Cutting History with Trident's Sword
What is the Blade 3D? The Blade 3D core is an attempt at a reasonably priced, OpenGL/Direct3D AGP 2X solution (AGP - can't leave home without it) that offers DVD acceleration for the sub-$1000 PC market, without providing those who purchase the chipset at a loss of performance. The goal of the Blade 3D, just as virtually any other product that enters this section of the market, is to provide the low-end market with a high-end performer. Unfortunately, with the history of Trident backing them up, the Blade 3D seemed to be doomed from the start. Trident has never had too much success in developing quality products that offered a low-cost and high performance at the same time, the Blade 3D's name is reminiscent of Trident's earlier failures, the Blaze 3D which did very little than provide the ugliest picture of 3D acceleration that $20 could buy.
For those users that aren't familiar with Trident's products, chances are that you've run into a Trident video card or chipset at one point or another. The classic roaming grounds for most of Trident's past video solutions have been on the shelves of your local PC hardware repair and configuration shops, usually bearing generic product names such as "PCI Graphics Card" or "High Speed AGP Accelerator." Their video cards usually boast poor driver support, horrid performance, but an unbeatable price, usually rivaling the costs of going out to lunch and grabbing doughnuts afterwards which was why Trident's products were so popular among users that were on a budget. Following the old maxim, you get what you pay for, it would have made more sense for Trident to feature that logo on the boxes of their video cards prior to the release of the Blade 3D.
What makes the Blade 3D digress from Trident's history? The nature of the product. Instead of producing a solution that's intended to be a cheap space filler on your motherboard, the Blade 3D actually took a little more than a low cost into consideration. The Blade 3D concentrated on performance, image quality, as well as now standard features such as hardware assisted DVD acceleration for low-end systems, this is all in addition to keeping a low price tag.
The 0.25-micron Blade 3D core, on paper, allows for a maximum fill rate of 110 million pixels per second, and a peak processing rate of 2.5 million triangles per second all at its default 120MHz memory clock speed. The fill rate is definitely a tremendous claim made by Trident, and the peak processing power is about two and a half times lower than nVidia's flagship TNT chipset which seems to dominate the high end of the gaming market. The specifications are definitely present to allow for the Blade 3D to remain somewhat competitive with the rest of the 3D gaming market while keeping costs low. As you would be able to expect, the Blade 3D is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill 3D core, offering only single pass single texturing and a 16-bit Z-buffer. Allowing for rendering in up to 32-bit color, the Blade 3D is ready for the future of gaming and produces vibrant images for even the most critical of eyes to enjoy. Unlike previous attempts at gaming solutions by Trident, the Blade 3D is definitely a quality-oriented product if there ever was one from the company, and when AnandTech fired up the sample Trident supplied for testing a quick deviation from the standard "el-cheapo Trident experience" was found.