IntroductionRemember ECTS? I do. Among the highlights of my first-time experience at the show was a nice chat with Nadeem Mohammad, Marketing Product Manager for S3 in North America and Europe. I only had five minutes with him to talk about OmniChrome, S3's latest DeltaChrome-based, but he's almost infectious in his enthusiasm about the hardware under his wing. I came away with a brief overview of the product, a quick peek at a sample and promise that samples would arrive with press in short order, so that I could take a good look at it.
The overview Nadeem gave was that of a product that does what ATI does with their budget All-In-Wonder parts - slap a TV tuner and related TV hardware onto a PCB containing a budget GPU from their range, creating a multimedia-focussed SKU for the masses - only with higher performance than any price-comparative ATI and NVIDIA offerings.
Giving users the ability to watch, record and time-shift TV, along with the ability to play the odd game at decent speed, without having them break their piggy bank in the process, is something that ATI have long been masters of. S3 want a piece of that market that ATI currently own, a market that's top of ATI's priorities as the consumer graphics market shifts its focus in the mid to long term, and why shouldn't they get it?
S3's DeltaChrome GPUs are far from the last word in performance. They don't even support multi-sampled geometry anti-aliasing, a feature I couldn't live without personally while playing games on a PC. However at basic settings, they don't do that badly. Supporting the DX9 basics in hardware (including full hardware vertex shader units), DeltaChrome GPUs, be they any of the S4 or S8 variants, don't play a bad game of UT2003 or similar DX8-class titles, at modest resolution.
So providing the TV features work and performance isn't anomalous, and price is where S3 say it will be, OmniChrome - S3's All-In-Wonder - looks to be an attractive product for a specific section of the consumer graphics market.
Let's take a closer look.