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January 7th, 2000

[Show Floor] MACWORLD Expo - One-on-One with Formac - Mac 3D Gaming Options Explode
by Bryan Chaffin

The graphic and upgrade accelerator market is soon to have a new player in the US, though many of our European Observers will know the name. Formac officially opened for business in the US in June of 1999, selling graphic accelerators, processor upgrades, monitors, RAID solutions, and other Mac-specific products. We sat down with Oliver Bergmann, Ph.D., President and CEO of Formac USA.

The company is offering several products aimed at Mac users on the high end. The product we think will be the most popular is the ProFormance 3 3D accelerator combined with the ProCyber 3D goggles. The goggles use a polarized shutter to turn a stereo image produced by the ProFormance video card on the user's monitor into a truly 3D image. It has to be experienced to be understood, but it was the highest quality true 3D imaging we have seen. Better yet, this technology will work with any 3D game as it is the card producing the stereo image instead of the gaming companies having to produce specific code. Mac gamers will be clamoring for this product based on our experience.

The company is also offering a RAID 0 solution called ProRAID, the ProTV TV tuner/video capture card, and the ProG3 upgrade line of accelerator cards. A G4 offering may be in the works, but the company will not commit yet to bringing it to market.

Formac has long been a dominant player in the European market with branches in France, the UK, and their home base in Germany. Their ProFormance product line offers some of the best 2D acceleration on the market according to data presented by the company, although we have not independently verified this. The card also supports the OpenGL and RAVE APIs for 3D acceleration. As such, they have been a hit in the European graphics/publishing market as well as the European gaming market.

The Mac Observer Spin: Having another competitor in the Mac graphics market is a good thing. The benchmarks the company showed us were very impressive, and from an engineering stand point, everything we were shown was topnotch and tightly designed. The fact that they are supporting OpenGL and RAVE also makes their 3D cards compelling products.

With 3Dfx having just announced their own entry into the US market, Formac will definitely have to press hard to compete. Technically, they hold a lead in 2D performance until the Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 cards hit the market later this year, and even their 3D performance can hold its own against current beta Voodoo3 offerings.

What's the most important aspect of all this for Mac users? It is the fact that we are discussing which offering is better as opposed to lamenting the fact that there aren't any choices. We think that Formac will become a force to be reckoned with in the US.

Formac - MACWORLD Expo SF Special Report

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