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S3 Tries to Get Back Into PC Graphics 171

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the pixels-and-polygons-and-processors-oh-my dept.
mikemuch writes "ExtremeTech has a review of S3's attempt to get some traction in the lower-end graphics card market, the Chrome S27. Though its specs look great--256MB memory, 700MHz core clock rate, 1.4GHz memory clock, and 22.4 GB/sec memory throughput, it still manages to underperform similarly priced video cards from the red and green graphics companies."
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S3 Tries to Get Back Into PC Graphics

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  • Good (Score:2, Informative)

    by supe (163410) *
    Only, if they start to provide drivers for the Open source community.
    My Averatec has a unichrome and am having difficulty getting it to
    work *well* with anything other than the X vesa driver. No DRI, etc.
    Help out S3!
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

      by hal2814 (725639) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:22PM (#15239002)
      What's really interesting is that S3 has nothing to lose by open sourcing its drivers. They're not doing anything that ATI and Nvidia aren't already doing better. That's kind of like Yugo being protective of their drivetrain design.
      • Re:Good (Score:2, Interesting)

        by non0score (890022)
        What you're saying is actually a generalizing statement. It's similar to saying that because (so far) the Conroe is better than the K8 (this is the general overview), the integrated memory controller on the K8 is worthless and Intel shouldn't copy it (then you specify that the specifics aren't worthwhile because of the general overview argument, and this is flawed). There's a good portion of the DeltaChrome system that performs better than its ATi or nVidia counterparts. And revealing the driver source will
        • I can understand and appreciate what you're saying but S3 doesn't have a "level" playing field. They're behind the curve pretty substantially. Even if S3 has bits and pieces that perform better than ATI and Nvidia components, it won't matter in the end. ATI and Nvidia could be better than S3 in every single way and it wouldn't put S3 any further in the hole. Open sourcing will at least give them a niche of enthusiasts to hold onto, especially since they'll be butting heads with Intel from the value side
      • Re:Good (Score:3, Funny)

        by zakezuke (229119)
        That's kind of like Yugo being protective of their drivetrain design.

        Yugo was very protective of their drivetrain design... they would never say what particular Russian car it fell off from.
    • Why not take the step a bit further by opensourcing the entire chip design? I bet that will attract a lot of attentions
    • My understanding was that Unichrome was a VIA chipset. I happen to have one in one of my little Epia machines, and the DRI etc do in fact work (either with the provided drivers from VIA's website, or from the openchrome [openchrome.org] project). They are, of course, a bit buggy, and some of the newer-gen chipsets still have issues (we have some at work) which are only currently rectified in the X.org CVS builds.
  • Drivers are (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Windows only [s3graphics.com]

    Another company to ignore.

    • by thealsir (927362) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:32PM (#15240147) Homepage
      Mod flamebait, it's obviously designed to provoke controversy. As others have stated, you've gotta start somewhere. With a company that has so little marketshare to begin with, they go with the largest share of the pie first, and that is the Windows market. Course a little nudge nudge wink wink could do wonders with getting them to write Linnox drivers.
      • "As others have stated, you've gotta start somewhere"

        I assume they have documatation for this hardware, if not how else could their own developers write drivers? Simply post this doc to the web.

        They could be different and attract a loyal folloing if they suported Open Source. But it is is I'll ignore them.

      • Yes, either you go for the biggest markets, dominated by two huge companies that spend more on coffeecups each week than your entire company is worth. Or you can go for an untapped niche market in order to gain market penetration and build a reputation.
        IMHO, S3 has a unique position in which they have little to lose by open sourcing their drivers and much to gain by becoming the de facto Linux graphics card.
      • The grandparent post contains the information that I wanted when I first saw the article. I still purchase Radeon 8500's when I build a desktop machine, because they are the fastest cards that just work with my open source distros.

        If there were another company that offered cards that were faster and just worked, I would buy those exclusively. The same would be true, I'm sure, of Linux vendors.
        But as the poster said, look elsewhere.
    • Yes. If they're trying so desperately to build marketshare, why not hire a couple of Unix/Linux experienced folks and hammer out drivers for OS X and Linux?

