XGI Technology Drivers Revisited

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 2 January 2007. Page 1 of 1. Add A Comment

It has been one year to the day since XGI Technology had last released a Volari Linux display driver and about 14 months since we had first delivered word of XGI considering open-source 3D display drivers. Where do things now stand for XGI Technology? We will tell you all of the details today where things are for this Taiwan graphics company.

For the uninformed, XGI Technology was founded in 2003 after acquiring Trident Microsystems and the Silicon Integrated System's (SiS) graphics division. XGI Technology specializes in embedded and server GPUs in addition to their desktop line-up. For the longest time, their GPU selection primarily consisted of the Volari V3, V3XT, V5, and V8/V8 Ultra. Even for their time, these AGP graphics cards were fairly slow and had difficulty competing with the ATI and NVIDIA competition. One of the unique things for its time, however, was the Volari V8 Duo which had featured two GPUs on the same PCB. The Volari V8 Duo came before ATI's MultiGPU CrossFire Technology and NVIDIA's Scalable Link Interface.

In November of 2005 was the launch of their first discrete PCI Express graphics card -- the XG47 Volari 8300. Like the other Volari GPUs, the XG47 was a slow contender and its primary focus was for video playback. Another graphics card that was supposed to hit the market in the first half of 2005 was the Volari 8600 series. However, even now being into 2007 the Volari 8600 XG45 has yet to be released. The Volari 8600XT was supposed to be XGI's shining crown, but with the current progress of ATI and NVIDIA GPUs we doubt that the XG45 will ever see the light of day.

The arousal of open-source 3D display drivers for XGI Volari graphics cards had initially started when we had interviewed XGI's Business Development Manager prior to Computex Taipei 2005. At that time, Jeryuan Yan had simply stated they would consider the suggestion, and nothing more in the public spotlight. However, as we had later shared in November of 2005, XGI Technology was seriously considering making their drivers open-source and likely in a GPL fashion. This was all prior to the open-source Radeon R300 drivers, the conception of Nouveau, and the rumor of AMD considering open-sourcing portions of the fglrx display driver.

In 2005 XGI Technology had released its driver source code to X.Org for Linux, but it was only the 2D source-code with Frame buffer device support for the Linux 2.4 kernel. Support for the Volari V3XT, V5, and V8 are supported by the sis driver found in X.Org 6.9 and later. These drivers are available from X.Org git using xorg/driver/xf86-video-xgi.

On January 2, 2006 was the last time XGI Technology had released a Volari driver update for Linux. What this release had added was support for the Linux 2.6 kernel and added 3D functionality to these drivers. These drivers (version L1.04.13) remain the latest drivers available and have closed-source 3D support but only support up to X.Org 6.8.2, early 2.6 kernels, no control panel, and all of the other features are very primitive.

However, it is not only the Volari Linux display drivers that are being left in the dust, but the last time there was an official Windows XP/2000 Volari Reactor driver release was on April 10, 2006. Like the Linux drivers, the Volari Reactor drivers have been debated with their trifling quality.

One of the interesting moves last year was when ATI Technologies had acquired Macrosynergy, which was a Shanghai-based XGI Technology alliance company. This deal resulted in 100 of the Shanghai employees becoming assets of ATI along with some XGI employees.

It has now been a year to the day since XGI Technology had last issued a public driver update for Linux. The drivers a year ago were troubling with only initial support for the Linux 2.6 kernel and no support for X.Org 6.9 or newer. We have tried to communicate with XGI Technology representatives about their Linux drivers and what hope is left for them, but they have yet to inform us or even contact us back after we bring up the matter of drivers. It is also worth pointing out that Jeryuan Yan (XGI Technology's Business Development Manager) has since left the company. Throughout this entire time, the XGI Volari 8600XT, Volari 8600, or Volari 8600 Mobile have yet to surface.

At the end of 2005 there was a glimmer of hope that we would be seeing quality XGI Volari display drivers as a result of open-sourcing their display drivers, but as we see it now all hope has been lost on the desktop side. NVIDIA had introduced its GeForce 8800GTX and ATI will be shortly introducing its Radeon R600 series, while the folks at XGI Technology are left generations behind. In months past we have seen the Volari Z7 being used on server motherboards and embedded systems, which looks to be the area where XGI has been focusing all of its development and engineering efforts.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via TwitterLinkedIn,> or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.