For the moment, Matrox can claim the crown for technological leadership, but the situation is sure to change soon. In the next few weeks, new product launches from NVIDIA and ATI are already expected, which should put Matrox's advantages in a different light.
We are pleased to see this new competitor, but this is somewhat dampened by the fact that up to now, working samples of the hardware have only been available for view at individual presentations. There's no card in sight, much less final specifications, names for the cards, prices and benchmarks. These won't be available until next month. Until then, the press is supposed to content itself with an extensive collection of detailed whitepapers. Of course, none of the claims made in these documents can be confirmed, due to the lack of hardware. Therefore, we strongly recommend a healthy dose of skepticism when you look at the new features, because otherwise, you'll hardly find any weaknesses or disadvantages in the Parhelia-512.
Similar to ATI with its R8500 last year, Matrox wants to bask in the limelight first, tempting consumers with attractive new technologies. Real hardware tests, which could possibly reveal weaknesses, would only put a damper on the party.
With their bold concept of targeting 2D professionals as well as gaming enthusiasts with the same product, Matrox is clearly going for a niche market. It remains to be seen if this strategy works, because in the past, Matrox lost the loyalty of many a gamer with the poor 3D performance offered by the G450 and G550 cards. Another aspect that's not to their advantage is that the pixel shaders are limited to v1.3, or DirectX 8.1. In addition, in the area of graphics cards, most of the money to be made is in the OEM sector, and this is already firmly in the hands of Radeon 7500/7000 and GeForce 2 Ti/GeForce 4 MX. Matrox has not planned anything for this market segment.
One can only speculate as to why only whitepapers have been released and why test samples of the cards are being held back. Is this an attempt to get an early grip on the market, before the new ATI and NVIDIA chips grab up all the attention? Or are there still too many problems with the drivers and hardware? At the moment, Matrox is hiding the answers behind rosy marketing statements. We can only give you the real answers in June, when the first test samples are made available. The question of whether fragment anti-aliasing is worth it in practice also cannot be evaluated in any detail until that time.
We can only hope that in reality, everything is as rosy as Matrox claims it to be, because competition in the market has never done any harm. Welcome back, Matrox!