      With the advent of Intel Macs, they don't even need anyone to write Open Firmware declaration ROMs for their hardware anymore - supporting the Mac is now the same as supporting any other OS - just write the drivers. Support should be relatively easy, too. Just hand the phone agents a Mac or Linux-based script for troubleshooting and spend some money on t
      • Re:Drivers are (Score:4, Informative)

        by non0score (890022) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:57PM (#15240358)
        Actually, S3 does have a Linux driver team. And Mac drivers are built by Apple, not by the vid card manufacturers (the vid card manufacturers provide the specs). So worry not, it'll be there in due time.
        • Back in the days of XFree86 3.x yore, S3 cards were among the best understood and therefore best supported cards to be had. From what I could gather, when the X programmers asked S3 for info, the company actually helped them and gave them useful information.

          Their card does seem to lag behind a Nvidia and ATI's similar offerings, but not by much. Linux (and the BSDs) are primarily concerned with OpenGL support anyways, and the card does have reasonably good support for OpenGL according to the review.

          I woul

    • Um, unless your desktop is Windows-only?

      I'd be far more concerned about the performance gap. But then, I've alway leaned towards the Linus end of the Torvalds/Stallman axis.
  • by Pooh22 (145970) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:02PM (#15238821)
    Supply full GPL/BSD licensed source code to the X.org and kernel.org for inclusion in mainline. That will trigger a lot of positive support.

    Besides, I don't really see a downside, because who, besides free software lovers, would be motivated to buy something non-nvidia and non-ati at this point?

    Cheers

    Simon
    • by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:12PM (#15238911)
      If they made Mac video card drivers, people might be tempted, simply because there are so few Mac video cards out there. But I think the general sentiment has to be not to compete first in the Windows DirectX performance crown arena, but rather solidify niche markets to make money for R&D.
    • Cheap Skates? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Slithe (894946)
      > Besides, I don't really see a downside, because who, besides free software lovers, would be motivated to buy something non-nvidia and non-ati at this point?

      People who do not play high-performance games might not want to pay $100-$600 for a graphics card. Joe User is far more interested in multimedia playback than 3D graphics. Intel's sells their embedded graphics cards for $7, and they are the biggest seller of graphics cards. Plus, they have open source drivers. There is plenty of room in the low-end
    • by Zathrus (232140) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:20PM (#15238986) Homepage
      Supply full GPL/BSD licensed source code to the X.org and kernel.org for inclusion in mainline.

      They're not going to do that. If for no other reason than their own texture compression technology (S3TC) which they license to other video card makers (namely ATI and Nvidia, as well as MS for DirectX drivers).

      Even if they were to release the souce you probably couldn't use it unless they granted some kind of license to use the patented algorithms [freedesktop.org] freely. And they haven't done that to date despite lobbying by various people (including Alan Cox).

      Of course, people who actually know this have been saying it everytime someone says "open up the source!" to video card makers, and most people still don't get it. Sigh.
      • The GPL2 implies that you allow people use your patents, or else!
        • Or else in this case is that the what 1000 people that might buy this card because it has open source drivers?
          Yea that will scare them.
          • Or else in this case is that the what 1000 people that might buy this card because it has open source drivers?
            Yea that will scare them.

            No, the "or else" is a legal threat put forth in the GPL 2 when someone breaks the GPL by enforcing his patents in the attempt to circumvent it.

            And the reason that I just call it "or else" rather than telling you what the GPL 2 says is that you'll need to work it out yourself by reading the license, because it is really hard to tell how such a situation would work out

            • I was simply pointing out that this and many other video drivers will never be completely open sourced because of issues like this. S3 is still in business because of royalties on it's patents.
              Linux really has got to develop a stable binary driver interface so that closed source drivers are not such a pain.
              The current state of affairs has not forced a single vendor to open source a driver but it has caused many users a lot of pain when upgrading their system.
      • by Kjella (173770) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:38PM (#15239133) Homepage
        They're not going to do that. If for no other reason than their own texture compression technology (S3TC) which they license to other video card makers (namely ATI and Nvidia, as well as MS for DirectX drivers).

        Wouldn't this be an excellent candidate for dual licensing? You know, one GPL'd and one commercial license. Either that, or nVidia/ATI would have to GPL *their* drivers as well, which doesn't seem very likely at this point.

