Matrox Parhelia 128MB AGP

The Matrox Parhelia 128MB AGP - Page 7

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

By -Dave Altavilla
June 25, 2002

As we have come to find out, traditional full scene AA methods also blur texture detail somewhat.  The way to clean those textures up and enhance their detail is with Anisotropic Filtering.  Now, the Parhelia, since it doesn't actually anti-alias anything but edge pixels, really doesn't blur textures at all.  So, with 16 tap Aniso Filtering enabled, the extra texture clarity is pretty much an enhancement to the original image.  Here are a few benchmark runs with 16X FAA and 4X AA enabled, as well as 16 tap Anisotropic Filtering.

AA and Anisotropic Filtering Enabled
Turning up the heat and burning things in

Here there is barely a dent made in the original AA numbers, when 16 tap anisotropic filtering is enabled.  If you recall from the earlier screen shots we took of the Parhelia's drivers, the card only has two settings for Aniso Filtering, enabled or disabled.  Matrox informed us that the Parhelia does 16 tap Anisotropic Filtering.  The GeForce 4 Ti and Radeon 8500 both offer settings up to 64 tap mode.  We are hopeful here again that Matrox will include more settings for this feature in future driver releases.


Alright, deep breath... This one gets fairly complicated.  The Matrox Parhelia 128MB card,  in our opinion at this point in time, is your basic conundrum.  We were enamored by the beauty of the images it rendered on our displays in both 2D and 3D mode, with 16X FAA and a sharp, clean desktop image.  However, this card needs two things desperately, if Matrox plans to compete head to head with the likes of ATi's R300 or the NV30, significant driver optimizations and a die shrink.  Add a few extra features to the Parhelia's Power Desk Software, crank the core and memory clocks up to 300MHz and 700MHz respectively and you have formidable competition against NVIDIA's and ATi's next generation hardware. Finally price is another obstacle for the Parhelia.  At $399 suggested retail, it will be hard to justify versus the likes of a GeForce4 Ti 4200.  Here's hoping discounting is also on the Parhelia's horizon.

To see surround gaming in action is truly a jaw dropping experience.  A Triple Head 19" Flat Panel Display setup would be absolute nirvana for Web Jockeys like us here at the HotHardware labs.  Our Surround Gaming Gumba Squad, Mario and Marco, were so impressed with their surround gaming experience, we may never see them back in every day civilization, with perhaps the exception of dinner time.  Still, our feeling is that Surround Gaming is a niche' feature that is not necessarily practical or attainable for the mainstream user.  It does however, offer new found capabilities for the professional who needs expanded on screen desktop work area.

Finally, we think that FAA or Fragmentation Anti-Aliasing has possibilities to revolutionize traditional AA techniques, with its obvious advantages in performance and available image quality.  Our hats are off to Matrox once again, for pioneering this feature, much like they have in the past with others like Bump Mapping.

All told our experience with the Parhelia was, on some levels, a real disappointment and on others eye opening and impressive.  We are going to reserve our rating on the Parhelia at this point in time, since we feel the drivers need a bit more maturity, in order to realize their full potential in end user "out of the box" quality and performance.  We hope that Matrox can build upon the Parhelia architecture, enhancing it's performance at the chip and driver level, with future iterations of the platform.  Welcome back Matrox.  It's good to have you with us, but there is still some work to be done.


Rating Update - June 28, 2002

Since our initial testing of the Parhelia 128MB card, Matrox has informed us that their drivers and cards are ready for full retail release.  As such, the product we received for testing and evaluation was indeed representative of what the end user experience will be at this point in time.  Additionally, Matrox has committed to regular driver update releases and in fact have already posted newer drivers on their site,  than what will be on the retail CD.  So, with this in mind, we feel it is only fitting to give our standard Heat Meter rating to the Matrox Parhelia.



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Tags:  Matrox, mat, Parhelia, AG, AR

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