3DLabs' first tap into the consumer graphics market was in November 1995 with its Game GLINT (also known as GiGi) chip. It is a scaled-down variant of 3DLabs' GLINT 300TX chipset released a year earlier, which was designed for professional 3D and CAD applications. The only graphics card produced using this chip was Creative Labs' 3D Blaster VLB. It is a unique card in that it is the only existing consumer-level 3D accelerator (and texture mapper) for the VLB bus, and it was designed for 80486 VLB users who wanted Pentium-level gaming performance. It has 1 MB graphics memory for display frame buffer and 1 MB texture memory. The 3D Blaster VLB can be used as a standalone 2D/3D graphics card or as a 3D-only accelerator when paired with a 2D graphics card in the same system through a VGA pass-through cable (in the same manner that cards based on 3Dfx's Voodoo Graphics and Voodoo2 chipsets function). The 3D Blaster VLB supported Creative Labs' own proprietary API known as Creative Graphics Library (CGL). Only a handful of CGL games were ever released (more information here) and only these games take advantage of the 3D Blaster VLB's 3D rendering features. Games that do take advantage of the 3D Blaster VLB usually run in higher resolution (640x400 or 640x480) and with additional graphics detail. However, with these additional rendering features enabled, performance in supported games is less than desirable (unless one has a VLB Pentium system) and reviewers knocked the card. Most gamers at the time opted to upgrade to a PCI Pentium system instead. The 3D Blaster VLB was supplanted several months later by its PCI bus counterpart, the 3D Blaster PCI, which used Rendition's Verite 1000 chip and had better game compatibility and performance.
The 3D Blaster VLB nowadays is a very rare card and usually if it shows up on auction websites, the price will be very high. The 3D Blaster VLB also supposedly supports Direct3D if the graphics memory upgrade module is installed. However, the memory upgrade module is more difficult to find than the 3D Blaster VLB itself, and would also be very steeply-priced. Unlike 3DLabs' other graphics chips and chipsets, the Game GLINT does not support OpenGL. Display drivers are available for Windows 3.1x and Windows 95.
Permedia and Permedia NT
3DLabs released the Permedia and Permedia NT in 1996, and they served as value-oriented graphics chips designed for the professional 3D and CAD markets. Permedia NT differs from the original in that it features a separate geometry co-processor chip (known as Delta) for performing transformation, clipping and lighting calculations. However, the Delta geometry co-processor is optimized for professional 3D and CAD applications rather than for games, resulting in anemic overall gaming performance. On the upside, the main advantage at the time was that 3DLabs was the only company producing consumer-level graphics chips that had full OpenGL ICD driver support (other manufacturers didn't support OpenGL at all or released a miniport driver instead).
The Permedia and Permedia NT support Windows 9x and NT 4.0. Supported APIs include Direct3D, OpenGL ICD and HEIDI.
Popular cards include Diamond Multimedia's FireGL 1000 and Leadtek's Winfast 3D L2200.
The Permedia 2 was released in late 1997 and was an evolution of the original Permedia. The discrete Delta geometry co-processor chip originally featured in the Permedia NT is now integrated into the Permedia 2's core logic, resulting in a single-chip solution. Permedia 2 supports AGP texturing as well as 3D rendering in 32-bit color depth. However, it does not support colored vertex blending, which results in games using only monochromatic lighting - notable examples are in Quake 2 and Quake III: Arena. No colored lighting is present in Quake 2 even when using the OpenGL renderer, and Quake III: Arena only supports vertex lighting on the Permedia 2.
Most Permedia 2 graphics cards do not come with out-of-the-box VESA VBE support, requiring the use of TSRs such as UniVBE/SciTech Display Doctor in order to use higher-resolution VESA graphics modes in DOS. DOS VGA compatibility is also spotty. The Permedia 2 is also 3DLabs' last graphics chip with Windows 95 support.
Permedia 3 and GLINT R3
The Permedia 3 and GLINT R3 are the third iterations of 3DLabs' Permedia architecture. Both were released in mid 1999 and again were directed at the professional 3D and CAD application market. The Permedia 3, however, had more emphasis on being directed at gaming. Both are also Direct3D 6-compliant. The Permedia 3 and GLINT R3 are nearly identical to each other, but the GLINT R3 is more optimized for professional 3D and CAD applications as well as multiprocessor systems. At this time 3DLabs began producing their own graphics cards rather than license their graphics chips out to OEMs, in the same manner that 3dfx did with their Voodoo3/4/5 series. The Permedia 3 and GLINT R3 also introduced support for hardware dot product bump mapping, but this feature would not be extensively used in games until a year or so after its release. Other consumer-level graphics cards at the time only supported emboss bump mapping. Three retail cards based on this chip were released: 3DLabs' Permedia 3 Create! (using the Permedia 3 chip), Oxygen VX1 and the Oxygen GVX1 (both using the GLINT R3 chip). The Oxygen VX1 was released in both 32 MB and 16 MB configurations (the latter was designated as the Oxygen VX1-16). The Oxygen GVX1 featured a separate geometry co-processor (known as Gamma G1) chip for performing transformation, clipping and lighting calculations, much in the same manner that the Delta co-processor functioned in the Permedia and Permedia 2 series. Likewise with Delta, the Gamma G1 geometry co-processor is not optimized for games. Gaming performance-wise, the Permedia 3 and GLINT R3 are both slower than even NVIDIA's RIVA TNT and ATI's Rage 128 GL (both released several months earlier) in most situations, and they are definitely no match for the RIVA TNT2 or 3dfx's Voodoo3. Their performance in professional 3D and CAD applications, however, is much better. The Oxygen GVX1 is slower than NVIDIA's GeForce 256 and Quadro in both games and professional 3D applications, but produces far fewer rendering anomalies in professional 3D applications.
Later card revisions added AGP 4x support - if purchased in a retail box, there usually will be an "AGP 4x" sticker present on the box to indicate such support.
Compared to 3DLabs' previous graphics chips, the GLINT R3 has better DOS VGA compatibility and contains VESA VBE support out-of-the-box.
The Permedia 3 and GLINT R3 require Windows 98 or Windows NT 4.0 (or newer). Overall, this chip is definitely not geared towards gaming.