S3's DeltaChrome

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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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Tags:  S3, Chrome, Delta, rom, AC

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