Friday, July 27, 2007

Intergraph 3D PCs Look Very Good (01apr97)

April 1, 1997

Intergraph will begin selling very affordable 3D-oriented PCs directly to the public via an 800 "Express" number as well as the Internet beginning May 5th. Units can be pre-configured or custom tailored (typical). The distribution, prices and features of these "TD" systems are noticeably more aggressive than Intergraph’s first foray into the PC realm in December 1996.

Prices are targeted to match low-price competitors such as Dell even though all of the Intergraph machines are configured with some degree of 3D hardware acceleration. In addition, all of them also include a copy of Microsoft Office 97, 2 USB ports, and special software to better manage the PCs.

Complete pre-configured systems using a non-MMX Pentium, including monitors but not network cards, begin at $1,899. The May 5th introduction deliberately coincides with Intel’s debut of the Pentium Pro MMX, which will now be called Pentium II. Pentium Pro powered Intergraph PCs will all use that new chip. A Intergraph PC configured similar to the Tri-Star we just reviewed is expected to cost $3,099. That includes a bigger but slower hard drive than the Tri-Star.

All of the Express pre-configured systems use Intergraph’s $135 Intense 3D 100 graphics card with 4 MB of EDO DRAM and a RISC processor. That card has received rave reviews for its 3D performance in Direct 3D (a Microsoft API used widely for games) although it does not accelerate the more robust and common OpenGL API used in many design packages. Other strengths include perceptively correct textures, Gouraud shading and environment mapping. Performance in the general 2D realm is unusually stunning. The best compromise setting provides 1,024 by 768 resolution at 65k colors and an 85 Hz guaranteed vertical refresh rate.

There are at least eight other graphics options beyond Intense 3D 100, and the top four are variations on Intergraph’s Intense 3D Pro 1000. The 1000, at $1,999, supports both OpenGL and Heidi APIs for accurate 3D. Additional features include 24- or 32-bit Z buffering, trilinear texture mapping, 32-bit textures, fog, and alpha blending.

The special software for managing PCs provided by Intergraph is called Intersite. This software is desktop management interface (DMI) compliant. For very small companies and individual users, Intersite may be of marginal value. Companies with large networks and PC management staff will probably appreciate the hardware monitor software which is good for part theft deterrence as well as physical breakdown warnings. Others tools include a software driver version manager and the WatchDog rapid administrator notification system. Rounding out Intergraph’s offering are five service programs.