For the past year we have been living in a NVIDIA dominated world. Companies that we once anticipated graphics chipsets from have been more than just quiet over the past year.
S3 remained very withdrawn from the public eye after the botched release of their Savage2000, and after failing to deliver on claims of T&L support they have all but abandoned the line and any future the chip might have had.
3dfx has been much more present in the industry, with the long overdue release of their Voodoo5 product. However with only one flagship product, 3dfx is definitely in need of a lower cost VSA-100 part (Voodoo4 where are you?) and we are still waiting to see the debut of their $600 Voodoo5 6000 which was supposed to be launched three months ago.
One name that we haven’t heard anything from was the original king of 2D accelerators, Matrox. The “whatever happened to Matrox” story follows along the same lines as what happened to S3. The transition to true 3D accelerators (Rendition Verite, Voodoo, Voodoo2, TNT, etc…) caught Matrox off guard and before they could react, the best feature they could claim was that their 2D looked good. While that claim is definitely one to be taken seriously, among all the 3D accelerated eye candy that was being shown off by companies like 3dfx, no one seemed to pay much attention to 2D anymore.
Matrox did learn to roll with the punches and they released their “comeback chip”, the G200 in August 1998. Unfortunately, as with the other “comeback chip” that was released around that time frame (the S3 Savage3D), the G200 was plagued by driver problems. The G200 was shipped without a true OpenGL ICD and used a Direct3D wrapper in order to support OpenGL - Quake 2 engine based games. In spite of this, the G200 did boast very impressive image quality, both in 2D and 3D rendering situations.
In an attempt to improve upon the weaknesses of the original G200 chip, Matrox brought forth its successor, the G400. Released in May 1999 the G400 did have a full OpenGL ICD out of the box and Matrox continued to improve upon the performance of the G400 as the months went on. The G400 was also Matrox’s first chip to boast their DualHead feature, the ability to run multiple displays off of a single Matrox chip. Unfortunately, what plagued the G400 wasn’t drivers and it wasn’t features, while the performance wasn’t incredible, what really held the G400 back was the pricing and availability of the card that everyone wanted, the G400MAX.
When the G400MAX did eventually hit the streets, there was a relative lack of interest, instead people were turning towards the higher performing 3dfx and NVIDIA solutions as well as their promises of even faster, more powerful products in the months to come. With that, we never heard another peep out of Matrox. While the occasional press release was sent our way, and the G400 eventually made its way into a Marvel product, Matrox hadn’t released a competitor to the GeForce, the GeForce2 and hadn’t had anything planned for either of those releases.
Not too long ago we received word that Matrox was pursuing a G450, and as you can tell by the name, it wasn’t intended to be the long awaited follow-up to the G400, rather a small step up. The G450 was supposed to be released in May 2000 with retail availability in June; it is now September and the G450 is finally here.