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We're heading back to Kyro

nVidia and ATI sit back and ponder their latest competitor in the budget graphics market

Do you remember the Kyro? We previewed it in the middle of last year, and guessed (wrongly, it would seem) that the card had a bright future ahead of it in budget gaming systems, on the back of its strong array of PowerVR features. The final silicon was eventually labelled the Videologic Vivid, and the world hasn't really seen hide nor hair of it for over six months. That is, until this weekend, when rumours started to brew of a "Kyro II"; rumours that were eventually confirmed when we sauntered over to Hercules' press website. The press releases have only been issued this morning here in the United Kingdom, by Imagination Technologies, one of STMicrolectronics' (the chipset developer) strategic business partners. It reads, "STMicroelectronics today unveiled its next generation KYRO II 3D Graphics Accelerator. Powered by PowerVR™ Tile Based Rendering (TBR) technology, KYRO II demonstrates clear performance leadership when compared with other products in its class on popular games and industry benchmarks." That's quite a claim. The actual specs of the new Kyro II-based 3D accelerator that Hercules are to distribute (called the "3D Prophet 4500" by the way) don't look too special when pitted against the likes of the GeForce 2 MX or Radeon VE. A slower RAMDAC, no T&L support, and the GeForce 2 MX was released nearly half a year ago. Some might argue that the relevance of a slower RAMDAC on a budget card is miniscule, since it's basically associated with refresh rates at high resolutions, but the marketing pitch is that the Kyro II features ground-breaking visual quality and impressive fill rate thanks to TBR, so honestly, how more relevant can high refresh rates in multiple resolutions be? T&L is a slightly less important feature, but does it bear noting that the only company so far to discount it (3dfx) is now out of business? Okay, I'm clutching straws, but you get my drift! Also, fair enough, it's the only card in its price bracket with full DirectX 7/8 support, and for an extra £20 you get TV/out, but again, this is just icing. The secret to the Kyro II's performance gains, according to the press release, is its advanced Tiler technology. But hang on... isn't that what made the Kyro so special? That's right, in a bizarre move, Hercules and ST are using the Kyro II's ability to make use of Tile-based rendering as the basis of their marketing... again! With the increased clock speed (175MHz instead of 125MHz) the companies are banking on an impressive increase in fill rate to rival a slightly higher class of cards, and not just put it in line with the MX and VEs of this world. As you will remember from our preview, the Kyro creates a list of pixels to be rendered for each scene, and uses it to eliminate 'overdraw', where the card renders pixels obscured by scenery. By doing this the effective fill rate of the card is increased, because less memory bandwidth is required to render pixels which aren't in view. This very feature is now supported on ATI's Radeon series as part of a three-pronged Z-buffer manipulation technology called "HyperZ", which eliminates overdraw in pretty much the same manner. Whether the Radeon VE can compete with the Kyro II remains to be seen, mind. It's fair enough I suppose - overdraw is definitely a big issue. To see how badly you're suffering from it, fire up Quake III and type "r_showtris 1" in the console then look around. What gets us though is that they are using TBR to market the damn card for the second time running, as if we won't remember! So what else does the Kyro II have to show for itself? FSAA support, but that's a given, a few other buzzword features that now appear on practically every other card under the sun. The Radeon VE, a card that Hercules and ST will be keen to compete against with the 3D Prophet 4500, offers pretty much every feature found on the Kyro II and also supports dual monitor outputs. And although Hercules are claiming that the Kyro II will assist with DVD decoding, we've made our bed in that department based on visual quality and smooth multi-tasking, and again it's with ATI. Of course we will be happy to give the 3D Prophet 4500 a fair trial when we get our hands on one, but frankly we're surprised to see it enter the marketplace without something new up its sleeve. Related Feature - Kyro 3D - Hands-on Preview

Source - press release