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home : reviews : Matrox Parhelia 512 Preview

Benjamin Sun
May 14, 2002

Matrox Parhelia 512 Preview
After three years of hiatus, Matrox drops a bombshell onto the graphics scene!

Matrox's journey. Every once in a while something new comes along that really opens my eyes in the graphics card industry. The move to 32bit color in mainstream videocards was one of those moments (NVIDIA Riva TNT), the move to Hardware Transformation and Lighting was another such movement, as well as the introduction of good quality Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (3dfx's Voodoo5). More recently, the introduction of highly programmable pixel and vertex shaders (GeForce3 and RADEON 8500) have entered into the fray.

Matrox has been in the graphics card business for over 25 years. During that time, they've introduced the first graphics card for a IBM computer, the first multi-monitor setup for business applications and the first card to support EMBM (Environment Mapped Bump Mapping), among many other firsts. They've always been about quality in both 2D and 3D graphics. Sometimes in this world of ever faster graphics cards, we forget that quality is important.

The first card I used from Matrox was the G100. A great workstation card, it nonetheless was overshadowed in the gaming arena, at least by the current leader in 3d graphics at the time, the Voodoo2. What's often forgotten today, is that many people used G100s in conjunction with the Voodoo2 in SLI mode. The successor to the G100, the G200 brought faster speeds and was an excellent performer for the time.

In 1999 Matrox released the successor to both of these cards, the G400 Max. At the time of it's announcement, Matrox was the fastest videocard available. It also supported features like EMBM, dual 128bit SDRAM memory buses and Dualhead which brought 2 monitor videocards to the mainstream. It also outperformed it's direct competition of the time, the NVIDIA Riva TNT2 and Voodoo3 3000 when higher resolutions and depth complexity was used.

Unfortunately, for Matrox, the announcement of the G400 Max and the shipping of said card was several months apart. Had the card shipped when originally announced, NVIDIA might not be in the dominating position of 3d graphics today. The card, as shipped still stands above many of todays cards in it's support of DualHead, 2D graphics and support for EMBM (GeForce4 MX doesn't support this feature). The card still sold extremely well, but with the introduction of the GeForce from NVIDIA and it's subsequent variants, Matrox withdrew from the 3d gaming market to concentrate on business and workstation graphics.

In the year 2000, Matrox released the G450. The G450 was a die shrink of the G400 which made the card cheaper to produce, and allowed Matrox to bring EMBM and DualHead to the mainstream market. It's sold very well for business and workstation computers, because of it's reasonable price and uncompromising 2d image quality. Many G450s have been sold, but it wasn't a gaming card.

The G550 was launched in the middle of last year. Matrox was working on the successor to the G400, a "G800", when they abandoned the project. All that's left today of the G800 project is the G550. The G550 shipped with a new feature called HeadCasting. HeadCasting allows the use of a high polygonned (25,000+) avatar head along with the vertex shader of the G550 to allow lifelike animation of a talking head even over low-bandwidth connections.
Matrox Parhelia 512
Over the last 25 years, Matrox has taken its place as leader and innovator in today’s hottest, most state-of-the-art technologies designing software and hardware solutions in the fields of Graphics, Video editing, Image processing and New business media.

With over 1,450 employees worldwide, headquarters in Dorval on the island of Montreal, design centers in Ontario and Florida and sales offices in North America, Europe and Asia, Matrox is one of North America’s most successful high tech companies. Matrox's revolutionary technology, customer-oriented philosophy, and reputation for exceptional product quality and value set it apart from the competition. Matrox products have earned over 1000 prestigious industry awards for product excellence and secured  business partnerships with industry leaders.

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