The Card

The first Parhelia GPUs will be found on two cards, retail and an OEM, both under the Parhelia name. The only differences between the two cards are clock speeds and prices which are as follows:

Matrox Parhelia (128MB Retail Version)

- 220MHz core clock
- 275MHz DDR memory clock (17.6GB/s of memory bandwidth)
- $399 Estimated Street Price

Matrox Parhelia (128MB OEM Version)

- 200MHz core clock
- 250MHz DDR memory clock (16GB/s of memory bandwidth)
- $369 Estimated Street Price?

The boards we received were final hardware and were running at final clock speeds. The first board we tested ended up dying on us after a little over 24 hours of testing. Early in its testing (before any 3D tests were run), the fan failed due to a loose wire, which may have damaged the core. Remember that an overheating core reduces the life of a chip and we believe that this may have been the cause of the card's failure. Matrox attributed the loose fan cable to the card being handled a lot before it was shipped to us in order to ensure that it would work properly.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Due to the time-sensitive nature of this article Matrox had to fly down a pair of replacement cards in order to have them in our hands for today's review. Although the Matrox team was supposed to be on a holiday, they were actually hard at work making sure we had a working card and that we had no issues testing. We definitely appreciated Matrox's efforts and the attention they gave the situation. We don't believe that there was anything inherently wrong with the Parhelia's design that caused the initial board failure, but we will continuously test the functional cards we have now to make certain. Matrox will also be dissecting our original board to try and determine the cause of death.

The first thing you'll notice about the Parhelia's PCB layout is that it's unlike anything you've ever seen. The physical size of the card is close to that of a GeForce3 or GeForce4 Ti 4200, but the layout of the components differs greatly.

Matrox placed two of the eight memory chips at an angle to the GPU in order to maintain equal trace lengths between each memory chip and the memory controller on the GPU. The power circuitry on the right of the board takes up very little real estate on the PCB, which could mean one or more of the following:

1) The Parhelia at 220MHz draws less current than a GeForce4 Ti 4600. This is more of a question of whether the greater transistor count outweighs the lower clock speed of the Parhelia. Rough estimates place the Parhelia and GeForce4 cards at relatively similar current draws.

2) The Parhelia uses more expensive power regulation circuitry, which is easy to believe considering the component choices Matrox made.

On the flip side of the board you'll see all of the solder pads for an extra 128MB of memory and all of the pads for the termination resistors that go along with the added memory. Matrox will be offering a higher clocked version of the Parhelia with 256MB of memory later this year; a 64MB card will also follow.

Index The Card (cont.)

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