What Happened To XGI Graphics?
While XGI Technology never gained much market share with these desktop graphics processors, in 2005 we had covered some information on what would have been their flagship series -- the Volari 8300, 8600, and 8600XT. That year XGI Technology had also highlighted some of their products at Computex Taipei. However, the only card in the Volari 8 series to make it outside the doors of XGI's facilities was the Volari 8300 (XG47). This PCI Express graphics card was released in November of 2005, but its life was very short lived. XGI Technology stopped production of the Volari 8300 series (though the XG47 GPU can be found in Real Vision's XMD graphics card) and no other desktop GPUs have since been released.
It was also in 2005 that Phoronix began to share with you that XGI was considering an open-source path for their poorly engineered display drivers. In June of 2005 while interviewing Jeryuan Yan, XGI's business development partner at the time, we was asked why their 3D driver code wasn't open sourced in order to (ideally) mature their drivers much faster. Jeryuan had responded in by stating they would consider the suggestion. However, days after the release of the XGI Volari 8300 we had shared with you that they were indeed considering opening up their entire development process under the GPLv2.
However, in 2006 things had fallen into a rapid descent for XGI Technology. It was in early 2006 that ATI Technologies had acquired Macrosyngergy, which was a fab-less chip designer and an XGI Technology alliance company. As a result, ATI had acquired many of their Shanghai engineers. It was also in 2006 that the XGI Volari 8600 series and any other desktop components failed to make it to the production line. Similarly, it was also in 2006 when Jeryuan Yan had left XGI Technology and other XGI representatives had stopped communicating with us about the XGI open-source driver possibilities.
For an idea as to the quality of their Linux display driver efforts, their last official unified Linux driver was released on January 2, 2006. This driver was the first release to add Linux 2.6 kernel support along with 3D functionality. Our efforts to use this driver (v1.04.13) at Phoronix had failed. The README file for the driver was also ill maintained and was a complete disaster. Likewise, their last Volari Reactor driver release for Windows was on April 10, 2006 and it too was of very poor quality. However, hitting the FreeDesktop BugZilla in late 2006 was finally the 3D driver source code. The 2D source-code for the Z7, Z9, V3XE, and XP10 is also available.
Today XGI is still in business, but their operations are focused solely on embedded and server graphics -- with any divisions outside of that being defunct. Their current product selection in these categories includes the Volari XP10, V5XE, V3XE, V9, V9s, Z7, and the Z11. However, recent activity with the X.Org XGI driver had led to the creation of this article. In the past two months, there have been over 120 commits to the X.Org XGI driver. The git web interface for the xf86-video-xgi driver can be viewed here.
All of the work this year on the XGI driver has been by Ian Romanick of IBM. Speaking with Ian Romanick about this recent XGI activity, he has mostly been cleaning up the driver and removing the dead code. At this point the 2D XGI driver is an enhancement of the SiS driver. Ian will also be porting this driver to the new pci-rework interface and along with Alex Deucher they will be writing a 3D driver for the XG40 GPUs using documentation that XGI Technology has released. Ian Romanick is working on the xf86-video-xgi driver as IBM has an interest in making XGI chips available for embedded PowerPC designs. Along with that, IBM is actively working on promoting open-source device drivers and they feel XGI has an advantage due to their collaborative efforts with the Linux community.
XGI Technology once presented a glimmer of hope to desktop users wishing to find a cheap yet reliable discrete graphics card with official open-source drivers. Thanks in part to IBM, the XGI open-source driver is becoming a reality, but with XGI having refocused their business operations on the embedded and server markets, the days of XGI on the desktop are no more. If you are looking for open-source display drivers, Intel provides official open-source drivers (benchmarks) and there are X.Org 3D drivers for the ATI Radeon graphics cards up to the R500 series -- though reverse engineering work on the R500 (Radeon X1000) series is underway (ATI Has Open-Source Drivers Too).
You can discuss this article and the Linux display drivers in the Phoronix Forums.
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