Matrox Parhelia 128MB AGP

The Matrox Parhelia 128MB AGP - Page 1

The Matrox Parhelia 128MB AGP
Hands on testing of Matrox's High End Gaming Card

By -Dave Altavilla
June 25, 2002


When Matrox took the wraps off their next generation GPU, last month, HotHardware brought you a full showcase of the chip's features, new capabilities and estimated performance level.  Clearly Matrox is targeting the Gaming/Enthusiast market with this product and the competition could not be any more intense than at this moment in time.  Rivals, ATi and NVIDIA are both in full ramp with very successful product launches and drivers that have gone through several iterations of maturity.  The bar has been raised by NVIDIA with High Resolution Anti-Aliasing at great frame rates and by ATi recently, with more robust drivers offering better performance and configurability for features like Anisotropic Filtering.  Add to that a few rumblings that next generation products such as the ATi R250 and R300, as well as the NV30, are not too far off on the horizon and you have the proverbial "target rich" battle field.  If Matrox thought things were competitive back in the day of the Voodoo 5, then the current climate ought to get the boys in Marketing all spun up.  Yep... it's downright ugly out there.  Or should we say beautiful?

From a consumer / end user perspective, the 3D Graphics arena is once again alive with competition in virtually all the major markets, desktop and mobile.  Let's face it, besides the actual system processor itself, 3D Graphics cards are sexy.  They are easy to upgrade, offer incremental performance enhancements, and bring new levels of visual impact and detail to the computer screen.  You stare at those images they produce on your monitor, most likely for hours on end during the week.  It's no wonder that folks seem to take in Graphic Card technology with a passion. 

Which brings us to the Matrox perspective on next generation 3D Graphics.  Matrox's new Parhelia GPU has a slogan behind it that is supposed to deliver the mission statement of the product, High Fidelity Graphics.  As next generation game engines are capable of producing more immersive and visually stunning images, the hardware that processes those images, must also scale.  No longer is the game about frame rate alone.  Remember when we were all buzzing about T&L?  Now it's about shaders, mapping, AA and programmability.  Stepping back into this arena is not going to be easy but it seems as though Matrox has the right idea targeting "High Fidelity". 

The following is a HotHardware look at the Matrox Parhelia 128MB AGP 3D Graphics Card.  Indeed, Matrox is back in the game.  Let's see how they play...


Specifications and Features of Matrox Parhelia 128MB
A quick run down

World's first 512-bit GPU
- 80 million transistors in 0.15 process
- 256-bit DDR memory interface
220MHz core clock
- 275MHz DDR memory clock
(17.6GB/s of memory bandwidth)
- Up to 20 GB/s memory bandwidth
- Up to 256MB DDR unified frame buffer
- 10-bit Gigacolor Technology
- 10-bit per channel RGB rendering and output
- Over one billion simultaneously displayed colors
- 10-bit precision for 2D, 3D, DVD and video
- 10-bit frame buffer mode for ARGB (2:10:10:10)
- 10-bit RAMDACs with full gamma correction
- 16x Fragment Antialiasing (FAA-16x)
- Quad Vertex Shader Array
- Four vertex shader units (DirectX 8.1 and beyond)
- Hardware Displacement Mapping
Multi-Display Technology
- DualHead
- HF Display Technology
- Fourth-generation DualHead
- Dual integrated 400MHz 10-bit RAMDACs
- Dual independent RGB outputs
- Up to 2048 x 1536 @ 32bpp on each RGB output
- Support for two digital TMDS transmitters
- Dual independent DVI outputs
- Up to 1920 x 1200 on each output **
- Single dual-link DVI output
- TripleHead Desktop
- Support for 3rd RGB output
- Three display desktop at up to 3840 x 1024 @ 32bpp
- Support for games rendered across three displays
- Ultra-wide field of view (FOV)
- Side displays for peripheral vision
High Quality Desktop, 3D and DVD Output
- Ultra-crisp display quality at high frequencies
- PC Theater DVD Playback
- 10-bit DVD playback
- 10-bit advanced filtering and scaling
- 10-bit DVD output via TV encoder
- AGP host interface designed for up to AGP 4X bandwidths
- AGP 8X Compatible
- AGP Fast Writes support
-  8-way parallel DMA streaming engine
- OpenGL 1.3 and DirectX 8.1 compliant 3D engine
X86, X86-64 and IA-64compatible
- AMD 3Dnow!
- Intel MMX, SSE & SSE2 optimized
- AGP 8X, 4X, 2X and 1X Compliance
(AGP 4X max throughput)
- PCI 2.2, AGP 2.0 and AGP 3.0
- PCI Bus Power Management 1.1
- DirectX 8.1, PS1.3, VS1.1, VS2.0
- OpenGL 1.3
- DirectX VA, VMR, WDM
Operating Systems
- Microsoft Windows
- Linux


The above list is an abridged version of the features and benefits proposed by the Parhelia 512 architecture.  We won't go through the architecture again in detail here.  If you would like a refresher course, please see our May '02 article, where we cover the Parhelia in great detail.  For sure, the Parhelia packs in many new features not available on any current generation 3D GPU on the market, including 16A FAA (Fragmentation Anti-Aliasing), 10 bit Gigacolor, and hardware assist for Displacement Mapping, a next generation DirectX 9 rendering technique.


Another strong suite for Matrox, with this product and over the years with legacy product, is their Multi-Display technology which now supports "TripleHead", or a three display desktop, and "Surround Gaming".  The Parhelia 128MB card we were sent for testing, comes equipped with dual independent DVI connectors and all the cabling you would need to set up Surround Gaming on three displays, or drive any combination of up to three displays, TV or VGA using the DB15 connectors.  True DVI output is limited to two displays.


Spartan and elegant, is how we would describe the Parhelia's board design.  The tiny BGA DDR SGRAM memory on the board, is rated at 3.3ns.  Beyond those and the GPU, the rest of the board utilizes very small chip capacitors and low profile chokes.  The  card itself is much lower profile and smaller than a GeForce4 Ti card, about the size of at Radeon 8500 but without all the large "can type" capacitors.  Unfortunately, the retail package for the Parhelia is also fairly spartan with bundles software to speak of beyond the driver CD, which does include one demo of Imperium Galatica III and a Gigacolor plug in for Photoshop.  Since this product is primarily a Gaming / Enthusiast card, it would have been nice to have a few showcase game titles included.

The Setup and Surround Gaming

Tags:  Matrox, mat, Parhelia, AG, AR

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