ATI R520 to be Launched Later than Expected@ 2005/05/10
ATI Technologies will first unveil its multi-VPU technology and only then will reveal its code-named R520 visual processing unit with actual graphics cards coming to market this Fall, a report over The Inquirer web-site suggests. The story implies that the R520 chip, which was taped out in November, 2004, is “in good shape” and its later-than-expected announcement is a result of a strategic decision at Markham, Ontario-based ATI Technologies.
While ATI’s officials do not comment on the unannounced products, some sources close to the company indicated that the information has good chances to be accurate and ATI would launch its next-generation VPU when it is feasible from the tactical point of view, as currently the company’s RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition is the world’s fastest single-chip graphics accelerator. Some other sources said ATI was seriously working on the launch of the company’s multi-GPU consumer technology.
The multi-GPU technology from ATI will have a number of fundamental shifts from technologies of this kind, sources close to ATI said late last year. The main thing ATI was working on is how to enable two different graphics cards to work in pair, providing enhancements to gamers who use the technology. In early 2005 ATI indicated to its partners that the technology did not require any physical connectors between the cards, but also noted that two identical graphics cards have to be installed. Some sources close to the company also said that ATI’s multi-VPU technology is concentrated on improving image quality on the first place rather than adding substantial performance boost over single-VPU configurations.
A representative for ATI’s top graphics cards partner Sapphire Electronics recently said ATI would release its next-generation high-end product R520 in June. Still, not much is known about the architecture and capabilities of the code-named R520 product that was initially referred as the R500. What is clear now is that the new graphics chip will sport Shader Model 3.0 – pixel shaders 3.0 and vertex shaders 3.0 – bringing additional programming capabilities to ATI’s future graphics processors as well as some other innovations.
Specifications of ATI’s code-named R520 VPU are unclear at this time. Some sources suggest that the chip may have up to 32 pixel pipelines and up to 350 million transistors, which makes the processor extremely complex. However, given that a new fabrication process is to be used for the manufacturing of R520, it is unlikely that the visual processing unit will be tremendously large in terms of transistor count and complex in terms of the number of pipelines. Fabless semiconductor designers tend to balance complexity of their chips for new fabrication processes. For instance, since 2002, ATI has not launched manufacturing of high-end graphics chips using a new process technology unless the technology was tested on mainstream chips. Still, even on relatively new manufacturing processes, ATI has set pretty high clock-speeds for its VPUs.