        Even if they were to release the souce you probably couldn't use it unless they granted some kind of license to use the patented algorithms freely. And they haven't done that to date despite lobbying by various people (including Alan Cox).

        Again, could be limited to GPL/GPL-compatible licensed code. I mean, since nVidia/ATI already have the code under license, how many trade secrets could there possibly be left to protect?
        • Again, could be limited to GPL/GPL-compatible licensed code. I mean, since nVidia/ATI already have the code under license, how many trade secrets could there possibly be left to protect?

          There are no other trade secrets; or any at all in all likelihood. Patents are not trade secrets, nor is copyrighted information a trade secret. Sigh.

          Anyway, could they? Yes. Will they? Pretty obviously not. People (again, including Alan Cox, who is pretty well respected both inside and outside of the OSS community) have bee
      • Even if they were to release the souce you probably couldn't use it unless they granted some kind of license to use the patented algorithms freely. And they haven't done that to date despite lobbying by various people (including Alan Cox).

        Sigh.

        When does the patent expire?
        • When does the patent expire?

          Here in the US, effectively never.
          • by Zathrus (232140) on Monday May 01, 2006 @03:16PM (#15239484) Homepage
            Here in the US, effectively never.

            No, you're thinking copyrights, which keep getting extended. Patents do not. Patent term has not substantially changed in the US in over 100 years, with only a minor (and very good) change in 1994. And while there is some international controversy on what should be patentable, there's not really any on term.

            Worst case, patents expire 20 years from the earliest claimed filing date (design patents are different, as are patents issued prior to June 8, 1995, but neither is relevant here).
      • They're not going to do that. If for no other reason than their own texture compression technology (S3TC) which they license to other video card makers (namely ATI and Nvidia, as well as MS for DirectX drivers)... Even if they were to release the souce you probably couldn't use it unless they granted some kind of license to use the patented algorithms freely.

        It's entirely possible to grant licenses for patents to some people and not others, for whatever reasons you like. It's not like copyrights or trademarks. IBM and CA are two companies that have granted licenses for open-source programs to use their patented technologies. S3 could hand out GPL code for it and grant a patentl license for use in open-source programs. Nvidia and ATI would still have to pay money to use it with their products and drivers.

        Of course, people who actually know this have been saying it everytime someone says "open up the source!" to video card makers, and most people still don't get it. Sigh.

        Maybe the people who keep bringing it up hope that S3 might have learned their lesson. Not yet, apparently, but it would be nice if they did. Good driver code really helps the hardware shine, and it's nontrivial to develop - as Nvidia and ATI have learned. But there are lots of clever students and other developers who would love to play with, grok, and improve such code.

        Nvidia currently dominates the Linux 3d landscape because they have good drivers. If S3 came out with open ones, and even halfway-competitive hardware, they'd take that market, and get a significant number of people working on their drivers. Some of the improvements therefrom could benefit the Windows side, too. As others have noted, there's the Mac contigent, too, though I'm not sure how much they'd grab there - they don't tend to muck with their hardware so much.

      • I don't care about software patents (yet)! I'm in Europe, just give me my drivers already! ;-)
      • Except that in this case, there's actually a sound business reason for them to produce open-source drivers. Unlike ATI and NVIDIA, thir market is small (people who are too dumb to realize that a cheap Radeon or GeForce would be better?) and they don't have much of a following. Releasing open-source drivers would get them a ton of positive press and attention, which they need, and it might even give them a small legitimate market of people who would buy their products on principle. It could even lead to i
    • Supply full GPL/BSD licensed source code to the X.org and kernel.org for inclusion in mainline. That will trigger a lot of positive support.

      That will trigger a lot of positive support in the Slashdot community. A good portion of the gaming community could give two shits, since the hardest core gamers own Windows boxes, and the general public has no idea what GPL/BSD is.

      Honestly, "a lot of positive support" is not actually really "a lot" save from people like you and me.

