While AMD will tell us that R600 is not late and hasn't been delayed, this is simply because they never actually set a public date from which to be delayed. We all know that AMD would rather have seen their hardware hit the streets at or around the time Vista launched, or better yet, alongside G80. But the fact is that AMD had quite a few problems in getting R600 out the door.

While we couldn't really get the whole story from anyone, we heard bits and pieces here and there during our three day briefing event in Tunis, Tunisia. These conversations were short and scattered and not the kind of thing that it's easy to get a straight answer about when asking direct questions. Keeping that in mind, we do have some information and speculation about a few of the road bumps AMD faced with R600.

Apparently, the first spin of R600 silicon could only communicate over the debugging interface. While the upside is that the chip wasn't totally dead, this is not a good problem to have. We also overheard that a later revision of the hardware suffered from fragments getting stuck in pixel shaders. We even overheard one conversation where someone jokingly remarked that AMD should design hardware but leave the execution to NVIDIA.

In a wild bout of pure speculation on our part, we would have to guess about one other problem that popped up during R600's creation. It seems to us that AMD was unable to get their MSAA hardware to work properly and was forced to use shader hardware to handle MSAA rather than go back for yet another silicon revision. Please know that this is not a confirmed fact, but just an educated guess.

In another unique move, there is no high end part in AMD's R600 lineup. The Radeon HD 2900 XT is the highest end graphics card in the lineup and it's priced at $399. While we appreciate AMD's intent to keep prices in check, the justification is what we have an issue with. According to AMD, it loses money on high end parts which is why we won't see anything more expensive than the 2900 XT this time around. The real story is that AMD would lose money on a high end part if it wasn't competitive, which is why we feel that there's nothing more expensive than the 2900 XT. It's not a huge deal because the number of people buying > $399 graphics cards is limited, but before we've started the review AMD is already giving up ground to NVIDIA, which isn't a good sign.

More than anything, we'd guess that the lack of a high end part has a lot to do with the delays and struggles AMD saw this time around in bringing R600 to market. We expect to see the return of a very high end part by the time R700 comes around, assuming that there aren't similarly debilitating delays.

The delays and lack of a high end would be beyond perfect if the Radeon HD 2900 XT could do to NVIDIA what the G80 launch did to ATI, unfortunately the picture just isn't that rosy. ATI's latest and greatest doesn't exactly deliver the best performance per watt, so while it doesn't compete performance-wise with the GeForce 8800 GTX it requires more power. An ultra high end power requirement in a sub-$400 graphics card isn't exactly ideal.

Despite all of this, there's a great deal of cool technology in the R600, and as ATI is now a part of a CPU company, we received more detail on the GPU than we've gotten during any other GPU launch. AMD takes graphics very seriously, and it recently reaffirmed its commitment to continue to deliver high end discrete graphics cards, so amidst countless delays and rumors of strange problems, the R600 architecture is quite possibly more important to AMD than the graphics cards themselves. An eventual derivative of this architecture will be used in AMD's Fusion processors, eventually making their way into a heterogeneous multi-core AMD microprocessor.

With AMD's disappointing Q1, it can't rest too much on the hope of Fusion changing the market, so we'll have to start by looking at where R600 is today and how it stacks up to NVIDIA's latest and almost greatest.

DX10 Redux
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  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    See, the problem here is: guys like you are so bent on saving that little bit of money, by buying a lesser brand name, that you do not even take the time to research your hardware. USe newegg , and read the user reviews, and if that is not enough for you, go to the countless other resources all over the internet. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    Blame the crappy OEM you bought the card from, not nVIdia. Get an EVGA card, and embrace a completely different aspect on video card life.

    MSI may make some decent motherboards, but their other components have serious issues.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    Um, since 95% of nvidia-GPU cards on the market are the reference design, I'd say your argument here is shaky at best. EVGA and MSI both use the reference design, and it's even possible that cards with the same GPU came off the same production line at the same plant. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    it is true that the majority of parts are based on reference designs, but that doesn't mean they all come from the same place. I'm sure some of them do, but to say that all of these guys just buy completed boards and put their name on them all the time is selling them a little short.

    at the same time, the whole argument of which manufacturer builds the better board on a board component level isn't something we can really answer.

    what we would suggest is that its better to buy from OEMs who have good customer service and long extensive warranties. this way, even if things do go wrong, there is some recourse for customers who get bad boards or have bad experiences with drivers and software.
    Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    you're wrong. 99% of people buying these high end cards are gaming. Those gamers demand and deserve the best possible performance. If a card that uses MORE power and costs MORE (x2900xt vs 8800gts) and performs generally the same or slower what is the point? Fact is...ATI's high end is in fact slower than mid range offerings from Nvidia and consumes alot more power. Regardless of what you think, people are buying these based on performance benchmarks in 99% of all cases. Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    No, you're wrong. Did you overlook the emphasis he put on "NOT ALWAYS"?

    You said 99% use for gaming--so there's 1%. Out of the gamers, many really want LCD scaling to work, so that games aren't stretched horribly on widescreen monitors. Some gamers would also like TVout to work.

    So he was right: faster is NOT ALWAYS better.
    Reply
  • erwos - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    It'd be nice to get the scoop on the video decode acceleration present on these boards, and how it stocks up to the (excellent) PureVideo HD found in the 8600 series. Reply
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    I agree! They need to do a whole article on video acceleration on a range of cards and show the pluses and cons of each card in respective areas. A lot of people like myself like to watch videos and game on cards, but like the option open to use the advanced video features.

    Reply
  • Turnip - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    "We certainly hope we won't see a repeat of the R600 launch when Barcelona and Agena take on Core 2 Duo/Quad in a few months...."


    Why, that's exactly what I had been thinking :)

    Phew! I made it through the whole thing though, I even read all of those awfully big words and everything! :)

    Thanks guys, another top review :)
    Reply
  • Kougar - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    First, great article! I will be going back to reread the very indepth analysis of the hardware and features, something that keeps me a avid Anandtech reader. :)

    Since it was mentioned that overclocking will be included in a future article, I would like to suggest that if possible watercooling be factored into it. So far one review site has already done a watercooled test with a low-end watercooling setup, and without mods acheived 930MHz on the Core, which indirectly means 930MHz shaders if I understand the hardware.

    I'm sure I am not the only reader extremely interested to see if all R600 needs is a ~900-950MHz overclock to offer some solid GTX level performance... or if it would even help at all. Again thanks for the consideration, and the great article! Now off to find some Folding@Home numbers...
    Reply

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