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Chipmaker steps in to 3D graphics ring

Canadian graphics hardware and software maker Matrox jumps back into the market for 3D chip technology in an effort to steal some thunder from competitors.

Canadian graphics hardware and software maker Matrox on Wednesday jumped back into the market for 3D chip technology in an effort to steal some thunder from competitors Nvidia and ATI Technologies.

Matrox, based in Dorval, Quebec, unveiled the Parhelia-512, a 2D, 3D and DVD-video graphics processing unit (GPU) that includes a 256-bit DDR (double data rate) memory interface which provides more than 20GB per second of bandwidth.

Nvidia and ATI have gone head-to-head in the market for gamers and high-end computer-aided designers, while Matrox of late has focused on 2D graphics technology. With its new product, Matrox says it is ready to take on the competition in the high-end market.

The name of the chip "Parhelia" was inspired by the Greek word "parhelion," which describes a bright spot that can appear on either side of the sun, similar to a halo. Matrox says these bright spots suggest visual quality, performance and innovation; perhaps intentionally, the name could also refer to Parhelia-512's support for side-by-side displays for "surround gaming."

Matrox will ship Parhelia-512 cards in early July. Pricing has not been finalized, but 128MB cards are expected to cost approximately $400.

Nvidia's most recent GPUs are Quadro4, for the professional market, and GeForce4, for mainstream products. Meanwhile, ATI has been losing market share steadily to Nvidia, and in March announced plans to expand into the challenging PC chipset market.

ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma reported from London.