Wanted: A Pared-Down Parhelion

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Matrox announced its reentry into the gamers’ market yesterday with the Parhelia.

Given Matrox’s vaporing (remember Glide wrappers for the G400?) and disappearing acts the last few years, I don’t know if I would want to name my new product after what is basically a mirage.

The introduction certainly was one. No actual product to test. Essentially, marketing material and a dog-and-pony show for a few.

The raw numbers and features certainly look impressive, though how well they’ll translate into real performance is at least questionable in some cases. As stated there, the Parhelia looks to be a memory bandwidth waster.

On the other hand, this card is a multidimensional player, with promised improved features in areas like video quality and multimonitor use that have been traditional Matrox strengths.

The two real problems I see, though, have nothing to do with the product itself, which will probably be fine if not a nVidia ‘nihilator.

First, the price tag: $400-$500. Why do I keep thinking “Voodoo 5 6000” when I see that?

The issue is not whether or not it’s worth $400-$500. It’s too early to know that.

The issue is rather how many people are going to buy it even if it is worth $400-$500.

You may say, “nVidia charges $400 for its top end cards, what the big deal?”

The big deal is if you want GF4 technology, but can’t or won’t shell out for a Ti4600, you can buy a Ti4400, or a Ti4200. If you’re not so picky, you have the MX series. What choices will you have with Matrox?

Supposedly, there will be somewhat cheaper versions available, but when you have Matrox spokesman saying “this card is not for the masses” or review comments like “you shouldn’t expect the Parhelia to compete with the GeForce4 Ti 4200 anytime soon,” this is not promising and could spell big trouble for Matrox down the road.

You’d better damn well have a video card for the masses if you want to sell masses of video cards. You especially better have one when for all intents and purposes, you’re a newcomer to the high performance video card market.

If anybody can afford to be arrogant at this point, it’s nVidia, but you notice that nVidia is very careful when it announces a new generation of products to have one for most budgets. Matrox, on the other hand, emphasized the price of the most expensive unit. I think that’s foolish.

Who is going to buy tons of these things?

Not the gamers. Unless the world has changed dramatically, the vast majority of them won’t or can’t pay that much for a video card.

Not the corporate world. The G400/450/550s were awfully good corporate cards at a reasonable price. Now Matrox is essentially telling the people who’ve kept them afloat, “We’re doubling or tripling the price, but now you can play great games with it!” Thud.

“You can use three monitors with our expensive card rather than two with our $100 card!” isn’t going to do a whole lot better with the average suit, though better than “Dad, I need three monitors to play my game.”

For sure, some will buy this card and swear by it, but how many?

What Matrox needs is a good $150 Parhelia. Otherwise, they run the great risk of alienating the customers they do have in the chase for customers that don’t exist (at least not in great numbers).

But Maybe I’m Wrong

About a year and a half ago, we did a survey, and back then, most of you indicated that $150 was the most you’d spend for a video card, and very few said they’d pay more than $250 for one.

Perhaps things have changed. Given what Matrox and 3DLabs are planning, either it has changed, or they’re delusional.

So let me ask again. One question, one answer:

What is the absolute most you’ll pay for a video card?

a) Under $150
b) $150-$175
c) $200 or under
d) $250 or under
e) $300 or under
f) $350 or under
g) $400 or under
h) $500 or under
i) My wallet is yours!


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