    • Good X support for a reasonablly priced chipset can help drive support for embedded/kiosk type systems.
    • Fat chance. Back in the day, when 2D acceleration was the in thing and Linux just had X support, S3 were one to avoid because unlike Tseng Labs and co. they didn't publish the specs for their card so no X support. I suspect they are still one to avoid today. The chances of them publishing the specs so someone else (i.e. not using up their time) can do the drivers are tiny.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:06PM (#15238852)
    I remember the day when my PC was finally faster than the processor on the Virge, but boy, Descent looked kickass in special 'S3' mode. Of course that was also 1996.

    Go S3!
  • by Beetjebrak (545819) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:13PM (#15238917) Homepage
    With the advent of xgl, compiz etc. we really NEED a decent 3D card with open drivers on Linux. I couldn't care less about gaming but xgl sure as hell looks awesome! I don't need a full-blown NVIDIA or ATI card for that. Open your drivers S3 and I promise you I'll be buying at least 6 of these cards as they become available.
    • by kebes (861706) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:28PM (#15239052) Journal
      You're one among many posters to suggest that they open-source their drivers. I franly agree that this is a good idea. It would be good for the Linux community (obviously), and I think it would be good for them, also.

      Obviously this would differentiate their product, and carve out a niche where that "big boys" seem to be ignoring. More importantly, if this product is new, then presumably they are currently in a position where they *can* conceivably open-source their driver. During any debate on open-sourcing video drivers, it is usually pointed out that doing so would be difficult, because sufficient documentation might not exist, or because of licensing issues, etc. However this new product line is at a stage where open-sourcing will yield the maximum return-on-investment. If they do it now, they will start getting 'free' software upgrades, bug fixes, documentation, and so on. This means their product will mature faster and they can close the gap with their competitors more quickly.

      Frankly I think that would be an excellent move on their part. Without such an admittedly drastic move, their product has nothing new to offer and this product line will die off.

      They should be thinking to themselves "imagine if our video card was the *default choice* for anyone selling or building a Linux or BSD system?" That's market differentiation right there.
    • No what we need (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday May 01, 2006 @03:38PM (#15239686)
      Is a stable interface in Linux so that the graphics card companies can write closed source drivers that don't need to be updated with every minor kernel revision. The problem is that graphics drivers contain proprietayr, licensed code. There's no real way around it if they want to support all the features. Even OpenGL itself must be licensed. Well, they can't just go and relicense the code and open it up, even if they want to.

      So this is a situation where Linux needs to make a concession, if they want better support. This attitude of "open source always!" needs to give way to an attitude of choice. One where you provide all the tools necessary to do open distribution, and open distribution of your own tools, but the option to use closed source for those that want to.

      If you don't want that, fair enough, but then you can't be too angry when the graphics companies won't accomadate you and your rather small marketshare. If you won't be accomadating to them, don't look at them to be accomidating to you.
      • Re:No what we need (Score:5, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:41PM (#15240202) Homepage Journal

        The problem with your idea is that the end desire is not to have more closed proprietary crap. The goal is to have everything be open. Everything. As you may have noticed, lately there have even been open hardware platforms, they're not the latest and greatest but it is possible for the highly motivated and funded individual to use open cores and open source (though "sores" rhymes better) and build a 100% open computer. It'd take a lot of hardware design and software port work, but the basic elements are there. This represents a dramatic shift from the way things have traditionally been, and it can be the beginning of something beautiful, if we don't fall on our ass and stop demanding what we actually want.

        People in general are willing to settle for less than what they want, and as a result, they get it. If we continue to demand what we actually desire, eventually someone will step up to the plate and sell it to us.

        • But realise that when you take a "My way or the highway" attitude, you are being as much of a prick as MS is. You are also making it harder for you platform to ever go mainstream. Most users don't want open, they want working, and they don't care how that's acomplished. They do not want to spend 2 hours compiling a new compiler only to spend 3 more building dependancies for an app (which is something I've had to do with OSS). They want a nice clicky installer that will just drop binaries on their system. Th
          • I'm sure a few people said 'ok, good luck with that' when Linus released his Linux source code as well.

            I don't even believe that everything will or should eventually be open. I believe in privacy in some cases, and protection for innovators. I even believe that innovators deserve to benefit from their innovations for a while.

