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GigaPixel takes on 3dfx, S3, Nvidia with… tiles

Tile-based rendering faster, better looking than polygons claims company

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US 3D graphics specialist GigaPixel this week issued a challenge to the likes of 3dfx, Nvidia, S3 and ATI -- the company claims its GP-1 chip, based on its Giga3D architecture, has rival products well and truly licked on both image quality and performance. What makes GP-1 interesting is its use of a tile-based rendering scheme instead of the traditional polygon approached used by every other mainstream graphics accelerator.

According to GigaPixel CEO George Haber, GP-1 breaks a scene into a series of small tiles and renders each individually. That, he said, allows the chip to render a fully anti-aliased image -- which is where GP-1 gets its superior image quality from -- without the massive processing overhead it usually requires. Tiling the image also considerably reduces the card's bandwidth requirements by a factor of ten, he added, which also increases performance. GP-1 is fully compatible with the Direct3D and OpenGL APIs, Haber said.

The chip takes the polygon-based description of the scene and converts it into the sequence of tiles. Each tile is rendered and shaded as required then sent to the frame buffer. Haber demonstrated Quake II running on a GP-1 reference board and a Matrox 3D card, and while the frame rate appeared comparable, with its anti-aliasing, the GP-1's output certainly looked better. Of course, 3dfx's upcoming Napalm board will offer anti-aliasing -- though not full-scene anti-aliasing -- when it ships in Q1 2000. Haber dismissed the Napalm's T-buffer technology on a technical level since the board has to render each scene four times to make anti-aliasing work, but what does that matter if 3dfx can make it work cost-effectively and retain high frame rates? 3dfx's system will also offer other effects, such as motion blur and smooth shadows, which as yet the GP-1 does not. That said, the company's approach should give it the processing headroom to add more advanced features to later versions of the chip.

GigaPixel plans to license its technology to third-party graphics card vendors, much as Nvidia does. Haber said the company was already talking to at least one board manufacturer, but he would not name them or say how close the two firms are to a licensing deal. ®

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