Alternative Graphic Chips

Until the mid 90’s it was possible to buy video cards using chips from the most varied manufacturers, such as Trident, Oak, S3, 3dfx, Matrox, NVIDIA, ATI, and 3Dlabs, just to name the most famous ones.  Nowadays it seems we live in an era when there are basically only two manufacturers on the market, ATI and NVIDIA, despite the existence of others.  Finding a video card that uses a graphic chip that is not from one of those two companies is rare.

Just to have an idea, according to the Market Analysis Company Jon Peddie Research (JPR), in the first quarter of this year the market for graphic chips was divided the following way:  Intel, 33%; NVIDIA, 27.2%; ATI, 24%; VIA, 7.8%; SiS, 6.9%; Matrox, 0.52%; XGI, 0.44%; 3Dlabs, 0.04%.  This study includes the market for on-board video, the reason for the appearance of Intel, VIA, and SiS (VIA’s numbers include those from S3). The other companies that used to be popular in the past have either shut their door or been taken over.  3dfx, for instance, has shut their doors and NVIDIA has acquired its brand and intellectual property.  3Dlabs has been acquired by Creative.  S3 has been acquired by VIA and only last year S3 went back to projecting graphic chips again.  And Trident has been acquired by XGI, a company created by SiS to project and manufacture graphic chips for video cards.

But why do the other companies have less than 1% of the market?  It is because of lacking competitive products.  XGI (, for instance, has a complete line of graphic chips today:  Volari V3 for the basic market, Volari V5 for the intermediate market, and Volari V8 for the top tier.  The same holds true for S3 (, with its DeltaChrome line, comprising the F1 models for the top tier, S8 for the intermediate market, and S4 for the basic market, and its GammaChrome line, with native support to the new PCI Express bus.

We have to have in mind that XGI is a company that has just a year of life and S3 only started producing graphic chips again last year.  That somewhat explains the reason for the low market share of those companies:  they have been on the market for too little time!

But the truth is that no big video card manufacturer is willing to take any changes launching products based on unknown graphic chips.  This is so true that XGI intends to manufacture its own video cards, in order not to have to depend on the goodwill of other manufacturers.  The only thing that the manufacturers overlook is the fact that both NVIDIA as ATI were small one day…

Matrox ( is a different case. Even its top-of-the-line products – Millenium P650, Millenium P750, and Parhelia – are technologically outdated, using the DirectX 8.1 graphic motor, and not the 9.0 like the products of all other manufacturers.  That partially accounts for Matrox’s sales failure.

The space here is too short to detail and compare the technical characteristics of all graphic chips that exist on the market today.  At it is possible to see tables comparing the technical characteristics of all existing graphic chips, including those from alternative manufacturers.

In our opinion, having more chip manufacturers on the market is excellent, for it means more options for the consumer.  In general, companies that are new on the market launch good products at more accessible prices, which is excellent for the developing countries, where few can afford the small fortune that a first tier video card costs.

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Author: Gabriel Torres

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.

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