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S3's DeltaChrome
Date: Mar 09, 2004
Author: HH Editor
S3's DeltaChrome - Page 1

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

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 9, 2004

Anyone with even the slightest interest in PC graphics is aware that NVIDIA and ATi have had a virtual stranglehold on all segments of the add-in card market for the last few years.  For hardcore enthusiasts, the names "3dfx" and perhaps even "Matrox" may come to mind as well, when talking about the dominant players in PC graphics of the recent past.  However, there is another company that once reigned supreme for a short period of time as an early gaming card evangelist.  That company was S3 Graphics.

Many of the veterans among you will surely remember the day when your first Diamond Stealth64 Video arrived.  Powered by the S3 Vision 968 controller, the Diamond Stealth64 Video line of cards was once the pinnacle of performance.  In fact, we burned through the Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 days with a Diamond Stealth64 Video 3000 pushing the pixels in our main rigs.  But those were the days of low-resolutions and 2D acceleration.  The game completely changed when it became time to accelerate 3D.  They tried, but back then S3 produced what was to be dubbed the first "3D-Decellerator" by some, the ViRGE series of graphics processors.  While they had excellent 2D performance and quality, their 3D performance was simply not up to par, when compared to competing products of the time.  Sometime later, S3 followed up with their Savage line of 3D accelerators, which were far better performers, but by then it was too late.  3dfx and NVIDIA were embattled at the high-end, and S3's reputation had be tarnished so badly by the ViRGE, that many enthusiasts simply wouldn't purchase another card powered by an S3 processor.  S3 ultimately ended up getting acquired by VIA, who then incorporated S3's technology into their line of IGPs.

So here we are in the current day.  3dfx is dead and gone, NVIDIA remains strong, along with the now dominant ATi, and S3 is trying to break back into the business with a new DirectX 9 compliant architecture, dubbed "DeltaChrome".  We've seen and heard quite a bit about DeltaChrome for the last few months, and were eager to see the technology in action.  On paper, DeltaChrome seems to have what it takes to be a winner.  The 'S8' models sport eight DX9 class pixel pipelines, just like ATi's R3x0 line of GPUs, and they fully support Pixel and Vertex Shader 2.0 specifications.  We all know that paper specs certainly aren't what push polygons, however.  We need hardware in our hands to draw any kind of meaningful conclusion.  So, today on HotHardware, we're going to take two pre-production DeltaChrome evaluation cards for a spin, to see just how far S3 has come with DeltaChrome.

Specifications & Features of The S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro
DirectX 9+ Specs
Vertex Shader 2.0+ and Pixel Shader 2.0+
  • DirectX 9.0 VS/PS hardware
  • 128-bit (4xFP32) vertex precision and 96-bit (4xFP24) pixel precision
  • PS - 16 concurrent texture map references per pass
  • Shadow Volume acceleration with two-sided stencil
  • Unconditional non power of 2 textures
  • Floating point render target / texture formats
  • High accuracy floating point render target for cinematic quality image rendering
  • High quality advanced 16x anisotropic filtering
  • High performance anti-aliasing with 4x multi-sampling up to 1024x768
  • Volume and cube maps for photo-realistic reflection
  • Programmable per pixel gamma correction (PS 2.0+)

Advanced Deferred Rendering

  • Hierarchical Z
  • Front-to-back, Back-to-front Z occlusion culling
  • Incorporated zero-cycle clear
  • Reduced Z buffer write and read
  • Triangle mask optimization (Vertex elimination) V8 Pixel Pipeline
  • Full 8 pixel pipeline
  • 2.4 Trilinear filtered Giga pixels per second fill rate
  • Full floating point calculation precision
  • Programmable cache for engine speed and efficiency
  • Unified super wide pipeline for seamless 2D/3D/Video context switching
  • Optimized advanced shading dependency read pipelines
  • Programmable render target blending (PS2.0+)
  • Programmable depth shader (PS 2.0+)

