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|Dado Banatao and Ronald Yara|
S3 Graphics, Ltd (commonly referred to as S3) is an American computer graphics company. The company is perhaps best known for its notoriously slow ViRGE and its much improved Savage 3D and Chrome series. Struggling against competition from 3dfx Interactive, ATI and Nvidia during the height of the 3D accelerator wars, the graphics portion of the company was spun off into a new joint effort with VIA Technologies. The new company focused on the mobile graphics market, and became a major player in this space. The company was purchased by HTC in 2011. Although primarily a mobile technology company, they still produce graphics accelerators for home computers under the "S3 Chrome" brand name.
S3 was founded and incorporated in January 1989 by Dado Banatao and Ronald Yara. On March 5, 1993, S3 began an Initial Public Offering of 2,000,000 shares of common stock on Nasdaq. After several profitable years as an independent startup company, struggling with the transition to integrated 3D cards, S3 remodeled itself as a consumer electronics company and sold off its core graphics division to a joint venture with VIA Technologies for $323 million. The joint venture, S3 Graphics, continues to develop and market chipsets based on the S3 graphics technology.
The reformed company carried over a substantial cash pile from the profitable TRIO (see below) days and a successful investment in UMC, a Taiwanese semiconductor foundry. On November 15, 2000, S3 changed its name to SONICBlue and its NASDAQ stock symbol to SBLU. The new business model focused on digital media and information appliance opportunities while the graphics division was sold to VIA Technologies as S3 Graphics. ReplayTV, Rio, and GoVideo were some of the brands developed by SONICBlue. On March 21, 2003 SONICBlue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
S3 Graphics first only developed graphic cores for VIA IGP chipset while some years later they again began to produce graphics accelerators for home computers under the "Chrome" brand name. These include the Deltachrome, Gammachrome, Chrome S27 and Chrome 440GTX.
On July 6, 2011 it was announced that HTC Corporation would buy VIA Technologies stake in S3 Graphics thus becoming the majority owner of S3 Graphics.
S3 produces graphics cards primarily for PCs. While the earlier products such as the TRIO range were 2D only, later 3D functionality was added with the ViRGE and then Savage cards. More recently S3 chipsets have been sold as integrated VIA northbridge parts. However these units are also available for PCI-E. The Chrome 440 series supports DirectX 10.1, HD Blu-ray video, and 3D acceleration powerful enough to run most of today's games on moderate settings. Their latest graphics card, the Chrome 530gt supports DirectX 10.1, OpenGL 3.0, HD-DVD and HD Blu-ray video playback and GPGPU acceleration for image processing using S3FotoPro, video color correction, video encoding and transcoding, scientific research, game physics, engineering analysis, financial analysis and signal processing.
- S3 911, 911A (June 10, 1991) - S3's first Windows accelerators (16/256-color, high-color acceleration)
- S3 924 - 24-bit true-color acceleration
- S3 801, 805, 805i - mainstream DRAM VESA Windows accelerators (16/256-color, high-color acceleration)
- S3 928 - 24/32-bit true-color acceleration, DRAM or VRAM
- S3 805p, 928p - S3's first PCI support
- S3 Vision864, Vision964 (1994) - 2nd generation Windows accelerators (64-bit wide framebuffer)
- S3 Vision868, Vision968 - S3's first motion video accelerator (zoom and YUV->RGB conversion)
- S3 Trio 32, 64, 64V+, 64V2 (1995) - S3's first integrated (RAMDAC+VGA) accelerator. The 64 bit versions were S3's most successful product range.
- ViRGE (no suffix), VX, DX, GX, GX2, Trio3D - S3's first Windows 3D-accelerators. Notoriously poor 3D. Sold well to OEMs mainly because of low price and excellent 2D-performance.
- Savage 3D (1998), 4 (1999), 2000 (2000)- S3's first recognizably modern 3D hardware implementation. Poor yields meant actual clock speeds were 30% below expectations, and buggy drivers caused further problems. S3 Texture Compression went on to become an industry standard, and the Savage3D's DVD acceleration was market leading at introduction. Savage2000 was announced as the first chip with integrated Transformation and Lighting (S3TL) co-processor.
