While nVidia and ATI have been battling it out in the 3D/gaming graphics arena, Matrox has stayed on the sidelines, pursuing the 2D business market pretty exclusively. But on 15 May, the company announced it was re-entering the fray with the Parhelia-512, a new, high-performance 3D graphics chip.
The Parhelia-512 is named after the solar phenomenon (also known as a 'sun dog') where the sun is accompanied by two bright spots. According to Matrox, the Parhelia has its own celestial trio: unparalleled visual quality, superior performance, and innovative features. We can't say yet whether the Parhelia-512 will live up to Matrox's claims, but it does have some cutting-edge graphics technology. The chipset's 512-bit graphics processing unit (GPU) is loaded with 80 million 0.15-micron transistors, and its 256-bit DDR memory interface allows for up to 20GB/sec bandwidth speeds. Its AGP host interface is designed for up to 8X bandwidths and has a graphics engine that's compliant with OpenGL 1.3 and DirectX 8.1. The Parhelia-512 has other intriguing new features. The card uses Hardware Displacement Mapping (HDM), which adds depth and realism to textured objects in a way that bump mapping cannot. Also, the Parhelia-512 can support up to three simultaneous displays, giving a new dimension to desktop real estate and high-end gaming.
If you'd like to see the full list of the Parhelia-512's specifications and features, check out Matrox's Web site. The company won't be shipping Parhelia-512 cards until early July and pricing hasn't been finalised yet, but 128MB cards are expected to cost around $400 (£275). As soon as we get a Parhelia-512 card, we'll put it through its paces in our labs and post the results, so keep an eye on this space.