Chromotion Programmable Video engine

  • IDCT hardware support
  • Motion compensation
  • S340 uncompressed format support
  • Per pixel adaptive de-interlacing (PS2.0+)
  • MPEG -2/-4 hardware acceleration
  • Windows Media Video hardware acceleration
  • 4x4 programmable kernel filter video scaling (PS2.0+)
  • Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer support
  • Real time post processing (PS2.0+)
  • ArtisticLicense real-time video effects (PS2.0+)

Highly Integrated Mobile Features

  • 7th Generation DuoView (extended desktop)
  • Up to 128 MB of integrated frame buffer memory
  • 2 channel LVDS transmitter for LCD panels up to 2048x1536
  • 2 Channel 165MHz, 12-bit digital TMDS port
  • Full Clock gating for major functional blocks
  • Dynamic voltage and frequency scaling
  • Pulse width modulation for panel lighting control
  • High quality bilinear LCD panel scaling
  • CRT display up to 2048x1536 75Hz resolution
  • DVI display up to 1600x1200 resolution
  • AGP 8X
  • 256 MB frame buffer
  • 128 bit DDR memory interface
Integrated Hi-Def HDTV & Standard TV Encoder
  • 480p/720p/1080i/1080p component (YPbPr) output
  • 4:4:4 conversion with 10 bit DAC resolution
  • Full desktop view in HDTV mode
  • 480i standard TV output (S-video, composite)
  • Macrovision enabled for 480i/p mode
  • 2/3 tap flicker filter with programmable coefficients
  • PC2001 specification support
  • NTSC/PAL support for standard TV mode
  • Vertical over-/underscan compensation
  • 2x Oversampling for premium image quality
  • Adaptive aperture correction
  • Full range RGB to YUV color space conversion with Hue, Saturation and Contrast adjustment
  • Smooth vertical overscan compensation with programmable contraction factor

High Performance 400MHz 10-bit CRT DAC

  • 1+ billion colors (Giga-Palette)
  • 2048x1536 QXGA (3.1M) display resolution capable
  • Ultra low power consumption
  • Excellent INL/DNL characteristics (+/- 1 LSB)
  • Dual mode compatible (HDTV/CRT)

Advanced Display Features

  • Hardware display rotation for TabletPC (90°, 180°, 270°)
  • Dual CRT support
  • Hardware color cursors
  • Up to 256 MB frame buffer
  • First class utilities with S3 Screen Toys

S3 DeltaChrome
Chipset Gallery





325MHZ CORE - 2.6GP/S
325MHZ MEMORY (650MHZ DDR) - 10.4GB/S

The card pictured above is a pre-production S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro.  This is the faster of the two cards we'll be looking in this article.  It is built upon a 6-layer PCB which is populated by 128MB of Samsung DDR RAM (8x16MB) clocked at 325MHz (650MHz DDR).  The exact part number of the RAM is Samsung K4D263238E-GC2A.  A quick trip to their site reveals that these particular chips are rated for operation at up 350MHz, so once the tools become available there should be some overclocking headroom with these cards.  The GPU, which incidentally is also clocked at 325MHz on the Nitro model, is actively cooled by a relatively simple orb type cooler, which never got excessively warm throughout testing.  We suspect that S3 has clocked these pre-production boards conservatively for the sake of stability, but we think that final retail samples may be clocked a bit higher.



300MHZ CORE - 2.4GP/S
300MHZ MEMORY (600MHZ DDR) - 9.6GB/S

Although the label on the rear is this card says otherwise, this particular DeltaChrome is not a "Nitro" model.  The card above is the standard DeltaChrome S8.  This part is built upon a less complex 4-layer PCB, and is populated by 256MB of less expensive TSOP memory chips (Hynix HY5DU561622CT-28 to be exact).  The core and memory clock speeds for the standard S8 are a bit lower as well, coming in at 300MHz / 300MHz (600MHz DDR) respectively.  We should mention that at 300MHz, the DeltaChrome S8 generated very little heat.  In fact, when we removed the simple active cooler, we found that our sample didn't have any thermal paste applied to GPU.  Even so, it didn't exhibit any heat related issues whatsoever.  With lower clock speeds and a less complex design, it should come as no surprise that this is the cheaper of two cards showcased here.  Both cards do have some features in common, like the three video outputs (DVI, DB15, S-Video).  And both cards can also output directly to an HDTV, using the included dongle.

