Two by two
3dfx explain the advantages of multi-chip graphics cards, such as their Voodoo 5 series
When 3dfx first announced their latest range of graphics cards, many people were surprised to see how underperforming the VSA-100 chip which powered them was compared to other leading 3D graphics cards at the time. In fact, 3dfx's promise of gigapixel rendering was only achieved by stuffing four of the chips on a single card and running them in parallel. But although it sounded like a ridiculous solution at the time, 3dfx's long overdue but soon-to-be-released Voodoo 5 6000 is actually not much more expensive than NVIDIA's GeForce 2 Ultra, which will use a single super-fast chip and exotic memory to try to out-perform 3dfx's huge chunk of silicon. According to 3dfx chief technical officer Gary Tarolli though, multi-chip solutions can actually be cheaper than single chip cards.
"Chip yields are such that they drop off very quickly after a certain die size, so two small chips can be cheaper than one large chip", Gary explains. "And if you are starving for memory bandwidth, two chips allows you to have more memory bandwidth without increasing the pin count per chip, which can get very expensive after a certain point. That is why you don't see single chip 256-bit memory interfaces in the consumer market."
And with ATI also producing dual chip graphics cards, they're not alone either. So can we expect to see more new multi-chip cards from 3dfx next year? "You will see scaleable solutions from 3dfx in the future. I'm not saying that every product will be scalable, just that we will continue to move forward with product scalability in mind."