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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  • mostlyprudent - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Frankly, neither the NVIDIA nor the AMD part at this price point is all that impressive an upgrade from the prior generations. We keep hearing that we will have to wait for DX10 titles to know the real performance of these cards, but I suspect that by the time DX10 titles are on the shelves we will have at least product line refreshes by both companies. Does anyone else feel like the graphics card industry is jerking our chains? Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    It seems pretty obvious that AMD needs a Radeon HD2900Pro to fill in the gap between the 2900XT and 2600XT. Use R600 silicon, give it 256Mb RAM with a 256-bit memory bus. Lower the clocks 15% so that power consumption will be lower, and so that chips that don't bin at full XT speeds can be used. Price at $250-$300. It would own the upper-midrange segment over the 8600GTS, and eat into the 8800GTS 320's lunch as well.
    Reply
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    If I know this, and YOU know this.... wouldnt anandtech? I see money under the table or utter stupidity at work at anand. I mean, I know that the .01+ version does a lot better in benches as well as the higher res with aa/af on sometimes get BETTER framerates than lower res, no aa/af settings. This is a driver thing. If I know this, you know this, anand must. I would rather admit to being corrupt rather than that stupid.

    Reply
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    wrong section. dt is doing that today it seems to a few people Reply
  • xfiver - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Hi, thank you for a really in depth review. While reading other 'earlier' reviews I remember a site using Catalyst 8.38 and reported performance improvements upto 14% from 8.37. Look forward to Anandtech's view on this. Reply
  • xfiver - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    My apologies it was VR zone and 8.36 to 8.37 (not 8.38) Reply
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    If I know this, and YOU know this.... wouldnt anandtech? I see money under the table or utter stupidity at work at anand. I mean, I know that the .01+ version does a lot better in benches as well as the higher res with aa/af on sometimes get BETTER framerates than lower res, no aa/af settings. This is a driver thing. If I know this, you know this, anand must. I would rather admit to being corrupt rather than that stupid.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    quote:

    If I know this, and YOU know this.... wouldnt anandtech? I see money under the table or utter stupidity at work at anand. I mean, I know that the .01+ version does a lot better in benches as well as the higher res with aa/af on sometimes get BETTER framerates than lower res, no aa/af settings. This is a driver thing. If I know this, you know this, anand must. I would rather admit to being corrupt rather than that stupid.


    I have worked extensively with four 8.37 releases and now the 8.38 release for the upcoming P35 release article. The 8.37.4.2 alpha driver had the top performance in SM3.0 heavy apps but was not very stable with numerous games, especially under Vista. The released 8.37.4.3 driver on AMD's website is the most stable driver to date and has decent performance but nothing near the alpha 8.37 or beta 8.38. The 8.38s offer great benchmark performance in the 3DMarks, several games, and a couple of DX10 benchmarks from AMD.

    However, the 8.38s more or less broke CrossFire, OpenGL, and video acceleration in Vista depending upon the app and IQ is not always perfect. While there is a great deal of promise in their performance and we see the potential, they are still Beta drivers that have a long ways to go in certain areas before their final release date of 5/23 (internal target).

    That said, would you rather see impressive results in 3DMarks or have someone tell you the truth about the development progress or lack of it with the drivers. As much as I would like to see this card's performance improve immediately, it is what it is at this time with the released drivers. AMD/ATI will improve the performance of the card with better drivers but until they are released our only choice is to go with what they sent. We said the same thing about NVIDIA's early driver issues with the G80 so there are not any fanboys or people taking money under the table around here. You can put all the lipstick on a pig you want, but in the end, you still have a pig. ;-)
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    There's nothing sinister going on, ATI gave us 8.37 to test with and told us to use it. We got 8.38 today and are currently testing it for a follow-up.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    wow dood. you replied!

    Yes, I have been wondering about the ethics of your group here for about a year now. I felt this sorta slick leaning towards and masking thing goign on. Nice to see there is not.

    Thanks for the 1000's of articles and tests!
    -Mr. Glass
    Reply

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