A Closer Look at DeltaChrome

S3's DeltaChrome - Page 2

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

S3's DeltaChrome - Page 3

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

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 9, 2004


We tested the S3 DeltaChrome S8 evaluation boards on an i875P based MSI 875P Neo-FIS2R motherboard, powered by an Intel Pentium 4 3.2CGHz CPU. The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and loaded the "High Performance Defaults". Then we set the memory to operate at 200MHz in dual-channel mode, with the CAS Latency and other memory timings set by the SPD, and set the AGP aperture size to 256MB. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with SP1 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the latest Intel chipset drivers and then hit the Windows Update site to download and install all of the available updates. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers for the rest of our components and Windows Messenger was then disabled and removed from the system.  Auto-Updating, System Restore and Drive Indexing were then disabled, the hard drive was de-fragmented and a 768MB permanent page file was created. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed the benchmarking software and ran all of the tests.

Please pay special attention to the legends in each graph, as the S3 DeltaChrome with the beta v15.08.09b drivers we used does not support the levels of anti-aliasing as you might expect.  2XAA was the maximum setting available with the DeltaChrome in Direct3D applications, while in OpenGL, no AA was available at all.

HotHardware's Test Setup
Intel Powered - 3.2GHz System

Processor -

Mainboard -

Video Cards -

Memory -

Audio -
Hard Drive -

Optical Drive -
Other -

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers -

Intel Pentium 4
MSI 875P Neo-FIS2R
i875P "Canterwood" Chipset

S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro (325MHz / 325MHz)
S3 DeltaChrome S8 (300MHz / 300MHz)
ATi Radeon 9600 XT
GeForce FX 5900 XT
GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
1024MB Kingston HyperX PC3500
Integrated SoundMax Audio
Western Digital "Raptor"
36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA
Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM
3.5" Floppy Drive

Windows XP Professional SP1 (Fully Patched)
Intel INF v5.1.1.1002
DirectX 9.0b

S3 15.08.09b Drivers
ATI Catalyst v4.2
NVIDIA Forceware v56.56
Performance Comparisons With AquaMark3
DX8 and DX9 Shader Ops

Aquamark 3

Aquamark 3 comes to us by way of Massive Development Massive's release of the original Aquanox in 1999 wasn't well received, but it was one of the first games to implement DX8 shaders, which led to the creation of Aquamark 2 - a benchmark previously used by many analysts. Since the Aquamark benchmarks are based on an actual game engine, they must support old and new video cards alike.  Thus, Aquamark 3 utilizes not only DirectX 9 features, but DirectX 8 and DirectX 7 as well.  We ran this benchmark at resolutions of 1024x768 and 1600x1200 with no anti-aliasing, then again with 2x AA enabled.  Throughout all of these tests, 4X Anisotropic filtering was enabled from within Aquamark 3's control panel, which is the default setting for this benchmark.

Throughout this article, we've compared both of the DeltaChrome cards to similarly priced competing cards in the Radeon 9600 XT and GeForce FX 5700 Ultra.  To see how they compare to something a little more expensive, we've thrown in some numbers from a GeForce FX 5900 XT as well.  As you can see by the above graphs, the DeltaChromes didn't perform very well in the Aquamark 3 benchmark, versus its comparably priced counterparts.  At 1024x768, with and without AA, the DeltaChromes were the lowest performing cards, coming in between 20% - 30% behind the nearest competitor.  At 1600x1200, the gap shrunk considerably, but their performance was again below that of the competition.  The spread hints at S3's current driver immaturity and less efficient memory controller, since clearly as you throttle performance back with higher fill rate demand, the Delta Chrome gains back some of its losses.

Benchmarks With Halo
Halo - No Xbox Here!


For many gamers, the release of Halo marked the end of a long wait, since it was originally released as an Xbox exclusive a few years back.  No additional patches or tweaks are needed to benchmark with Halo, as Gearbox has included all of the necessary information in their README file.  The Halo benchmark runs through four of the cut-scenes from the game, after which the average frame rate is recorded.  We ran this benchmark twice, once at 1024x768 and then again at 1280x1024.  Anti-aliasing doesn't work properly with this game at the moment, so all of the test below were run with anti-aliasing disabled.

