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Chips show graphic improvements

Companies are introducing chips at the WinHEC conference to provide new graphics features for computers and PC-TVs.

SAN FRANCISCO--At the WinHEC conference here today, a number of companies including S3 (SIII) and Philips Semiconductor are introducing chips that will bring new graphics capabilities for portable devices and PC-TVs, as well as desktop computers.

S3 introduced a graphics accelerator chip for mobile computers that would allow notebook PCs to display information on two displays simultaneously, a feature sometimes useful for viewing items such as large spreadsheets or two pages of a document. Notebooks using the chip would also be able to send images directly to a television screen for sales presentations and other uses.

The Virge/MX will also support the Accelerated Graphics Port, according to S3. AGP is a dedicated connection between 3D graphics chips and system memory that is designed to help the PC keep up with the demands of data-intensive 3D applications.

S3 says the graphics chip will also allow better power management for notebooks. Screens are one of the main drains on a system's battery, and making them operate more efficiently can help extend its life.

S3 also introduced the Virge/GX2 PC-TV graphics accelerator, which will likely find use in home computers and PC-TV products. The chipset can be used to display images on a television or even simultaneosly on two monitors. Virge/GX2 will also support digital video disc systems.

Manufacturers will have other interesting options for PC-TV devices. Philips introduced new video graphics controllers that will allow a system to capture, store, and deliver information from a television signal or DVD-ROM. The company says the chips will allow video capture and editing in multimedia applications such as videoconferencing.

The chips have a built-in TV encoder to display information on a monitor and television at the same time, with different content on each.

Philips, which already manufactures a set-top Web browser using a hardware design licensed from WebTV, says next-generation PC-TV devices might use such chips. That could make it possible to have one inexpensive "box" serve as a processing center for both a PC used in one room of a home and for Internet access in another.