            That said, there's nothing wrong with having hopes and some vision and I think the right thing to do is to have software algorithms licensed such that individuals can afford to use th
          • But realise that when you take a "My way or the highway" attitude, you are being as much of a prick as MS is.
            Well sort of -- I and MS both want to own my computer...
          • I'm not going to tell you that you can't demand everything be OSS, I'm going to tell you that you then can't throw a fit when most of the world doesn't comply with your demands. Linux on the desktop is still vastly in the minority. That means you don't get to dictate policy. If you tell the hardware makers "You must do this or you can't support us" don't be supprised if their answer is by and large "Ok, we won't support you."

            Well, I Wasn't planning to throw a fit, or even be surprised... But there is

      • Ok so maybe I should rephrase a bit. The current NVidia drives are a huge lump of black-box binary code that jacks straight into the kernel. Why is this at all necessary?? Admittedly I don't know much about the design of Linux but my intuition tells me that video drivers are something for X to deal with, not the kernel. Why can't these binary drivers just be part of X instead of contaminating my kernel?
        Having X die on you unexpectedly is a lot less bad than having a full-blown kernel panic thrown your way
        • My guess is the greater features the nVidia cards want to provide. There's a ton of hardware functionality that has to be brought up and exposed to software. Also, there's more to it since there's not a well defined rich API to plug in to as there in on Windows and OS-X. I am not a driver developer, I can't say why, but I can say that nVidia has probably the best driver staff ever, and I'm going to guess they have good reasons for doing what they do.

          As for X dying I don't see the difference. Data loss is wh
      • The problem is that graphics drivers contain proprietayr, licensed code. There's no real way around it if they want to support all the features.

        What proprietary, licensed code are you talking about? Publish their names so pressure can be bought to bear on them as well.

        With the "stable binary interface" you're talking about the graphics card vendors have no incentive to live their game. Binary blobs are already a problem in open source software and stable interfaces will only make it worse.

        If you're

        • OpenGL would be a big one. It's licensed, not public domain. Another simplier one would be S3's texture compression. It works like MS's DXTC but works in GL and allows for much improved visuals at a given amount of VRAM, all the cards use it these days and the games support it. I don't have an exhaustive list, I don't work for nVidia or ATi, but there are plenty of things they use that are licensed and they are not free to just give away.

          As for your OSS point, well if you think like that, you'll end up with
      • I don't think that's a good solution. It'd be an adquate half-measure, but would sacrifice:
        - flexibility for the kernel team
        - non-x86 users' choices ... and it'd make the kernel a heck of a lot harder to debug when issues _do_ come up. Ugh.

        I'd be all for it, except that accepting that option now would lock everyone into it almost indefinitely - and I *don't* want to be stuck with that situation down the track. Of course, the current option sucks even more, so I'll
    • Do any mainstream video cards have official open-source drivers? I know the Intel drivers are open-source and IIRC they are at least partially developed by Intel, but I don't know if they're "pure" or have any binary parts.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:17PM (#15238968)
    This is what, the third or fourth time S3 has tried to 'make a comeback' in the graphics market? It always seems to happen the same way. Big price features in a small price card! While the hardware might be ok, and compete on the low end.. The drivers never seem to catch up. This is what the big players have. An established codebase for drivers that gets tweaked each time a new chip comes out.

    Predictions for new S3-super-thinamagig:

    1. Early previews from hardware review sites- "Shows promise!" "Should compete at entry level" "Good for casual gamers." Drivers will be buggy.

    2. Card released many months after initial previews. What was mid grade is now low end, and card doesn't look so hot against current competitors. Drivers still buggy. S3 promises bug fixes and performance improvements.

    3. Several off brand Taiwanese manufactures will make cards featureing new S3 chip. Cards will quickly be relegated to bargain basement prices in retail and online shops. Mobile versions of chips will be found in cheap low-end laptops and versions of the core will be seen integrated in to via chipsets for cheap onboard video. Drivers still buggy.