The S3 DeltaChrome S8 and S8 Nitro performed at a level a bit closer to their direct competition in the Halo benchmark, but they still pulled off the two lowest scores in this test.  At 28.18 frames per second, the S8 Nitro came in a full 16.8% behind the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra at the lower resolution.  The performance delta between the S8 Nitro and the next fastest card at 1600x1200 shrunk down to 11.3% - which is a considerable margin at frame rates this low.  As expected, the lower clocked DeltaChrome S8 came in a few frames per second behind the S8 Nitro, and the much more expensive GeForce FX 5900 XT blew past all of the competitors.  We should also mention that both of the DeltaChrome cards had some problems rendering all of the scenes in the Halo benchmark.  At random areas in the test, textures would flash on the screen.  This is a common problem with beta drivers, however, so we expect S3 will be able to clear this issue up before cards actually ship here in the states.

Unreal Tournament 2003 & Splinter Cell Testing  

S3's DeltaChrome - Page 4

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

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 9, 2004

Benchmarks With Unreal Tournament 2003
DX8 Performance

Unreal Tournament 2003

Epic's Unreal Tournament series has consistently been one of the most popular first person shooters, and by no coincidence is it also one of the most commonly used video card benchmarks. We continued our DirectX benchmarking with a completely patched, retail version Unreal Tournament 2003. When benchmarking with UT2003, we use a utility that ensures all of the cards are being tested with the exact same in-game settings and "High-Quality" graphical options. We ran the UT2003 benchmarks at resolutions of 1024x768 and 1600x1200 without anti-aliasing, and then again with 2X AA enabled. We kept Anisotropic filtering disabled in UT2003 because NVIDIA and ATi aren't doing the same level of trilinear filtering when aniso and trilinear are enabled together.

Without any anti-aliasing, the DeltaChrome S8 and S8 Nitro performed admirably in the Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmark.  Once again, they were the lowest performing cards coming in about 20% behind the nearest competition, but at frame rates hovering around 100 FPS at 1024x768, we won't really complain.  At 1600x1200, the DeltaChromes couldn't quite break the magical 60FPS mark, but in general, anyone in the market for a card in this price range can't expect playable frame rates at resolutions this high anyway.  Enabling anti-aliasing with the DeltaChromes in this test caused a massive hit in frame rate, nearly halving their performance at 1024x768.  At 1600x1200 with AA enabled though, the S8 Nitro nearly caught the 9600 XT.  Perhaps with some further driver optimizations and a bump in clock speed, the DeltaChromes may be able to climb out of the basement in the high-res UT2003 test.  Time will tell...

Head-to-Head Performance With Splinter Cell
Stealth Pixel Shading

Splinter Cell

Splinter Cell's version 1.2 patch includes three pre-recorded demos and incorporates a previously unavailable benchmarking tool.  The demos included with the patch are somewhat limited by CPU performance, however, so we used the custom Oil Rig demo created by the folks at Beyond 3D to test with this game.  Beyond 3D's demo removes two CPU intensive routines while increasing dependence on Pixel Shader performance.  Shaders are used to render the realistic looking ocean water surrounding the Oil Rig in the demo, as well as simulating a night vision effect.  As we've mentioned in the past, anti-aliasing doesn't work with Splinter cell (at least with the current version).  Due to this fact, we do not have any AA scores listed in the graphs below.

The put it mildly, the S3 DeltaChrome S8 and S8 Nitro got annihilated at both resolutions in the Splinter Cell benchmark.  At 1024x768, the faster of the DeltaChrome cards - the S8 Nitro - was about 45% slower than the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra, which came in slightly behind the Radon 9600 XT.  With the resolution cranked up to 1600x1200, the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra couldn't quite catch the Radeon 9600 XT, but it was still about 65% faster than either of the DeltaChromes.  Like with Halo, the S3 cards also had a slight rendering problem in this test.  At one point late in the demo, the DeltaChromes did not render a shadow cast by a large grate just above the water properly.  Other than this minor problem, however, the rest of the demo looked great on the DeltaChromes.

