S3 aims Savage graphics at portables

S3 has announced two new chips for the portable PC market that will bring powerful 3D graphics to gamers and business users on the road.

The two new versions of its popular Savage graphics accelerator chip, called the Savage/MX and Savage/IX, are part of its latest bid to regain lost share of the graphics market.

Savage chips will provide faster and more realistic three-dimensional graphics for notebooks -- a market where demand for graphics is debateable. Graphics chips usually consume more power, a key issue in mobile computing.

"We have a very low power-consuming product," claimed Kenneth Potashner, president, CEO and chairman of S3, adding that many games, such as Quake, which could not previously run well on notebooks, will now run three times faster.

In February, the company announced a new graphics chip called the Savage4 in a major comeback attempt for the company, which once lead the desktop graphics chip market. It now has many major customers for this chip, including three of the top five PC makers like IBM Corp.

"A company that was under pressure and stress now has a path to success with the Savage chip," Potashner said. "This announcement is the next phase of that. We are now going to expand it to the notebook market."

Currently, some of the main contenders in the estimated $430 million portable graphics chip market are NeoMagic and ATI Technologies.

"We have gone from an uninteresting portable accelerator market to a much more competitive market this year," said Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research.

Potashner said that S3 expects to begin producing its new Savage chips in the third quarter, with volume production in the fourth quarter of this year. "Once we are in volume (mobile) should constitute 20-25 per cent of our total revenue base," he said.

Savage/MX will be priced at $42, and Savage/IX is priced at $49 for a four megabyte version, $56 for an eight megabyte version and $68 for a 16 megabyte version -- all in quantities of 1,000 units.

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