Attack Out Of The Blind Spot: Matrox Parhelia-512

Surround Gaming

Parhelia supports up to three monitors at a maximum resolution of 3840 x 1024 @ 32bpp, and up to 2400 x 600 in games. This is the basis for Surround Gaming mode, in which games are divided up among the three monitors for a panoramic type of effect. However, this only works if the game allows variable settings for FOV (Field Of View). Here is a selection of current games that support this feature:

  • Flight Simulator 2002, by Microsoft Corporation;
  • Quake III Arena, by Id Software/Activision;
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein, by Gray Matter and Id Software Inc./Activision;
  • Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, by Raven Software/LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC;
  • Unreal Tournament 2003, by Digital Extremes and Epic Games, Inc./Atari;
  • Imperium Galactica 3: Genesis, by Mithis Games/Philos Laboratories/CDV Software Entertainment AG

Almost all of the games based on the Quake 3 Arena 3D engine can be played in Surround Gaming mode. Still, in order to actually use Surround Gaming, you need to push up your shirt sleeves and manually adjust the configuration files of the game as well as the registry. Here's how you do it, using Star Wars: Jedi Knight II as an example:

  1. Run game first time (required to create configuration file)
  2. Go to Jedi Knight 2 installed directory
  3. Go to \GameData\base subdirectory
  4. Edit file 'jk2config.cfg' (for single player gameplay)
  5. Find line 'seta r_customwidth,' set to "2400" (if not present, add 'seta r_customwidth "2400"')
  6. Find line 'seta r_customheight,' set to "600" (if not present, add 'seta r_customheight "600"')
  7. Find the line 'seta r_mode' set to "-1"
  8. Find the line 'seta r_mode,' set to "-1" Find line 'seta cg_fov,' set to "138" (if not present, add 'seta cg_fov "138"')
  9. Edit registry
  10. Find line \\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MTXPARH\Device0
  11. Add binary key named 'OGL.TripleHead' - set to '01 00 00 00'
  12. Run single player game (HUD should now be only displaying on central screen).

  13. Note: Do not change resolution in-game, or these changes will have to be repeated.

At first glance, when you consider that you need three monitors, Surround Gaming seems quite unpractical. On the other hand, the least expensive of the 17" monitors are no longer unaffordable, so some of you might actually consider making the investment. Fans of Flight Simulator should be particularly be tempted by what Surround Gaming offers.

3D Performance

A few more comments before we begin with the 3D benchmarks. Matrox does not see the Parhelia as being the GeForce 4 killer. Instead of going for maximum benchmark scores, the Canadian company focuses on excellent performance at maximum image quality, or, to be more exact, on the use of anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing (FSAA). This is where the true strength of the Parhelia is supposed to be found. In order to analyze the Parhelia from this angle, we made a second run of the benchmark tests, in addition to the standard run. In the first run, we looked at its performance during standard operation, or with tri-linear filtering and without FSAA. The reason for this is that many users make their evaluations based on frame rate above all. And for $399, you can't blame the user for having high expectations.

In Part II, we'll be looking at the Parhelia's image quality and its performance at maximum quality, with a comparison to an NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti4600. Here, we won't be including ATI's Radeon 8500, because its anisotropic filtering, which involves various driver tricks, is somewhat controversial and would make a comparison unnecessarily complicated.

Test Setup

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ProcessorIntel Pentium 4 2,2 GHz (100 MHz)
Memory2 x 256 MB, PC 266, CL2
Graphic CardsMatrox Parhelia 512 128 MB RetailNVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti Ti 4600ATI Radeon 8500 128 MB
MotherboardMSI 845G Max
Drivers & Software
Graphics DriverNVIDIA - v29.42ATI - v6.13.10.6094Matrox - v1.00.25
DirectX Version8.1
OSWindows XP Professional
Benchmarks & Settings
Quake III ArenaRetail Version 1.17Benchmark using 'Q3DEMO1'
Star WarsRetail Version v1.02
Jedi Knight IIBenchmark using 'jk2ffa'
Max PayneRetail Version v1.05Benchmark using 'Shooting Alex'
GiantsRetail Version v1.04
AquanoxRetail Version v1.17
Dungeon SiegeRetail Version v1.00
Comanche 4Benchmark Demo V
3D Mark 2001 SEPro Version, Build 330