The Haus

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Parhelia Reviewed

Tom's Hardware slapped up their review of Matrox's new Parhelia board. Is it an ATi and NVIDIA killer? When you are talking about raw speed, the GeForce4 Ti4600 has it for lunch and the ATi Radeon 8500 keeps up while costing half as much. The Parhelia has slightly better image quality under certain circumstances. I'm glad that Matrox finally has a decent 3D chip just to keep NVIDIA from becoming complacent. I'd be interested to see someone using one of these boards to play Quake III on three monitors.

Update: John Carmack updated his .plan with his observations on the new Matrox board:
The executive summary is that the Parhelia will run Doom, but it is not performance competitive with Nvidia or ATI.

Driver issue remain, so it is not perfect yet, but I am confident that Matrox will resolve them.

The performance was really disappointing for the first 256 bit DDR card. I tried to set up a "poster child" case that would stress the memory subsystem above and beyond any driver or triangle level inefficiencies, but I was unable to get it to ever approach the performance of a GF4.

The basic hardware support is good, with fragment flexibility better than GF4 (but not as good as ATI 8500), but it just doesn't keep up in raw performance.

With a die shrink, this chip could probably be a contender, but there are probably going to be other chips out by then that will completely eclipse this generation of products.

None of the special features will be really useful for Doom:

The 10 bit color framebuffer is nice, but Doom needs more than 2 bits of destination alpha when a card only has four texture units, so we can't use it.

Anti aliasing features are nice, but it isn't all that fast in minimum feature mode, so nobody is going to be turning on AA. The same goes for "surround gaming". While the framerate wouldn't be 1/3 the base, it would still probably be cut in half.

Displacement mapping. Sigh. I am disappointed that the industry is still pursuing any quad based approaches. Haven't we learned from the stellar success of 3DO, Saturn, and NV1 that quads really suck? In any case, we can't use any geometry amplification scheme (including ATI's truform) in conjunction with stencil shadow volumes.

Monday, June 24, 2002

Neverwinter Nights Review

GameSpot posted their review of Neverwinter Nights, the latest role-playing game from Bioware. It seems like it would give my what I've been looking for in an RPG, something less complicated than Baldur's Gate, but with more depth than Diablo II. The main gripe I've heard about the game is that the graphics look a bit dated. I'd take gameplay over graphics any day. After all, Diablo II hooked me for the longest time and its graphics are, well, crap (256 colors?!?). Now I just need someone to review the Linux client . . . I've got 26G on my root partition that isn't doing anything. Thanks Evil Avatar.

Pondering the Imponderable

Nothing like an early morning heart attack! I was driving back home with one of my kids when the cruise control on the car got stuck. I had to ride the brakes through town to keep the speed down. I'm sure that didn't exactly extend their life. Thankfully we got back OK. It's more than a little disturbing when you have no control over your car's rate of acceleration.

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