S3 Savage4 Preview

by Anand Lal Shimpi on March 1, 1999 8:55 PM EST

When S3 announced its return to the graphics chipset industry last year AnandTech couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about the power player’s return to the lime light. At the time, their Savage3D product was supposed to take them the distance to make S3 the elusive "Voodoo2-killer," but as we now all know, in 1998, the killer’s cameo never made it to the big screen, and S3’s two year long project went down in blazes. The Savage3D was a general failure in comparison to nVidia’s hot product, the TNT, however the failure of the Savage3D wasn’t because of a weak chipset, or a poorly performing exhibition, rather the Savage3D was nothing more than a premature baby. Had S3 given the Savage3D time to mature, the product might have grown into something the market would be able to assimilate, unfortunately, not even the low price tag could keep the Savage3D’s sales up to even a reasonable point.

After companies like Diamond Multimedia dropped their previously proposed Savage3D parts things seem to slide down hill for S3. It wasn’t as if S3 didn’t have the brains to put out a killer product, because they did, and it wasn’t as if S3 didn’t have the manpower to make the Savage3D a stellar solution, because they definitely did, if anything, it seemed like the hype surrounding the search for the "Voodoo2-killer" of 1998 caused S3 to be overconfident in their Savage3D and jump the gun with its release. The release was plagued by poor driver support, sub par quality testing on the Savage3D chips themselves, and an overall poor reflection on S3 as a company.

When AnandTech previewed the Savage3D, the results looked promising, however when AnandTech reviewed the final revision Savage3D, the fact that the problems from the original preview generally remained as pronounced in the final review soured AnandTech’s taste on the entire Savage3D experience. The only company to hold on to S3’s vision with the Savage3D was Hercules, who happened to be the first to jump the gun with a release and have supported the chip ever since. Other than Hercules tending to S3’s unfortunate niche market, the Savage3D has been nothing but dead water, allowing the rest of the market to easily be gobbled up by nVidia, 3Dfx, and Matrox in the 3D wars of late 1998.

Then came 1999, the year of competition, and the start of the search for the dominant force in the 3D gaming market. Last year showed us all that a standalone 3D accelerator could rise to the top of the market, however it also showed us that the standalone 3D accelerator market is a niche market, and does happen to limit itself greatly from a large number of potential customers. The nVidia TNT was the perfect example that a 2D/3D combo solution can succeed, simply because the 2D/3D TNT did just that, succeed beyond belief in spite of nVidia’s inflation of the specifications of their over-hyped product. What part does S3 play in all this? Learning from their mistakes, S3 is up for another try, this time, instead of going back to the drawing boards, S3 has decided to improve on a design that already had great potential, and the result is everything the Savage3D should have been back in 1998. When Diamond Multimedia came to AnandTech with an offer to take a look at their latest S3 based product, AnandTech scheduled an appointment with the company that flat out rejected S3 with their original design, the Savage3D, yet was eager to show off their latest concoction, the Savage4 at full speed. What was so great about S3’s latest product that would make Diamond change their minds about S3’s products? The same thing that AnandTech was hoping for from S3 at the start of the Savage3D hype.

A Quick Refresher Course: AGP
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