    4. S3 continues product line and no longer updates drivers. (Drivers still buggy.)

    With any luck S3 will do better than their previous attempts, but they've got a lot to prove. In all likelihood, this will go the way of the S3 savage, S3 chrome, trident cyberblade, XGI volari, powervr2, and powervr KYRO.
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris&beau,org> on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:21PM (#15238992)
    First they compare a $115 card to cards costing $125 and $129. Then the price drops to $99 and they 'stand by their review' against those more capable boards because they didn't pan it for performance, but for basic flaws? Uh huh. That would be because SLI mode doesn't work? What sort of idiot would buy a $99 card for SLI work? Ok, AA doesn't appear to work for GL, that is bad but will almost certainly get fixed in the drivers pretty soon.

    It looks like S3 is trying something interesting, throw high speed but dumb hardware at the problem of 3D instead of trying to put more compute power than a P4 on a board. But they are going to discover that the drivers are a big part of the equation, it was clear that their drivers probably what was holding their scores down on several of the tests. Since they obviously don't have a lot invested in them yet perhaps they are the ones we should be pushing to support open source. Despite what that PR moron at Nvidia said I suspect the Open Source crowd could whip those drivers into shape in short order, Use the right license (MPL or BSD) and they could roll those improvements back to Windows and carry the fight to ATI and Nvidia.

    I know I'd certainly switch from ATI Radeon 9250 (most current 3D with Open drivers) to this new S3 tech if it had an open driver.
    • "throwing High speed but dumb hardware" is something new and interesting now just because s3 cant pull anything sophisticated out of their ass? Quick reminder: ALL Ati and Nvidea cards are brute force renderers. Look for tile based renderes or the old talisman concept to see something different.

      "trying to put more compute power than a P4 on a board"
      What? If they are high speed, how do they _not_ have more computing power than a p4? And how is having that much power a bad thing?

      And about the price issue:cry
      • Ah, and btw: the internals are just as "needlessly complicated" and "more computing power than a p4" like their competitors (if you mean pixel/vertex shaders, z-buffer optimisations or stuff like that.

        The only difference is that s3s implementation sucks as usual. like the deltacrome, or the savage , savage 4, savage 2000, deltacrome or whatever the "current s3 attempt to get a foothold" is called.
      • Look for tile based renderes or the old talisman concept to see something different.

        I used to work for Silicon Engineering, Inc. (formerly Sequoia Semiconductor, presently Creative Silicon, a division of Creative Labs, Inc.) and while I was working there as a systems admin, they were working on two out of four chips that were supposed to go into Talisman on behalf of a certain incompetent company that lacked the talent internally.

        I'm not an expert in any of the pertinent fields but it didn't seem t

    • Given that S3 has been in and out of the graphics market several times,

      The Linux market is chicken and egg. I don't think there are enough Linux folk that are willing to pay a decent enough of a premium for the development of totally open drivers.
    • First they compare a $115 card to cards costing $125 and $129

      The ATI Radeon 1600Pro can be had for $99. The GF6600GT is $115.

      they didn't pan it for performance, but for basic flaws?

      Where'd you get that. In their conclusion they very clearly pan it for performance. It's not even the 2nd best card in its price range -- it's third best. By a large margin.

      Ok, AA doesn't appear to work for GL, that is bad but will almost certainly get fixed in the drivers pretty soon.

      Well that'd be new and different -- S3 actual
      • > The ATI Radeon 1600Pro can be had for $99. The GF6600GT is $115.

        Ok, just went looking and see that. So they can't even get the prices right.

        > In their conclusion they very clearly pan it for performance.

        Read the last line in the article (in the update):

        "Though this price may have affected which competing products we chose to benchmark against, we're not going to backpedal on our score, which is primarily the result of bugs and feature deficiencies."

        Would you care to revise and extend your remarks?

        • But the 9250 WILL be dying soon, at any rate it will die as AGP becomes obsolete. We need a replacement in the catagory of 3D hardware with Open drivers.


          The r300 project [sourceforge.net] is currently making great strides in getting open source direct rendering with the newer radeon chipsets. There is a thread [gentoo.org] in the Gentoo forums dedicated to testing their drivers out.
  • older video cards (Score:4, Informative)

    by 80 85 83 83 89 33 (819873) on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:38PM (#15239127) Journal
    i've been trying to keep track of video card comparisons, and rank the cards since the 5200. since neither i nor my friends can buy $300 cards, i kept the list to the lower end of the spectrum. what is interesting is where the current generation of integrated graphics on the motherboard compare to which cards.

