The Matrox Parhelia 512
Matrox Re-Enters The 3D Graphics Ring - Big, Bad and Pretty

By -Dave Altavilla
May 14, 2002

2D Visuals, Display Output and 2D/3D Color Depth
Old line Matrox quality with leading edge technology

Below is the block diagram section of the Parhelia 512's Display Controller and Output Circuitry.  It comes complete with dual simultaneous and independent outputs for driving dual DVI and VGA outputs.  In addition, Matrox has incorporated 10 bit DAC technology, for more color depth per pixel.

Precision in DAC response is critical to color image quality at the output stage.  DACs (or Digital to Analog Converters) are the responsible for converting the digital image data that is drawn by the GPU into analog output signals that can be displayed on your monitor.  As one can imagine the higher resolution a Color DAC is, the better the final output signal will be.

 

In the above graph, the engineers at Matrox have taken a high speed digital oscilloscope and measured the frequency response of their product versus their competition in a green digital to analog conversion.  The ideal output value is a flat 700Mv, which represents the full intensity of the color signal.  As you can see clearly here, the Parhelia 512 DAC is significantly more uniform across the frequency spectrum.

 

In addition, Matrox has some of the best filtering technology in the business bar none.  Most any Tech Journalist will tell you that historically, Matrox's 2D desktop quality, is the one to beat.  Matrox is claiming to continue their tradition of quality with some of the best custom tuned output circuitry available. 

 

We won't get into the gory details of signal jitter here.  It should suffice to say that nice neat square waves equal a crisp, vibrant image quality.  Big spikes and dips in a signal wave plot, are representative of degradation and loss.  Wonder who that "competitor" is with the nasty messy signal?  We'll be nice and keep it a secret.

 

Matrox Gigacolor:

Rendered on the Parhelia 512
Click for full view

Finally, with Matrox's new 10 bit DACs, they are able to deliver something that is truly unique to the industry at this time.  "Gigacolor", as Matrox likes to call it, is otherwise known as full display of over 1 Billion colors.  Before you peg the "Marketing-Hype-O-Meter" too far, believe or not, the human eye can definitely tell the difference between 16 Million and 1 Billion colors, especially where dark colors are being displayed. During our visit to Matrox HQ for our briefing, we were shown a few basic 3D shapes that were displayed in standard 32 bit color mode and then in Gigacolor, on the desktop.  The effect was fairly prominent, with the Gigacolor display showing far less overall banding in color gradients.

In addition, you can run all 3D gaming titles in full Gigacolor.  Since this 10 bit color precision is driven throughout the graphics pipeline and then ultimately by the 10 bit DACs, any application or game will benefit with better color resolution, especially with a dark scene or image. Also, since the entire rendering pipeline has 10 bit precision, there should be little if any performance degradation while running in Gigacolor mode.

Lastly, as we noted earlier,  the Parhelia 512 also has another big feature on the display output side of things, for multi-monitor support.  However, the good news is now you can do some really fun things with it, from a gaming perspective.  We'll get back to that again later.

 A closer look at the 3D Pipeline!