New details emerge on DeltaChrome
It has been well over six months since we first brought you details of S3ís DeltaChrome graphics core. If you recall the original article, DeltaChrome marks S3ís return to desktop graphics, a market it exited approximately three years ago.
DeltaChrome is a DX9 part targeted at the value, mainstream, and performance segments of the 3D market. Unlike ATI and NVIDIA however, S3 plans to service all three segments with roughly the same core architecture. All DeltaChrome chips are built on TSMCís 0.13-micron manufacturing process (with copper interconnects), with the key differentiating factors being clock speed and the number of pixel pipelines within the chip.
Formula One graphics from S3
For the mainstream and performance segments, S3 relies on an eight-pixel pipeline architecture (with one texture unit per pixel pipeline), with four vertex shaders backing them up, just like ATIís RADEON 9700/9800 family. Two parts will service the performance market: the F1 and the F1 Pole. S3 is shooting for core clock speeds in the 350MHz-400MHz range for F1 Pole, which would compare favorably to ATIís RADEON 9700 PRO at 325MHz. Unfortunately the graphics core will only have a 128-bit interface to its memory, which is half the width of ATI and NVIDIAís equivalent. With the 350-400MHz clock frequency S3 is shooting for F1 Poleís DDR memory, this equates to up to 12.8GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth, putting the F1 Pole at an extreme disadvantage to its competitors in this category.
DeltaChrome F1 and S8 chips
Just below the F1 Pole is S3ís ďF1Ē DeltaChrome variant. The key distinguishing factor between F1 Pole and F1 is clock speed: S3ís target frequencies for F1 are 50MHz lower on the core and memory clock frequencies than F1 Pole. This is essentially the part S3 briefed us on at the beginning of the year.
From a technology perspective S3 has all their bases covered with DeltaChrome. This is a true DX9 part with full support of floating-point data formats and like ATIís 9700/9800, its pixel shaders can handle up to 96 bits of precision. The really cool part that really drew lots of attention in our first preview wasnít the 3D architecture of DeltaChrome but its integrated HDTV encoder. It supports all the major resolutions, 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p, making it the perfect solution for small form-factor setups.
For cleaning up video, S3ís pixel shaders can be used. They can also be used to add effects to video signals, this is supported by all video formats. ATI has similar technology in its 9700 and 9800 chips.
S3 is quick to point out that the F1 family is not about winning benchmarks in the segment itís serving, as it obviously lacks the memory subsystem to accomplish this, instead itís about delivering a part with the lowest cost, and highest value. S3 plans to undercut ATI and NVIDIA in pricing, which we estimate would put the F1 in the $200-$250 range. If S3 goes any higher than that, they run the risk of pricing their chips too closely to ATI and NVIDIA, who have their products already out on the market today.