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Matrox Graphics, a privately-owned graphics company, unveiled this week its highly-anticipated first PCI Express graphics card ever, targeting professionals from audio, photo, engineering and video industries. The introduction allows graphics cards from Matrox Graphics to be installed in the latest computers with modern processors and PCI Express bus inside.

2-Year Old Technology Gets PCI Express

“Matrox is thrilled to offer the Parhelia APVe to creative professionals migrating to PCI Express platforms requiring a dedicated graphics card for their audio, photo and video editing needs. This forward-looking graphics solution lets customers take advantage of space-saving digital flat panel technology and the move to HDTV, all the while benefiting from Matrox’s rock-solid driver stability and renowned image quality for truly dramatic results” said Caroline Injoyan, product manager, Matrox Graphics.

As expected, the first PCI Express offering from Matrox Graphics does not boast with a new graphics architecture and is virtually the same Matrox Parhelia visual processing unit that was first introduced more than two years ago. The chip does not fully support DirectX 9.0 and is unlikely to offer leading performance in 3D applications compared to competing solutions based on VPUs from companies like ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corp..

Targeting Multi-Monitor Environments

Matrox Parhelia APVe with PCI Express x16 interconnection is equipped with 128MB of DDR memory, support for Matrox’s DualHead and TripleHead technologies that allow two or three monitors to be used on one PC, HDTV as well as S-Video outputs.

Parhelia’s dual 400 MHz RAMDACs with independent lookup tables provide up to 1920x1440 resolution per CRT display and up to 1920x1200 per digital flat panel. HDTV output is supported in both 1080i and 720p resolutions via an included YPbPr analog component cable, complementing Matrox’s S-video and composite NTSC/PAL video output.

For Matrox Graphics, offering extensive support for various multi-display options is crucial, as this is what its customers look for. Supported multi-display configurations include: Dual-display plus HDTV output, Dual-DVI plus SDTV output, TripleHead Desktop Mode, DualHead Clone, and DualHead Zoom, among others. The Parhelia APVe also provides composite and S-video input functionality via a separate cable and features advanced video technologies such as: gamma correctable Dual Hardware Overlay support, PureVideo Preview for full-screen video playback and adjustable proc-amp controls for the video window and TV.

The Matrox Parhelia APVe will be available in Q1 2005 at an estimated street price of $349 from select resellers and directly from Matrox. The video input cable for the Parhelia APVe can be purchased directly from Matrox.

New Architecture May Be Enroute

To address the market of Windows Longhorn computers, Matrox Graphics will not only have to add PCI Express x16 into its products just in order to create solutions compliant with tomorrow’s personal computers, but will also have to incorporate hardware Pixel Shader 2.0 to be fully compliant with the upcoming operating system.

Things have been quiet at Matrox Graphics for more than two years now after the firm released its Parhelia visual processing unit. The part became a breakthrough neither in terms of features, nor performance; though, was the first relatively affordable graphics card for PCs supporting up to three displays. In 2003 Matrox Graphics released more Parhelia technology-based offerings for 2D professional market, but these parts did not attract a lot of attention of the industry. Nevertheless, there are some more products being developed at Matrox Graphics that is now primarily focused on professional 2D graphics cards for engineers and designers.

In late 2003 a representatives for Matrox Graphics said a “new product” was slated to release in 2004. The claim was made shortly after the company abandoned development of drivers that would support Pixel Shaders 2.0 on Parhelia. Peculiarities of the “new product” are unclear.

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