- Aurora64V+, S3 ViRGE/MX, SuperSavage, SavageXP - Mobile chipsets
- ProSavage, Twister, UniChrome, Chrome 9 - Integrated implementations of Savage chipset for VIA motherboards
- GammaChrome, DeltaChrome, Chrome 20 series, Chrome 440 series, Chrome 500 series - Discrete cards post acquisition by VIA.
- S3 GenDAC, SDAC - VGA RAMDAC with high/true-color bypass (SDAC had integrated PLLs, dot-clocks, and hardware Windows cursor)
- Sonic/AD sound chipset - A programmable, sigma-delta audio DAC, featuring an integrated PLL, stereo 16-bit analogue output
- SonicVibes - PCI Audio Accelerator
- Scenic/MX2 - MPEG Decoder
From formation in 1989 it took S3 two years to develop the world's first single-chip Graphical User Interface (GUI) accelerator. Integrated functionality enabled attractive pricing, and solid features for competitive prices remained a hallmark of S3's strategy.
S3's most notable product range is the S3 TRIO 2D chipset. It remains one of the best selling graphics chipsets of all time. Updated in a number of timely revisions, each time S3 managed to keep the series one step ahead of the competition.
However, TRIO was a 2D range, and by the mid 1990s consumers and OEMs started to demand 3D functionality from graphics cards. Internally, S3 failed to recognise this transition quickly enough, and had to rush out the S3 ViRGE range of 3D cards. While cheap, and popular with some OEMs for this reason, performance and drivers were poor. Some enthusiasts even nicknamed them graphics decelerators.
The integrated modern style 3D feature produced by S3, was the Savage series of graphics cards. Notably these pioneered S3TC under the proprietary METAL API, subsequently adopted by Microsoft under royalty, as an industry standard for texture compression in DirectX.
Savage also introduced a motion compensation engine, a quality video scaler, as well as hardware alpha-blended sub-picture blending, a first. However, the 3D performance of the Savage cards was never quite enough to take significant market share. Poor yields meant actual clock speeds were 30% lower than had been projected during development, and the transform and lighting engine implementation was flawed.
It became apparent S3's integrated 2D technology was no longer enough to ensure the overall success of the chipset. While S3 could have continued development of the Savage cards, and most likely resolved the outstanding issues, instead in 2001 the S3 management decided to sell off the core business to VIA for $323 million.
Subsequently, Savage derived chips turned up in numerous VIA motherboard chipsets as an integrated north bridge solution, such as Twister and UniChrome. More recent discrete derivations have carried the brand names DeltaChrome and GammaChrome. In this manner, S3 derived chips have held onto about a 10% share of the overall PC graphics market.
SONICblue was an American consumer electronics company resulting from the 1999 merger between computer peripheral maker Diamond Multimedia and graphics chipset maker S3 Incorporated.
In November 2000, the combined company changed its name to SONICblue and changed its focus from graphics chipsets and computer peripherals to consumer electronics, such as the Rio line of MP3 players. In January 2001, the graphics chipset business was sold to a joint venture between SONICblue and VIA called S3 Graphics. Later that same year, the company bought ReplayTV, a maker of PVR systems, and Sensory Science Corporation, a company selling dual-deck DVD/VCR systems under the GoVideo brand name.
On March 21, 2003, SONICblue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and sold off its main product lines.
On April 16, 2003, D&M Holdings, the parent company of Denon Ltd. and Marantz Japan Inc. purchased virtually all operating assets from SONICblue and now produces ReplayTV and Rio units under a new subsidiary, Digital Networks North America (DNNA), Inc. The last piece of the company was effectively sold in late 2003, when Best Data acquired the Diamond's Supra modem business along with rights to the Diamond Multimedia name for use in a new video card division.
- McGlaun, Shane (6 July 2011). "VIA, WTI Sell Stakes in S3 Graphics to HTC". DailyTech. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "D&M Holdings Inc. to Exit Mass-Market Portable Digital Audio Player Business". Rio Audio. 26 August 2005. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to S3 Graphics.|
- Official website
- S3.com products cached from 1997
- VIA Graphics
- Firingsquad: S3: From Virge to Savage 2000
- Xbitlabs: The Return of S3: DeltaChrome Graphics Card Review
- Techreport: A look at S3's DeltaChrome
- The Inquirer: S3's DirectX 10 Roadmap