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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  • GoatMonkey - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    That's obviously BS. This IS their high end part, it just doesn't perform as well as nVidia's high end part, so it is priced accordingly. Reply
  • poohbear - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    sweet review though! thanks for including all the important and pertinent cards in your roundup (the 8800gts 320mb inparticular). also love how neutral Anand is in their reviews, unlike some other sites.:p Reply
  • Creig - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    The R600 is finally here. I'm sure the overall performance is not what AMD was hoping for. Nobody ever shoots to have their newest product be the 2nd best. But pricing it at $399 and including a very nice game bundle will make the HD 2900 XT a VERY worthwhile purchase. I also have the feeling that there is a significant amount of performance increase to be realized through future driver releases ala X1800XT. Reply
  • shady28 - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link


    Nvidia has gone over the cliff on pricing.

    I know of no one personally who has an 88xx series card. I know one who recently picked up an 8600 of some kind, that's it. I have the best GPU of anyone I know.

    It's a real shame that there is so much focus on graphics cards that virtually no one buys. These are niche products folks - yet 'who is best' seems to be totally dependent on these niche products. That's patently ridiculous.

    It's like saying, since IBM makes the fastest computers in the world (they do), they're the best and you should be buying IBM (or now, lenovo) laptops and desktops.

    No one ever said that sort of thing because it's patently ridiculous. Why do people say it now for graphics cards? The fact that they do says a lot about the mentality of sites like AT.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    We don't say what you are implying, and we are also very upset with some of NVIDIA's pricing (specifically the 8800 ultra)

    the 8800 gts 320mb is one of the best values for your money anywhere and isn't crazy expensive -- it's actually the card I'd recommend to anyone who cares about graphics in games and wants good quality and performance at 1600x1200.

    I would never tell anyone to buy an 8600 gts because nvidia has the fastest high end card. In fact, in this article, I hope I made it clear that AMD has the opportunity to capitalize on the huge performance gap nvidia left between the 8600 and 8800 series ... If AMD builds a part that performs in this range is priced competitively, they'll have our recommendation in a flash.

    Recommending parts based on value at each price or performance segment is something we take pride in and will always do, no matter who has the absolute fastest hardware out there.

    The reason our focus was on AMD's fastest part is because they haven't given us any other hardware to test. We will absolutely be talking a lot and in much depth about midrange and budget hardware when AMD makes these parts available to us.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    $400 is a lot of money. Not terribly long ago the highest end GPU available didn't cost more than $400. Now they hit $750 so you start to think $400 sounds cheap. It's really not. It's a heck of a lot of money for one piece of hardware. You can put together a 650i SLI rig with 2GB of DDR2 6400 and an E4400 for that much money. I know because I just did that. I kept my 7900GT from my old rig because I wanted to see how R600 did before purchasing an 8800GTS 640MB. Now that we've seen initial results I will wait to see how R600 does with more mature drivers and also wait to see the 640MB GTS price come down even more in the meantime. Reply
  • vijay333 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=1...">http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=1...

    "the expression to call a spade a spade is thousands of years old and etymologically has nothing whatsoever to do with any racial sentiment."

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

    Yes, a spade was a shovel long before muslims enslaved europeans to do hard labor in north africa and europeans enslaved africans to do hard labor in the 'new world'. Reply
  • vijay333 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    whoops...replied to the wrong one. Reply
  • rADo2 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    It is not 2nd best (after 8800ULTRA), not 3rd best (after 8800GTX), not 4th best (after 8800GTX-640), but 5th best (after 8800GTS-320), or even worse ;)

    Bad performance with AA turned on (everybody turns on AA), huge power consumption, late to the market.

    A definitive failure.
    Reply

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