by Anton Shilov
09/24/2008 | 05:16 AM
The new breed of affordable personal computers that are mostly intended for Internet browsing and email usage lacks a lot of capabilities that were sacrificed to trim power consumption. But graphics chip designer S3 hopes that its new Chrome 400 ULP-series graphics processing units (GPUs) will enable a true multimedia experience on such PCs.
S3 Graphics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Via Technologies, on Wednesday announced the world’s first graphics processing units designed for ultra-portable personal computers, such as netbooks, mobile Internet devices (MIDs) or ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs), that support hardware decoding of high-definition video in addition to Microsoft Windows Vista Aero user interface and DirectX 10.1 support.
“S3 Graphics can now deliver a superior mobile visual experience that users will soon demand on all mini-note and mobile products. Our latest Chrome 400 ULP series processors offer manufacturers a mobile graphics component that’s long overdue; a truly power-efficient mobile GPU that really performs,” said Dr. Ken Weng, general manager of S3 Graphics.
Modern portable computers usually feature low-performance graphics processing cores integrated into core-logic sets that usually do not support either hardware-accelerated video playback or feature proper speed even for simplistic games. The sacrifice of graphics processing capabilities is a direct result of continuous attempts to reduce power consumption and prolong battery life, but without rich multimedia features end-user experience may suffer.
S3 Graphics Chrome 400 ULP processors support latest Microsoft DirectX 10.1 application programming interface (API) as well as hardware-accelerated decoding of high-definition content encoded using MPEG2-HD, VC-1, H.264 or WMV-HD codecs amid thermal design power of just 7W. But while the breed of features seems to be interesting, the actual success of S3 Chrome 400-series ultra low power (ULP) GPUs is under a question mark.
Ultra portable computers are usually not used for gaming or watching high-def videos: they have small screens and do not feature optical disc drives so that to install a modern game or insert a movie on Blu-ray disc.
Still, some may take advantage of hardware-accelerated video decoding since many trailers or clips are now available in high-definition. Perhaps, some may even attempt to try downloading a DirectX 10 game demo on a “mini note”, however, since virtually all DirectX 10 titles are made in close collaboration between game developer and GPU designers, the vast majority of games may not work properly with an S3 hardware since the company usually tweaks drivers for its chips after the title is released to the market.
S3 Graphics said that Fujitsu plans to adopt the Chrome 400 ULP GPUs for its portable computers.