Matrox 'Parhelia' aims to eclipse Nvidia

The graphics chipmaker unveils its new attempt to scorch the competition with a 512-bit graphics processor tailored for 3D

Matrox on Wednesday unveiled its bid to re-enter the heated 3D graphics chip market with Parhelia-512, a 2D, 3D and DVD-video graphics processing unit (GPU) with a 256-bit DDR memory interface.

The company has recently been focusing on 2D graphics, leaving Nvidia and ATI to scrap over the market for gamers and high-end computer-aided designers, but with the new product Matrox says it plans to give the competition a run for its money. Besides the 256-bit memory interface, which provides more than 20GB per second of bandwidth, the GPU has an AGP host interface designed for up to 8X bandwidths and a graphics engine compatible with OpenGL1.3 and DirectX 8.1. AGP is a dedicated graphics bus used for high-speed access to the GPU.

Parhelion is a condition when bright "mock suns" appear in the sun's halo, usually two on either side of the solar disc. Matrox says the three bright spots correspond to visual quality, performance and innovation, but they might as well also refer to Parhelia-512's support for three side-by-side displays for "surround gaming". For a preview of the chip and images of surround gaming, see ZDNet UK's preview.

The 512-bit GPU has 80 million transistors, manufactured to a 0.15-micron process, and uses Hardware Displacement Mapping (HDM), which Matrox says displays more realistic textures than bump mapping. HDM has been licensed to Microsoft for integration into DirectX 9, Matrox said.

Matrox will ship Parhelia-512 cards in early July. Pricing has not been finalised, but 128MB cards are expected to cost about £275.

Nvidia's most recent GPUs are Quadro4, for the professional market, and GeForce4, for mainstream products.

ATI has been losing market share steadily to Nvidia, and in March announced plans to expand into the risky PC chipset market.

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