free spots calling to be filled with the components later. A small cooler like those we often see on RADEON 9600 PRO based graphics cards is set to a layer of high-quality thermal paste. I assume that a passive heatsink could be more than enough for a four-pipeline solution, especially since DeltaChrome products are known for being pretty economical in this respect. But S3 seems to have decided to take all possible security precautions just in case.

DeltaChrome S4 Pro reference graphics card

Unlike its elder fellows DeltaChrome S4 pro is equipped with TSOP memory chips, which is not so typical for a contemporary solution. However, in graphics cards of the kind the memory usually works at relatively low frequencies, which do not require BGA packaging that is why the use of low-cost TSOP chips is absolutely justified. In our case the memory has 3.3ns access time, which means that it can work at 300MHz (600MHz DDR) frequency. The VPU core also works at 300MHz. The DDR chips do not have any additional cooling on them, and in fact they do not need any. Even when the graphics card is under very heavy workload, the memory doesn’t heat up that much, just like the graphics processor. Throughout the entire test session the VPU remained just slightly warm.

Yet another PCB design for DeltaChrome S4

On the reverse side of the PCB there are a few very interesting stripes, which remind us of the ABIT Overclocking Strips concept. By ABIT mainboards these strips should increase the stable functioning of the mainboard by screening away the EMI distortions and reducing the resistance in the CPU power circuitry. We cannot claim that these stripes serve the same purpose but if we try to assign the stripes on the reverse side of the PCB with the elements located on the front side of the PCB, then we will be able to see that all of them crowd around the graphics card voltage regulator, which might be a proof of our hypothesis.

Unfortunately, we have a few not very positive comments about the soldering quality: there are some soldering paste drops around the notorious stripes, although in all other spots all the electronic components are soldered up quite carefully. Moreover, they seem to have washed the PCB not well enough, as there is still quite a bit of rosin on the PCB surface, which you can not just feel but also even see. Luckily, we are testing an engineering sample and not a ready retail piece that is why all these production drawbacks should not be regarded as something critical. The version of DeltaChrome S4 Pro, which will appear in stores should not suffer from any of the above mentioned drawbacks, if S3 Graphics ever ships it to retail market at all.

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