It's always the same thing when a new graphics card is launched: prior to the launch, you get a test sample, and at the same time you have to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), which is supposed to ensure that you don't leak out the information received before a certain date. And it was the same story with the Matrox Parhelia card, which has been eagerly awaited by many readers. However, Matrox didn't send out the card until quite late - to be exact, Monday June 17 was when they sent out a test sample from Canada, via express mail, to our lab in Munich, Germany. Apparently, they were under the impression that this was plenty of time to review the product before the NDA was lifted today (June 25).
To make things even more exciting, UPS Germany received the card the next day on June 18, but they left it lying around at the airport in Cologne until June 20, and were unable to tell us why. And so, the test sample finally got to our lab on Friday, June 21. The initial tests got off to a good start, when our system choked on a VESA VGA bug in Parhelia, which appeared in connection with the DOS boot manager (XOSL) in our testing systems. More on that later.
Needless to say, all these events made for an extremely tight time limit, hindering extensive testing of the card. Therefore, we will be presenting the Parhelia test in two parts. In Part I, we bring you a detailed look at the 3D performance in comparison to an NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti4600 card (which, at a street price of about $350, belongs to about the same price class) and the ATI Radeon 8500 128MB card (which is clearly less expensive, priced at approx. $200).
We will be bringing you a test of the Parhelia's 2D characteristics at a later time, when we've gained more practical experience with day-to-day use of the Parhelia in the multiple-screen mode. The theoretical capabilities have already been discussed in our May article, "Matrox Parhelia - The Challenger." If you haven't read this yet, you should take a quick look at it in order to get an overview of what the Parhelia can do.