Well, now that NVIDIA and ATI have exhausted their announcement potential for a while, let’s turn to the minor players in the VGA market: S3 and XGI. Apparently those guys are still working hard to elbow their way into the graphics market. Let’s see what hopes they pin upon the coming year 2005.
I managed to step by for an interesting discussion with S3 guys, who were demonstrating the first silicon of their new GammaChrome S18. According to the ATI product range, S3 positions its new GammaChrome S18 slightly higher than the x600 series mainstream products from ATI. This solution features HDTV component video output and supports 1080p resolution and Chromotion II next-generation programmable video engine. S3 claims that they are starting mass production this quarter: the launch of this product is planned to take place around CeBIT timeframe, in March.
The Ultra Low Power product has already been introduced to you a while ago on our web-site.
Speaking about the ULP solution, S3 claims that the average peak power in most 3D applications is less than 2.5W. When we are talking about real-time gaming experience, like those games we could see running on the S3 booth, the numbers will probably looks as follows. According to S3, the competing solutions will be running between 6-8W, the PCI Express solutions – at 9-10W. S3 ULP solution will be running the same type of applications at 5W, so in this case it is safe to say that this ULP chip generally runs below 50% of the peak average in real games. Besides, it is fully DirectX 9 compatible.
Well, S3 claims that there already are a lot of people talking about it, about the implementation of this and GammaChrome family in slim and thin PCs. Applications where you typically might want high reliability, low power consumption, low heat generation, and sufficient 3D capabilities.
S3 was showing the GammaChrome as a sneak peak. The formal launch is planned to take place later. According to S3 representatives: “So far we just want to demonstrate that this thing is really working, it is real, it is here and it is alive.”
By the time the product is about to launch, the name, GammaChrome will still be there, but with the time the “Gamma” part will be abandoned, and the family of solutions based around this core will be known as just Chrome.
There will be different versions of the chip in terms different speed limits. S3 will have a solution, which will require a small fan, and they can also prepare a solution which is passive. Of course, the top frequency limit of the active and passive solutions will differ. The highest performance chips will still quire fans, the medium performance products may not. It depends on the type of systems and applications the products will be positioned for.
As for the ULV product line, it is quite similar approach. On the manufacturing lines S3 engineers do special testing to select those parts, which can run better at the low voltage and eat less power. When you have low power budget, this is the solution that is definitely worth taking a look at, concludes S3.
The chips are already in production. They are positioned as niche products and S3 is going to use this positioning as major product strategy. With the new ULV product modifications S3 intends to expand not only into the desktop market (the boards are already shipping), but also into the mobile notebook market, when low voltage and low power consumption are known to be the essential characteristics.
For GammaChrome the mass production should start together with the launch in March. Regionwise, S3 will have some initial marketing for North America, Europe, China and Taiwan. The partners developing add-on cards will be also region based. Right now S3 claims that most of the desktop designs are developed in China.
Another player in the VGA market, which has been trying to get known for the past few years, is XGI. In fact, the company has introduced their products for almost every market segment almost two years ago, but since then hasn’t made as much progress in terms of winning the user’s acknowledgement, as they wish they had.
I managed to talk to the US representative from XGI, and it looks that the company is going to be very aggressive in the North American market in the near future. First they are going to start the production and distribution of XGI based graphics cards on their own. Well, the name of the partner who will be making those cards for XGI hasn’t been officially disclosed yet, but I am pretty sure you will here more about their plans on our site pretty soon.