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S3 core eyes high-end graphics processors

Posted: 10 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:s3 graphics? graphics processor core? deltachrome? directx 9? dx9 api?

S3 Graphics Inc. has developed a processor core upon which a new line of graphics chips will be built for use in mobile and desktop systems.

S3, once the leading graphics chip company, said it aims to go head-to-head with companies like Nvidia Corp. and ATI Technologies Inc. by fielding high-end graphics processors based on the new DeltaChrome core. The first incarnation of the core will be a mobile graphics processor that the company plans to announce on January 16.

DeltaChrome includes an eight-pixel pipeline, twice as big as competitors, according to S3. That will give its graphics processor chips the bandwidth to crunch 2.4Gpixels per second.

The core has been designed to work with a new high-level shading language that is part of Microsoft's DirectX 9.0 application programming interface. Microsoft is expected to announce the DX9 API later this month.

S3 claims DeltaChrome has enough horsepower to go beyond the DX9's shading techniques and render ghostly images enshrouded in fog and blurred for depth-of-field effects, for example. It usually takes a sequence of calculations to perform these tasks, but developers will be able to accomplish them in a single pass with forthcoming chips based on the new core, the company said.

Another notable feature of DeltaChrome is its high-definition TV encoder, which can display 480p, 720p, 1,080i and 1,080p resolutions, as well as standard TV output. S3 is also touting the core's programmable video engine, which includes a per-pixel de-interlacing feature that maintains image quality when using progressive scan displays. The core also has filtering features to improve image resolution and render special effects.

The processors will be built using TSMC's 0.13?m process technology, which features high voltage threshold transistors to keep power consumption to a minimum - an important point given S3's decision to use an unusually large and power-hungry pixel pipeline. When in idle mode, a graphics processor chip should consume only a 0.5W, said Gerry Liu, vice president of marketing for S3.

Still, the company said it had to cut some fat to stay within the power guidelines of notebook computers, currently S3's biggest market. Displacement mapping, which the company said is rarely used, was left out. So was 128-bit rendering capability, which S3 considers overkill.

"We do not see much real world justification for that other than the technology," Liu said.

S3 will offer three versions of DeltaChrome graphics processors for mobile systems, two of which will be delivered in a multichip package that includes frame buffer memory. The company plans to ship graphics processor chips for desktop systems this year based on the new core, including a low-cost version with a four-pipeline pixel engine.

- Anthony Cataldo

EE Times

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