Attack Out Of The Blind Spot: Matrox Parhelia-512


With respect to 3D performance, the Parhelia leaves us with mixed feelings. In contrast to the mediocre performance in the standard benchmarks, it turned up some really good results in the tests for quality, even though they sometimes represent only a very small lead over NVIDIA's GeForce 4 Ti. Another positive point is the excellent fill rate in multi-texturing mode. Here, the Parhelia might even be significantly faster than the GeForce 4 Ti 4600, thanks to its four pixel pipelines, but only if it had a faster GPU clock.

On the other hand, we were disappointed at how the Parhelia performed in the pixel shader tests from 3D Mark 2001 SE. Here, NVIDIA and ATI clearly have the upper hand. This is an aspect that becomes particularly critical when you consider the imminent generation of GPUs from ATI and NVIDIA, which are already positioned at the starting line and will be improving performance and features (DX9) in the area of pixel shading. The new DX9 features of the Parhelia, such as displacement mapping, are currently only used in Matrox demos.

When it comes to standard performance, Parhelia cannot keep apace with NVIDIA's GeForce 4 Ti. Matrox's argument that the strength of the Parhelia lies in the performance at maximum image quality is not entirely valid. In anisotropic filtering, it isn't able attain the same level as the GeForce Ti 4600. Parhelia takes in the high scores only with its high-quality Fragment Anti-Aliasing. The Surround Gaming feature is also quite convincing. If you're enough of an enthusiast, and if you can afford to buy three monitors, then you will be in for an impressive gaming experience.

Pitted against ATI's Radeon 8500 128 MB, the Parhelia offers tough competition in some of the standard tests. However, considering that the Parhelia's price tag is double that of the Radeon ($399 vs. $199), this doesn't exactly seem fitting. In the end, though, the Parhelia is not a top 3D performer, even though its proven 3D capabilities are still quite respectable.

In the 3D comparison, the results clearly point in favor of NVIDIA. Soon, we will be bringing you an evaluation of the Parhelia's 2D features and performance, again, compared to NVIDIA's GF4 and ATI's Radeon 8500. On paper, at least, the Parhelia seems to have the clear advantage. Together with its 2D features, Surround Gaming, 10 bit Gigacolor and good TV-out as well as signal quality, Parhelia can indeed be viewed as an excellent alternative to the established competition, which makes things pretty exciting.

We already presume that the Parhelia will find many friends. However, if you are one of those who expect the Parhelia to be the super-product to topple NVIDIA from the 3D performance throne, you're going to be rather disappointed. Rather, the 3D quality is to be found in the details.