While there was a lot of noise from Videologic and NVIDIA about their upcoming new wonder 3D chips and while nobody really remembers anymore what NVIDIA's RIVA ZX chip was for again, while the PC market place seems to be in some kind of recession, while the poor users out there are looking for clues on which CPU or 3D card to buy, while some graphic chip manufacturers seem to slowly disappear and while I was for a short moment taking my eyes away from 3D stuff back to CPUs and motherboards, while .... well nobody really expected it anymore ... , Matrox suddenly reappeared out of 3D Nirvana with what they think a 2D/3D graphic chip has to be like. They are calling this new baby 'G200', what a pathetic name for a chip that is meant to get Matrox back into the big news.
Now a preview of a new 3D graphic chip on Tom's Hardware Guide wouldn't be done by me if I wouldn't be convinced that you want to know how it compares to the rest of the gang. Hence all major and well performing 3D chips for AGP were tested again and Tekram threw in a RIVA ZX board, so that we can start remembering this chip as well.
Let's quickly remember what's currently state of the art in the 2D/3D arena. The best 2D performance so far was delivered from 3DLabs with the Permedia2 and good old Matrox and their Millennium II. Whilst the Permedia 2 offers a good OpenGL performance for professional applications under NT and some kind of 3D gaming abilities, the Millennium II was quite a disappointment when it first appeared, simply due to it's almost complete lack in decent 3D abilities. However, the Millennium II had and has still its fans, as it is pretty much the only 2D card still that offers a very good picture quality for big monitors at highest resolutions and true color. The Permedia2 is already getting out of breath when reaching 1280x1024, because in this mode you can forget true color already, due to the cheaper SGRAM it's using. The picture quality of the Permedia2 is also unable to satisfy owners of 21 or 24" monitors and even Number Nine's Ticket to Ride chip can't beat the Millennium's 250 MHz external RAMDAC and its quality.
In the 3D field the fronts are clear. 'Voodoo2 over everything' is what it sounds from everywhere, but not everyone is willing or able to spend a lot of money for an add-on card with 3Dfx's famous Voodoo2 chip, so that there's a lot of room for other companies to play. In this field there's currently quite a mess, NVIDIA's RIV128, Intel's i740, ATI's Rage Pro Turbo and Rendition's Verite 2x00 are fighting for customers and the people who are willing to buy one of these 2D/3D solutions don't really know who to believe, since there are too many different things to consider. Matrox will enter this market with the G200 in June, but they don't want to add to the mess, they want to clear the fronts by showing who's really boss in this field. This takes more than quantity in form of high frame rates, it also takes a lot more quality than what we used to see in 3D gaming. G200 is supposed to deliver all that and if the price is right it may bring Matrox back into big business.
I want to give an overview over the 2D/3D or 3D chips that are currently available on the market, including the ones that will be available soon and also not forgetting what is coming a couple of months down the road. There will be a quick 2D evaluation and a larger 3D gaming evaluation. As soon as I will get NT drivers for the G200 I will add NT and professional OpenGL application performance as well.