    **best price/performance**
      nVid 7600 GT ($210)
      ATI X1600 XT ($170)
      nVid 6600 GT ($140)
    **best price/performance**

    the faster at top:

      ATI X800 Pro ~$250 ($150 refurb)
      ATI 9950 ultra (N/A)
      nVid 6800 LE/XT (LE=slower)($150,$300)
      ATI 9800 XT(~$185)
      ATI X700 PRO($125,135)
      nVid 5900U/5950 Ultra($250)
      ATI 9800 PRO(~$130)
    =ATI 9700 pro
    =ATI 9800 ($90??)
    =nVid 5900/5950
      ATI 9700 ($110)
      nVid 6600 ($100)???
      nVid 5800 ultra
              (3GHz)
      nVid 5700 Ultra (N/A)
      ATI X1300 PRO($105)
      ATI X700 (not pro)
      ATI 9500 Pro ($95 used)
                (yes it beats 9600pro!)
    =nVid 5600 Ultra
    =ATI 9600 pro/XT ($100)
    =ATI X600 PRO/XT ($100)
      nVid 5800
      ATI 9800 SE(128 bit)
      nVid 5700/5750
      nVid 6200 non-tc (under $100!)
    =nVid 5600
    =ATI 9500/9550/9600
      ATI X300 non-Hypmem???
      nVid 5700 LE (MINE)
      nVid GF4 Ti 4600
      nVid 5200 ULTRA
      nVid 5600 XT (XT=lower)
      ATI 9600 SE

    this last group of expansion cards is equal to the current generation of integrated onboard graphics
    ***very slow***

    nVid 5200/5500
    nVid PCX 5300
    nVid 6200 Turbocache
    ATI 9200 SE
    ATI X300 SE Hypermemory

    current generation of integrated graphics chipsets:

    -- Intel GMA950
    -- nVidia 6100/6150
    -- ATI xpress 200

    • Offtopic:

      would a 128-bit ATI 9800SE with 256mb of RAM be faster than a 9600XT with 128mb?
  • by icydog (923695)
    3dfx is coming out with Voodoo6!
    • 3dfx's technology and core assets were absorbed into nVidia and the company was dissolved. Even if they were reformed, they would have to start from scratch. The purchase was done primarily to settle a number of nasty patent lawsuits between the two companies and save them both a lot of money, otherwise both probably would have ridden each other into the ground.

      When the merger was announced, it was basically the #1 and #2 performance graphics card makers and looked like we were destined for high priced pe
      • Move Creative out of that lot. All the others made their own chips (ATI Rage 128, S3 Savage, Matrox G400 or something like that at the time). Creative were just licensing S3, nVidia and 3dfx chips, a retail board maker based on the chips from others.

        As I've both a 3dfx Voodoo 2 and a GeForce 256, I am not sure what you try to say about the open/closed thing. 3dfx and nVidia both sold chips and reference designs to other OEMs. ATI, on the other hand, has had a rather bumpy ride between ATI-branded retail ca

  • by SlayerDave (555409) <elddm1.gmail@com> on Monday May 01, 2006 @02:50PM (#15239252) Homepage
    Companies like ATI and NVIDIA (and presumably S3) view their drivers as trade secrets. They contain 3rd-party licensed IP that can't be disclosed and 1st-party IP that they want to keep out of the hands of their competitors. This is especially true at the high-end of the consumer graphics card market, but with the introduction of unified drivers a few years ago, there is no such thing as a low-end driver for an ATI or NVIDIA card. From a business standpoint, it would be foolish for a graphics card manufacturer to open-source its drivers.

    However, I do sympathize with linux users who want quality drivers for all types of graphics hardware. I doubt, though, that NVIDIA or ATI will ever release open-source drivers for linux. I think they can and should take the desktop linux market seriously and release high-quality, closed drivers, even if it affects the OSS purity of the linux operating system.

    For decent article reviewing some of these issues, see this [zdnetasia.com].

    • > I think they can and should take the desktop linux market seriously and release high-quality, closed drivers, even if it affects the OSS purity of the linux operating system.

