S3 Graphics follows Nvidia lead

5400e fits all bills

THE SMALLEST of the GPU makers is pitching a new chip that promises to deliver one of the highest FLOPS per watt ratios out there. The S3 5400e is affordable, does the GPGPU dog-and-pony trick and – save for its progenitor’s reputation in drivers – looks like a low cost alternative to ATI and Nvidia.

Based on the same architecture as the 540 GTX chips, the GPU supports DirectX 10.1, OpenGL 3.1, OpenCL 1.0 and a slew of connectivity options that should please the HTPC crowd. This ‘mature’ 65nm process chip houses 4 raster operation units, 32 unified shaders and a 64-bit memory interface supporting DDR3, GDDR3 and DDR2. The core clock rate is a riddle, but an educated guess will put it below the 800MHz bar, which is something you’d do if you wanted to keep power consumption down.

Here are a couple of shots on the card. Note the enigmatic USB-like connector on the edge and no, don’t ask what those molex-like plugs are on the back.

top down5400e perspective

You can imagine the computing power of these chips is fairly low when compared to the likes of ATI’s Evergreen line and Nvidia’s G200 series chips. But the 5400e was tailored to cover your desktop Windows needs as well as allowing you to run cheap multicore GPGPU boxes capable of chewing gigaFLOPS of data while keeping pace with the latest games. S3 Graphics PR also claims it’s got the best FLOPS per watt ratio on the market. We’ll reserve judgment on that for later.

So why does S3 introduce such a part? Well, why not? If it can convince someone to build a decent GPGPU box with it, using the same cheap parts it produces for desktop graphics, well, more power to it.

Just slap a “HPC-friendly” sticker on the marketing presentations and maybe someone will pick it up.S|A

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