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S3 used to be a major player in PC graphics, and in the mid nineties an S3 based graphics card represented the pinnacle of video technology. But as 3D acceleration became the name of the game, S3 fell by the wayside, and disappeared for a good while. However, earlier this year we saw the launch of a new graphics chipset from S3 called the DeltaChrome, which was meant to get the company back on the map when it came to 3D graphics.
Unfortunately the DeltaChrome didn’t make any real inroads into the 3D graphics arena, and the market continued to be dominated by nVidia and ATI. But now S3 is taking a different tack and going after the multimedia graphics market with the OmniChrome S4. The board that made its way into the TrustedReviews lab was from Club 3D, which was also the launch partner for the DeltaChrome cards earlier in the year.
Now, if the 3D graphics market was difficult to break back into, the multimedia graphics market could prove to be even more of a task. For a long time this market sector has been dominated by the ATI All-in-Wonder cards – basically ATI threw the first All-in-Wonder into the market when all the other graphics vendors hadn’t even considered a similar product. In recent times nVidia has developed the Personal Cinema cards in an effort to compete with ATI in this sector, but ultimately the All-in-Wonder has continued to reign supreme.
S3 told me that the OmniChrome S4 will offer the performance of the All-in-Wonder 9600 at the price of the All-in-Wonder 9200. This means that the OmniChrome S4 is being aimed at the low to mid-range of the market, and is leaving the high-end to ATI with its All-in-Wonder 9800 and X800 cards.
So, let’s look at the basics, starting with the DeltaChrome S4 chipset that forms the graphics foundation of the OmniChrome. As the name suggests, the DeltaChrome S4 chipset sports four pixel pipelines along with two vertex pipelines – considering that the latest high-end graphics cards utilise 16 pixel pipelines and six vertex pipelines, it’s clear that the S4 isn’t going to be tearing through the latest games with high frame rates.
On the plus side, S3 has pumped up the core clock speed of the S4 chipset – on the DeltaChrome S4 cards the core frequency is 300MHz, but on the OmniChrome cards this has been pushed to 350MHz. There’s 128MB of DDR1 graphics memory running at an effective cock speed of 600MHz; all pretty conservative by today’s standards.
As far as comparative performance goes, the only relatively comparable card we’ve looked at would be the All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro, and that was so long ago that the only benchmark that we’re still running is 3DMark03. Here, the ATI card soundly beats the OmniChrome with a score of 3318 compared to 2425 at 1,024 x 768 with no FSAA or AF.
If Unreal Tournament 2004 is your game then you’ll be reasonably serviced by the OmniChrome with a score of 58fps at 1,024 x 768 with no FSAA or AF. However, if you fancy a bash at Doom3 you’ll be sorely disappointed. Firing up id’s latest epic at 1,024 x 768 with high-quality settings turned in a score of 8.3fps – hardly what I’d call an acceptably smooth 3D environment.
But of course 3D performance is by no means the be all and end all with a product like this, and the OmniChrome has a lot of other tricks up its sleeve, ensuring that you have a pretty solid multimedia experience.