Final Fantasy & Gun Metal Tests

S3's DeltaChrome - Page 5

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

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 9, 2004

Performances Comparisons With Final Fantasy XI Benchmark 2 v1.01
Chocobos on the PC

Final Fantasy XI

The Final Fantasy franchise is well known to console gamers, but Squaresoft has since made the jump to the PC with a MMORPG version of this classic. The Final Fantasy XI benchmark runs through multiple scenes from the game and displays a final score every time a full cycle of the demo is completed. Although the demo is meant the check an entire system's readiness to play the game, the number of frames rendered scales with different video cards installed. Lower scores indicate some frames were dropped to complete the demo in the allotted time. The scores below were taken with the demo set to "High Resolution" (1024x768), with anti-aliasing disabled.

Things began to turn around a bit for the DeltaChromes in the Final Fantasy XI benchmark.  Yet again, they were the slowest of the 5 cards to be benchmarked, but in this test the performance deltas were much smaller than what we have seen up to this point.  For all intents and purposes, the DeltaChrome S8 Nitro and Radeon 9600 XT performed at the same level in this test with only 24 points (.005%) separating them.  With its slightly lower clock speeds, the S8 came in 223 points behind the Nitro model at 4119, which is still a respectable score in this test.

Benchmarks / Comparison With Gun Metal
Transformers? Thexder? or is it Gun Metal?

Gun Metal

We continued our testing with the pseudo-DX9 based Gun Metal benchmark developed by Yeti Studios. This benchmark, like all of the others used in this review, is based on an actual game engine. Gun Metal uses Vertex Shader 2.0 and Pixel Shader 1.1 ops in the creation of the game world. This test is heavily GPU limited, and because Yeti's intent was to stress all modern 3D accelerators, anti-aliasing (2X) and Anisotropic filtering are enabled by default, and can't be disabled. We ran this test at 1024x768 and then again at 1280x1024.

Looking at the graphs above, two things become clear.  One, the DeltaChromes were significantly outpaced by the competition, and two, the new Forceware 56.56 drivers give the GeForce cards a nice performance boost in this test.  The 5700 Ultra smoked the Radeon 9600 XT, which in turn crushed the DeltaChromes.  At 1024x768, the DeltaChrome S8 Nitro performed about 27.7% lower than the next fastest card, the Radeon 9600 XT.  The same held true at 1600x1200 where the S8 Nitro was about 24% slower.

Next Up: Comanche 4 & Wolfenstein

S3's DeltaChrome - Page 6

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

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 9, 2004

Performances Comparisons With Novalogic's Comanche 4
Combat Helicopter Sim

Comanche 4

We used Novalogic's combat helicopter simulator Comanche 4 for our next batch of DirectX tests. Comanche 4 uses DX8 class pixel and vertex shaders to produce some of the realistic visuals used throughout the game. Unlike some of the previous tests though, this benchmark is heavily influenced by CPU and system memory performance, especially at lower resolutions. However, when the resolution is raised and anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are enabled, the current crop of 3D accelerators tend to slow down quite a bit.

The S3 DeltaChrome S8 Nitro redeemed itself somewhat in the Comanche 4 benchmark when anti-aliasing was disabled, where the card managed to pull off its first victory.  Once we enabled anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, however, it was all downhill.  In the low resolution test, with AA and Aniso enabled concurrently, the DeltaChromes were severely outperformed by the NVIDIA and ATi powered cards.  In the high resolution test, the DeltaChromes did a bit better, relatively speaking, but frame rates were too low to be considered playable.

Benchmarks / Comparison With Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Q3 Engine Based Freebie

Wolfenstein: ET

We also ran through a batch of timedemos with the OpenGL game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Wolfenstein: ET is a free, standalone multiplayer game that is based on the original Return to Castle Wolfenstein, that was released a few years back. It uses a heavily modified version of the Quake 3 engine which makes it a very easy to use benchmarking tool. We created our own custom demo and used the built-in timedemo feature to check each card's frame rate. The tests below were run at 1024x768 and again at 1600x1200, without anisotropic filtering and again with 8X and 16X aniso enabled.

