S3 Graphic's Chrome S27

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Although they were once a dominant market leader, S3 is now a company that almost exclusively focuses on the budget / business-class graphics market.  For years, S3 has been marketing budget / business-class video cards, managing to offer competitive solutions in a segment that is dominated by "the big boys" - ATI and NVIDIA.  While their product line is small, this can have its advantages in appeal to potential buyers because they are not forced to sift through a broad product line, but instead they can focus on a few choice models to fit their specific needs.  The main goal is to keep costs at a minimum without sacrificing the hardware's capabilities. 

Today, we present to you S3's Chrome S27 graphics card, which is one of three new Chrome S20 series models that aim to compete in the budget class graphics sector.  Targeting the $100 market, S3 looks to deliver a solid offering with low power consumption, competitive performance, and support for multi-GPU configurations.  With the Chrome S27 being the most powerful of the three new models, S3 aims to hit a home run by offering a balanced graphics card that is competitive in features, price, and performance with other cards in its price range.  We've been provided a slew of information from S3 regarding the Chrome S27, which we've filtered through.  We'll focus on the key salient points in this review, along with the card's performance profile in a number of situations.

Specifications of the Chrome S27
It's All About the Clock
Chrome S27 Highlight Features

PCI Express
The Chrome S27 employs a native PCI Express high speed serial link implementation. Dynamic support for 16x, 8x, 4x, and 1x lane configurations enables up to 8.0 GB/s transfers between host system and graphics subsystem.

Full DirectX 9.0 Support
Support for Dual graphic card implementations enabling performance increases for applications such as 3D gaming.

HDTV Hi-Def Experience
Get more value from your HDTV using the integrated Hi-Def, HDTV encoder technology, which supports all 18 ATSC DTV standards, including 1080p. In HDTV Hi-Def mode, the Chrome S27 brings the theater experience into your home for all your PC media, video games explode to life before your eyes in vivid detail, and Hi-Def corporate presentations will set new standards.

Chromotion 3.0 Programmable Video Engine
The Chrome S27 includes the advanced Chromotion3.0 programmable video engine that is fully compatible with Microsoft DirectX-VA media acceleration. Its powerful programmable video effects can be applied to almost all video codecs, including Windows Media Video 9 (WMV9), MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Post-processing filters enhance video from poor, low bit rate source materials. Real-time rendering capabilities bring video effect processing to mainstream home video enthusiasts, who can now exercise as much ArtisticLicense as advanced video artists.

Class Leading Core and Memory Clock rates
The Chrome S27 leads the industry with 700MHz core and memory clocks, thanks to the advanced 90nm manufacturing process.

Advanced 90nm Manufacturing Process
Manufactured using world leading 90nm technology from Fujitsu, the S3 Graphics Chrome S27 leverages high speed transistor technology to achieve leading performance per watt operation.

DeepColor Precision
DeepColor 10-bit-per-color component rendering precision allows for 1024 shades of pure color or grayscale, compared to only 256 shades available using standard 32-bit display modes.

Vertex Shader 2.0+ and Pixel Shader 2.0+
DirectX 9.0 VS/PS 2.0 + hardware

8 Pixel Shaders and 4 Vertex Shaders
• 128-bit (4xFP32) vertex precision and 96-bit (4xFP24) pixel precision per clock
• Up to 16 concurrent texture map references per pass
• Shadow Volume acceleration with two-sided stencil
• Non-power of 2 textures
• High accuracy floating point render targets for cinematic quality image rendering
• High quality advanced 16x anisotropic filtering
• High quality rotated grid full screen anti-aliasing with 4x super-sampling up to 1600x1200
• Volume and cube maps for photo-realistic reflections
• Programmable per pixel gamma correction
• High Performance Fast Tri-Linear filtering


Crisp Rendering
• Zero latency – ultra fast zero cycle clear
• Optimized Z-buffer write and read
• Triangle mask optimization
• Fast Clear technology

Full Precision Pixel Pipeline
• Full floating point precision ALU for single clock execution per pipeline for PS 2.0+ operations.
• Programmable cache for engine speed and efficiency
• Unified superwide pipeline for seamless 2D/3D/Video context switching
• Optimized advanced shading dependency read pipelines
• Programmable render target blending
• Programmable depth shader
• Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) support
• Real time post processing
• ArtisticLicense real-time video effects

GDDR1 / GDDR2 / GDDR3 Memory Interface
• 32/64/128-bit ( ChromeS27 ) memory bus
• 32/64/128/256 MB frame buffer w/ GDDR1/GDDR3
• 32/64/128/256/512 MB frame buffer w/ GDDR2
• Peak memory bandwidth to 22.4 GB/s @ 700MHz (max –GDDR3)
• Peak memory bandwidth up to 16 GB/s @ 500MHz (max – GDDR1/GDDR2)
• Dynamic CKE controlled power management
• Support for "termination free" low cost board designs

Integrated Hi-Def HDTV & Standard TV Encoder
• Comprehensive support for all 18 ATSC DTV standards
• Component (YPbPr) output
• 4:4:4 conversion with 10 bit DAC resolution
• ChromoVision full screen video on secondary HDTV / TV
• Full desktop view in HDTV mode
• All NTSC/PAL standard TV output formats (S-video, composite)
• Macrovision compliant
• Flicker filter with programmable coefficients
• Vertical over/under-scan compensation
• Adaptive aperture correction
• Non-linear scaling: for panorama 16:9 viewing on HDTV
• ChromoColor , including full range RGB to YUV color space conversion with Hue , Saturation,
Brightness, and Contrast adjustment
• Smooth vertical overscan compensation with programmable contraction factors

Duo-Rotate
• Hardware acceleration for display rotation for desktop and TabletPC (90, 180, 270)
• Displays can be independently rotated
• Rotation acceleration for 3D ,2D & media playback
• Full operation of geometry, lighting and texture effects

High Performance 400MHz 10-bit CRT DAC
• 1+ billion colors (Giga-Palette)
• 2048x1536 QXGA (3.1M) display resolution capable
• Excellent INL/DNL characteristics (+/- 1 LSB)
• Dual mode compatible (HDTV/CRT, DVI/CRT, TV/CRT or LVDS/CRT)
• High precision Gamma control

As we noted earlier, the Chrome S27 is one of three Chrome S20 series models. A major goal with the S20 architecture was to achieve the best performance per watt, by maintaining the lowest possible power consumption.  All three models share the same core architecture, and are built using a 90nm manufacturing process.  The Chrome S27 boasts the highest memory complement and clock speeds of the three.  The Chrome S27 is also the only one of the three cards to support S3's multi-GPU MultiChrome technology.

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