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July 21, 1998

MITSUBISHI CLAIMS FIRST PROGRAMMABLE 3D ENGINE

By CBR Staff Writer

Mitsubishi Electronics Inc claims to have the industry’s first microcode-programmable, single-chip geometry engine, the IMPAC- GE. The high-end engine designed for use in workstations was launched at the Siggraph ’98 show in Florida yesterday and is the first in a family of products Mitsubishi says will reach down to the high-end of the gaming market. Geometry engines improve 3D graphics performance by taking on transformation, clipping and lighting tasks – power-hungry routines which add realism to 3D images – from the host CPU. Mitsubishi says the inevitable slips in Intel Corp’s timetable for introducing new CPUs makes geometry acceleration a must for the graphics workstation industry, which is trying to reach into Unix’s territory. Mitsubishi claims that what sets its new product apart is programmability – the ability to re-write the engine’s microcode to allocate more or less tasks to it, depending on the nature of the host system. If a uniprocessor system is upgraded to a quad then more tasks can be directed to the CPUs. Drivers will have to be re-tuned but Mitsubishi argues the drawback of hard-wired engines is that they can only add to acceleration until next generation CPUs ‘catch up,’ and that re-programming the microcode is not as messy as it sounds. Mitsubishi says its new engine can scale to work with each a new generation, shrink, tweak or clock increase of CPU, partitioning the tasks each chip will perform. The chip is available now and Mitsubishi says prices will be competitive with comparable hardwired products. The high-end implementation is supposed to be competitive to 3DLabs Inc’s Glint Gamma board which costs around $375. Mitsubishi developed the chip with its graphics partner Evans & Sutherland Co with E&S’ RealImage graphics accelerators in mind. Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc’s Fire GL 5000 graphics accelerator chipset is the first win for IMPAC-GE. The board uses E&S’ RealImage 2100. Mitsubishi, which owns the intellectual property, says it will also appear in other third party products.

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