Transform and Lighting Engine
Transform and lighting (or T&L) has been the latest buzzword after NVIDIA announced and then released the GeForce GPU to consumers this year. With the promise of greater 3D quality due to the newfound ability to have high polygon scenes and realistic lighting without great performance loss, competitors quickly shuffled to release their own T&L solution or explain why they felt it was still too early to release such a product. S3 happened to be one of the companies that embraced this new feature (keep in mind this is not new to the workstation market) and incorporated it into their latest product, the Viper II.
So how fast is the Viper II T&L engine? I have no idea. Why? The current drivers do not have hardware T&L enabled as of yet. S3 has officially stated that they have put all their efforts into making the current features of the Viper II that can be taken advantage of, available. This meant putting aside the availability of T&L in general because they have run into driver issues that couldn't be reasonably fixed in time for release. They also went on to let me know that the merger between Diamond and S3 made things a bit more difficult. I don't see how that's possible being that two combined companies making one product line causes a lack of manpower to develop stable, full-functional drivers.
So when will the driver be available that has T&L enabled? In the middle of January an OpenGL ICD will be release with it enabled and towards the end of Q1 a DirectX driver with T&L will makes its way onto the web. S3 claims that T&L isn't such a big issue right now because there really isn't any software that uses it as of yet and that by the time their drivers are released, T&L games will just start to trickle out. Although I didn't care to see T&L unavailable in the released drivers, it is true that currently there isn't much software that takes advantage of it. However, who really wants to buy a card that can't do what it claims right out of the box? With S3's recent driver problems with legacy video cards, who really wants to trust them? This is something that you, the consumer, will decide.