S3's DeltaChrome - HotHardware

S3's DeltaChrome

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The S3 DeltaChrome S8 & S8 Nitro
A Veteran Re-Enters The Fray...

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 9, 2004

We have a simple high-level architectural block diagram to give you a basic glimpse into the design of the S3 DeltaChrome S8 GPU.  As the name implies the "S8" version of the DeltaChrome is an 8-pixel pipe design.  S3 will also be producing a low-end card with four pixel pipes that will carry an "S4" moniker, and a high-end model dubbed the "DeltaChromeF1", which also has 8-pixel pipelines...

As the above diagram shows, the DeltaChrome S8 is a true 8-pixel pipe design.  And due to the fact that this is a DirectX 9 compliant part, each pixel pipe has full floating-point precision throughout the entire length of the pipeline (PS 2.0+).  Each of the pixel shaders is precise up to 96-bits per pixel, which is exactly the same level of precision as ATi's R3x0 line of GPUs.  The 8-pixel shaders are complimented by 4 vertex shader units (VS 2.0+ with 128-bit (4xFP32) vertex precision), which doesn't mean much because vertex shader performance varies significantly from one manufacturer's GPUs to another.  This diagram shows the AGP8X interface funneling data into the GPU, which communicates with the on-board memory via a 128-bit wide bus.  From the frame buffer, data is sent to the display output block where the images can be output to HDTV, a CRT or an LCD.

S3 DeltaChrome S8 Features
A Very Complete Feature Set

Although the true DirectX 9 compliance, and 3D features are the S3 DeltaChrome S8's main attractions, the architecture has a few other compelling features integrated into the hardware as well.  Along with true hi-res HDTV output, the DeltaChrome features S3's "Chromotion Programmable Video Engine", which is similar to ATi's "Video Immersion II" feature.  The Chromotion Engine was designed to enhance video playback in a variety of ways.  For example, DVDs are enhanced by a per-pixel adaptive de-interlacing technique that helps reduce the feathering and pixelation that occurs with some other products.

The Chromotion Engine can also filter a video, to help reduce or eliminate the "blockiness" associated with a low-quality stream.  Take a look at the screen captures above, and you'll immediately perceive the benefits of this feature.  Anyone who has tried to watch a streaming video over the web, has seen these blocky images first hand.  The de-blocking is handled automatically, provided you have a player that supports S3's Chromotion video processing technique.  S3 provided us a version of Intervideo's WinDVD, patched to support Chromotion, and even though we had a limited time to experiment with the hardware, we can say that video playback was excellent with the DeltaChrome.

Another feature inherent in the Chromotion engine is called "ArtisticLicense".  With ArtisticLicense the DeltaChrome's pixel shaders can directly manipulate the video, so with the proper tools users can apply a special effect to a video stream in real-time.  At the moment, effects like soft focus, emboss, sharpen and neon edges are available with the DeltaChrome, and others are sure to follow.  A few of these effects are shown in the screen shot above.

Image Quality & The Drivers

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