Rumour has swirled for a while now about S3 Graphics not creating any D3D9 Shader Model 3.0 part, instead going straight to building a D3D10 Shader Model 4.0 GPU, given the proximity of their dev schedule to the release of Microsoft Windows Vista.
We certainly believe that to be true, now, and we have what we believe are the first spy shots of that SM4.0 chip on a PC PCB, in somewhat working form. Clearly a bring-up or engineering example board, VT6344C -- showing the VIA Technologies parentage -- sports both HDMI and DVI on the backplane, and a modest cooler.
Tiny DRAMs flank the GPU area on two sides, giving either 128MiB or 256MiB depending on density and hinting at mid-range aspirations. Indeed we don't expect S3 Graphics to go after high-end SM4.0 and D3D10 at all when Vista arrives.
Instead we believe S3 to be targetting the mid-range on Vista arrival, where it seems ATI and NVIDIA will leave a gap to more affordable D3D10 parts as they introduce big and (presumably) expensive chips for high-end SKUs first and foremost. If so, S3 Graphics' strategy could well prove fruitful, if their hardware efforts are backed up by some sterling work on the software side.
If these pics show what we think they show, it hints that S3 are a decent way down the development path for such a GPU, hinting that three IHVs will have completed SM4.0 parts when Vista finally breaks cover. We'll say no more for the time being.