The Neon 250's PowerVR Series 2 chipset is one of the most anticipated, and most delayed, products in the history of 3D graphics. Initially slated for a late 1998 release, the PowerVR 250 is the PC version of the processors used in Sega's Dreamcast console and Naomi arcade system and was to be the follow-up to the successful PowerVR PCX2 chip that powered both the Apocalypse 3Dx and Matrox M3d. To put it in perspective, the Apocalypse 3Dx was released in April 1997 and competed mainly against the 3dfx Voodoo and Rendition V1000 cards. Until the release of the Neon 250, we had not seen a new PowerVR 3D card from VideoLogic (now Imagination Technologies) since way back then.
This delay in the PowerVR 250 was the subject of much rumor and innuendo. At one point, some misinformed individuals were spamming the Net with theories that the new PowerVR chip simply didn't exist and that it was all a tactic to enhance VideoLogic share prices. Rumors aside, the Neon 250 was getting quite a bit of press, with the most common question being: when will it be released?
This delay between the PowerVR Series2 announcement and the release of the Neon 250 can be accounted for in several different ways. Foremost, The contract with NEC for the Sega ultra-hot Dreamcast console system, released last year in Japan and earlier this month in the US, is probably the biggest culprit along with the painful migration down to .25 micron. Then again, with almost 400,000 units sold in under a week, it's looking to be quite successful for all parties involved. Due to the high level of Sega orders and the significant additional work involved, it's understandable that the PowerVR 250 PC cards were a bit late to market.
Regardless of the reasons, the Neon 250 has finally come to market and fans of the PowerVR technology are probably wondering what the improvements are in the new PVR 250 video chip. From a purely technical point of view, it features improved alpha blending modes, improved texture blending, trilinear filtering, bump mapping, support for super-sampling, environmental mapping, texture compression and improved fogging. Naturally, the speed of the chips has also been increased significantly, even over the initial 66 and 100 MHz demo units.
The Neon 250 comes out of the box at 125 MHz, sporting a new .25 micron chip design that allows for these higher speeds. Memory has also increased from the NEC PCX2's measly 4 MB to the Neon 250's ample 32 MB of high-speed SDRAM. Naturally, the PCX2's 3D-only design has been left behind in favor of a very capable 2D/3D engine complete with a 250 MHz RAMDAC. In every way, the Neon 250 is a vast improvement over previous PowerVR products, and with the highly desirable dual-32 feature (memory and rendering), it looks to at least have the hardware to compete with the big boys.