As we mentioned earlier, the S3 DeltaChromes currently do not offer any anti-aliasing in OpenGL applications, which hints at the relative immaturity of S3 OpenGL support.  We asked S3 when (or if) they planned to add this feature in a future driver release and were told it's currently not in the schedule.  So, if you crave AA in OpenGL, the DeltaChromes are not for you.  In an effort to give you multiple data points in an OpenGL benchmark, we tested our custom Wolfenstein timedemo with two different levels of Anisotropic filtering enabled (8X and 16X).  The GeForce cards only offer up to 8X aniso, hence the "N/A"s in our graphs.  The DeltaChrome S8 and S8 Nitro again stumbled, getting outpaced by 40%+ margins in this test.  It's clear that S3 has some work to do with regard to OpenGL performance with the DeltaChromes.

Tomb Raider: AOD, Overclocking & Our Final Analysis

S3's DeltaChrome - Page 7

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

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 9, 2004

Head-to-Head Performance With Tomb Raider: AOD
Lara is Back! As Crappy as Ever!

Tomb Raider: AOD

Although Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness won't be winning any "Game of the Year" awards, it is one of the more advanced DirectX games currently available. We've recorded a custom demo of Lara jogging through an indoor garden area in the "Prague3" map. When using the Pixel Shader 2.0 code path, this area of the game utilizes a DOF (depth of field) blurring effect to enhance the sense of depth and size. We ran our custom demo at a resolution of 1024x768 and then again at 1600x1200, using both the Pixel Shader 1.4 and 2.0 code paths (with and without 2x anti-aliasing in the PS 2.0 tests).

We saw more of the same in the Tomb Raider benchmark using our custom timedemo.  The S8 and S8 Nitro performed adequately using the PS 1.4 (DX8) code path, but things took a turn for the worse when using the more complex PS 2.0 (DX9) path.  At 1024x768, regardless of the test configuration, the S3 cards were significantly outperformed by the 9600 XT and 5900 XT, but they almost caught the 5700 Ultra using the PS 2.0 code path.  At 1600x1200, the DeltaChromes, 5700 Ultra and 9600 XT all performed similarly, but the frame rates were so low, it doesn't really matter.  These cards were not designed with high-resolution DX9 gaming in mind.


After seeing the benchmark scores, evaluating the drivers, inspecting their in-game image quality and spending some time gaming with the S3 DeltaChrome S8 and S8 Nitro, we were left disappointed but not completely without hope.  At their respective price points of $169.00 MSRP for the S8 Nitro and $149.00 MSRP for the vanilla S8, we simply cannot think of a compelling reason to purchase either one of these cards, when both the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra and Radeon 9600 XT can be purchased for less than $150.00 at multiple on-line resellers.  Cost has to be a driving factor for S3 with this card and by all rights, they should have some advantage there.  DeltaChrome MSRPs probably won't be all that indicative of street pricing in the near future.  About the only thing DeltaChrome offers over the competition technology wise, is HDTV output, but we're fairly certain that's not enough of a reason to sway much of the market toward this product. 

We do however, think the DeltaChrome architecture has very real potential.  Being built on a .13 micron process, with only 70 million transistors comprising the graphics core (plus or minus 10 million transistors - S3 hasn't published an exact number), there has got to be some headroom to ramp up clock speeds considerably.  At 325MHz, the S8 Nitro almost caught the Radeon 9600 XT in a few tests.  The R360 based GPU powering the Radeon 9600 XT is comprised of a similar number of transistors, yet it is clocked a full 175MHz higher.  With more mature drivers, and with higher core and memory clock speeds, the S8 could easily compete with a Radeon 9600 XT.  In its current form though, the DeltaChrome is simply not a contender in the mainstream market just yet.  We're hopeful that S3 can rise to the occasion and wring more performance out of their drivers.  We'll be here update you on their progress with DeltaChrome in the months ahead.


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