The Card

The DeltaChrome S8 Nitro is a DX9 class card supporiting 2.0 vertex and pixel shaders sporting 128MB of ram. We have a few details of the S3 Graphics implimentations, but we have meetings scheduled with them over the Game Developers Conference (GDC) to learn the full details of their architecture which we will bring you in our final review of the card. For now we will tackle the basics.

The S8 Nitro has 4 vertex and 8 pixel shaders. The pixel shaders support both full and partial precision floating point (with full precision being 24bit per channel and partial precision being 16bit per channel). They are able to do up to 8 Z test operations per clock under the right conditions, they support what ATI and NVIDIA are calling 4x rotated grid antialiasing, and upto 16x anisotropic filtering.

Currently, S3 calls thier antialiasing algorithm 2xAA, but under 2x mode, the pixel is sampled twice both horizontally and vertically (which is technically correct, but doesn't fit the established standard). It is likely that the nominclature will end up changing at some point. The maximum resolution at which they support AA is 1024x768, and, eventhough the functionality isn't exposed, it would be possible to do 16 sample AA (what S3 would call 4xAA) at lower resolutions. Obviously this is not going to be fast, and it is unlikely that this functionality will be exposed in the shipping version of the product.

The cards anisotropic filtering may or may not end up being adaptive, but at this point things are still being sorted out. When the card ships, we will run it through the paces with the AF tester. For now, this will be a topic of discussion for our meetings over the GDC.

In testing the hardware we did notice a few visual glitches (which are to be expected from prerelease hardware and drivers), and S3 has assured us that they will be addressing all the issues we noticed. Of particular interest to us were the glitches we saw in DX9 titles as we are very interested in the quality of support the DeltaChrome architecture offers DX9 games. It is still too early to tell if the things we were seeing were due to limitations that can't be worked around or were just the normal run of the mill prerelease issues we were expecting to see. Determining the quality with which the DeltaChrome S8 Nitro will support the latest software won't really be something we can reasonably expect to do at this point.

S3 Graphics has indicated, however, that the type of DirectX performance we will be seeing in our preview will be in the neighborhood of what we will be seeing from shipping product, while OpenGL titles still have lot of room for optimization. The poor OpenGL performance others have seen from the DeltaChrome S8 non-nitro with previous drivers has been improved a bit, but S3 still assures us that they have a lot of breathing room. Again, this is only a preview and we will have to wait until we see final hardware and software to make a firm judgement on the OpenGL side of things.

The card we tested came with an analog, DVI, and video output port, and does not require external power. We also recieved an HD component output dongle that we didn't test for this preview. For the performance tests, the analog port was used.

Index Software Features and Drivers
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  • colinm - Saturday, May 15, 2004 - link

    S3 needs to get good drivers for their other products before they even try to put a new product on the market. I bought a S3 Savage about the time the TNT was released and S3 still hasn't made solid drivers for it, much less ANY product released since then. S3 is a joke, don't be fooled for a moment. Don't buy their hardware no matter how much potential it has expecting them to eventually fix the driver issues because it will NOT happen. Reply
  • bldkc - Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - link

    I agree, it's a POS. As a mechanical engineer I have guys coming in to see me every day with their "upgraded", or "more efficient" designs. All I know is it has to meet my specs. I will not vary my specs if there is someone else who will meet them.
    I tell them what I want, but they show up with something that doesn't meet my needs. Sound like the S3 with the Deltachrome? The point is that just because it does some things well does not mean it isn't a POS. Heck, my daughter's Reader Rabbit games would have this thing on it's knees.
    Reply
  • kamper - Saturday, March 13, 2004 - link

    also a spell checker wouldn't hurt too much would it? It's not "impliment" and it definitely isn't "impilment" Reply
  • kamper - Saturday, March 13, 2004 - link

    as cliffa3 points out, you guys really need to hire someone with an english degree. Here's another one that had me scratching my head for a while:
    "Another option S3 has open to is will be to use..." wtf? (2nd last paragraph, last page)
    Reply
  • aka1nas - Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - link

    Well it obviously needs driver work, but, as long as they get it marketable and don't price it too high then they can make enough of their money back on it to keep them in the game. I think some of the problem with the graphics card market is that the few new players that try to enter the market either don't have the capital or fortitude to try to stay in for the long-term. Even if the deltachrome doesn't make a profit for S3, they can still quite possibly defray much of the cost of developing it and apply the experience in hardware design and drivers that they have gained and make a great second generation product. It takes time and a lot of coordination to get people to work effectively and efficiently at such a complicated project. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - link

    S3 seems to have one continuous problem: They aim too low.

    I'm not saying they should go for top-end, but if you want to market a 3D vid card these days, then look at the current models you want to compete with --and then design a card that will beat their successor (in this case, the Radeon 9600XT/GeforceFX 5700). S3's cards, when released, are always cards we might have been interested in six months ago, but in the current market are either too pricey, or still not stable enough, guaranteeing that at the point S3 gets their drivers just right, the card is 8-10 months out of date, and only a good deal if priced in the $99 range, assuming they actually support the GPU for awhile with driver updates.
    Reply
  • Serp86 - Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - link

    yeah. it definately got potential, but it needs mature drivers.

    Kinda like the radeon 8500....(although it was high end, and performed good at release, if it was released with mature drivers it would have been the turning stone for ati, not the 9700Pro.)
    Reply
  • Marsumane - Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - link

    This is actually great news. If they actually get this card working to the level of a 9600 pro, then we could definately see some more sort lowering of the prices. This could prove to be very good for us consumers that like to buy sub $200 cards. It seems to have good potential, and I cant wait to see its final performance/price. Reply
  • AgaBooga - Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - link

    From the results, I think it needs more driver work Reply
  • Idoxash - Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - link

    "wow, another POS"

    I guess if nothing can out beat ATI and nVidia in speed it's a POS? There are many aspects of a video card then just speed alone. For example: From wut I read many months ago when S3 first talked about this new GFX card of theirs they stated it uses something like 7 watts of power. If that is the case then you have a GFX card that does dang good in speed and uses far, far, less power then any other GFX card.

    In either way they should turn this into a intergrated chip as well for notebooks and mini-mobos. Be a nice gfx chip to have alone with a low energy consuming C3.

    --Idoxash
    Reply

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