      Absolutely not!!! We need Free drivers for numerous reasons. LWN writes a good summary of the reasons here [lwn.net] and here [lwn.net].

      S3 and others, please understand this! We might put up with closed source drivers under some circumstances, but you cannot really call this "Linux support" and we will be underwhelmed by your offerings.

      But whicheve
    • They don't have to open source the drivers. They just need to publish the card's specs and someone else will write the drivers.
  • Is it even possible to compete on price in the low end of 3D graphics? They way it works now, older ATI and NVIDIA models get priced insanely low. Not because they are that much cheaper to make, but because their bigger brothers have pushed them out. But if a card/company starts at the low end, how can it compete?

    This assumes that the cheapness of older models is subsidized by the profits from the newer. Is this the case?

    -matthew
    • Older cards from ATI and Nvidia *don't* get that much cheaper. Not fast enough to matter, anyway. By the time a given card is "cheap", it's so slow that it's almost useless in modern games.

      And the cheap cards aren't subsidized by the more expensive cards. In fact, the "high-end" cards aren't what keep ATI and Nvidia in business. The real money is in "integrated" video in cheap systems. That's especially true for ATI, who until fairly recently was the king of integrated graphics chips. Intel has stolen a lot
    • Intel is. They have the low end graphics market virtually locked. The integrated Intel accelerators are very, very cheap (it's like $10 difference for a board with grpahics) and they are quite capable. They aren't even remotely high end by any means, but they get thw job done. So to compete, you've got to do better than that. Well then, as you noted, there's older nVidia and ATi cards for cheap.
      • Intel is. They have the low end graphics market virtually locked. The integrated Intel accelerators are very, very cheap (it's like $10 difference for a board with grpahics) and they are quite capable.


        Well, I was thinking terms of expansion cards that someone might buy as an upgrade.

        -matthew
  • by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Monday May 01, 2006 @03:24PM (#15239556)
    This is exactly why NVIDIA and ATI keep their drivers closed-source.

    If you look at S3's product, you see a device that has great hardware specs (looks great on paper) but fails to deliver because of buggy/incomplete drivers. S3 isn't alone in this - XGI faces similar problems.

    The truth is that a lot of the performance of modern GPUs comes not from the hardware but from the drivers which supply it with data. NVIDIA and ATI keep their drivers closed-source because they don't want a company like S3 to benefit from their software - NV and ATI love the fact that everyone else has buggy, slow, incomplete 3D drivers, and that's the way they want to keep it.
  • by iamcadaver (104579) on Monday May 01, 2006 @03:47PM (#15239761)
    A fully open-source graphics chipset is in the works.

    http://wiki.duskglow.com/tiki-index.php?page=Open- Graphics [duskglow.com]


    IIRC they are shipping FPGA PCI cards and you can download the chipset image. The plan of course is to sell PCI ASIC's for $150 or so. They have a pledge page where you can give them an idea of how many cards they can sell for a first run.

  • Somehow the notion of S3 (or god forbid SIS) climbing back into the gaming video card market is like a slasher film monster coming back to life.

    Have they ever worked well for gaming (and no, solitaire doesn't count)?

    • On my 233 Mhz Cyrix with integrated SIS 5597/98 onboard video, using 32 megs of my shared 160 megs of RAM, played Unreal Tournament at medium detail at 640x480 (good for that day) at around 35 FPS - no dynamic lighting. That's Direct3D - OpenGL was not compatible with the integrated video.
  • If the problem for S3 is the drivers, then the open source community can help S3 write drivers for Linux, and both sides will benefit from it. Then S3 will have a product comparable with the others and open source will have one more set of quality video cards to play with.

    The above can be achieved by S3 offering mock-up environments of their hardware that do not reveal the algorithms. This is a practice followed quite often in the military where 3rd parties are called to supply software for 'secret' hardwar
  • S3 has always been a company run by complete retards. They never bothered to appeal to the high-end gamer until it was way too late, and by that time they had fallen critically behind.

    ATI and Nvidia learned the hard way: appeal to the entire market, low to high-end. Use the innovations gained in the latest high-end designs on the next-generation mid-range. Thus, your designs are constantly fresh, and games are constantly using new features, which means customers actually have a reason to buy your new pro

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