AMD's "Small-Die" Strategy

We outlined AMD's "new" GPU strategy in our Radeon HD 4850 preview article, but in short AMD has committed to designing GPUs for the mainstream $199 - $299 segment and simply using CrossFire (multi-GPU) to address higher end markets. NVIDIA on the other hand will continue to make very large monolithic GPUs in order to continue to push the industry forward. Both approaches are appreciated and necessary, they simply target different markets.

In our GT200 review we highlighted the fact that NVIDIA had built an extremely large, highly parallel, microprocessor. With 1.4 billion transistors and a die size of around 576 mm^2, NVIDIA's GT200 is nothing short of huge.

The table on the previous page shows that AMD's RV770, despite being aimed at mainstream gamer price points ($199 - $299), is also very large. At 956M transistors, the RV770 has 44% more transistors than RV670 and 68% the transistor count of NVIDIA's GT200. We threw the RV770 into NVIDIA's die size comparison just for kicks:


Based on what we know of NVIDIA's die size, this should be to scale

Even AMD's die, although designed to be svelte and affordable, is big - especially for being fabbed at TSMC. NVIDIA still holds the crown for largest die fabbed at TSMC, but AMD shows us that even a more mainstream approach still requires tons of transistors. As we mentioned in our 4850 preview:

"A pair of RV770s, AMD's new GPU, end up consuming more power than a single GT200 - despite being built on a smaller 55nm process.

A pair of these RV770s only costs $400 compared to $650 for a single GT200, but I suspect that part of that is due to differences in manufacturing process. If NVIDIA hadn't been so risk averse with the GT200 and built it on 55nm (not that I'm advocating it, simply posing a hypothetical), the cost differences would be smaller - if not in favor of NVIDIA since GT200 is built on a single card.

When the smoke clears, AMD's strategy is to simply build a GPU for the masses and attempt to scale it up and down. While NVIDIA is still building its GPUs the same way it has for decades, starting very large and scaling down.

AMD isn't taking a radically different approach to building and designing GPUs than NVIDIA, it's simply building one market segment lower."

We've got a lot of discussion on efficiency between AMD and NVIDIA coming up in this article, although AMD's die is noticeably smaller than NVIDIA's - as you've already seen with the Radeon HD 4850 - there are many areas where RV770 can go toe-to-toe with NVIDIA's mammoth GT200.

Index Building a RV770
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  • Final Destination II - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Try ASUS, 7°C cooler. Reply
  • Justin Case - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    I thought it was only Johan, and it was sort of understandable since he's not a native English speaker, but it seems most Anandtech writers don't know the difference between "its" and "it's".

    "It's" means "it is" or "it has" (just as "he's" or "she's"). When you're talking about something that belongs to something else, you use "its" (or "his" / "her").

    In a sentence such as "RV770 in all it's [sic] glory.", you're clearly not saying "in all it is glory" or "in all it has glory"; you sare saying "in all the glory that belongs to it". So you should use "its", not "it's".

    Even if you can't understand the difference (which seems pretty straightforward, but for some reason confuses some people), modern grammar checkers will pick this up 9 times out of 10.
    Reply
  • CyberHawk - Thursday, June 26, 2008 - link

    I am not a native English speaker, but I am well aware of the difference. I am also sure that reviewers are also ... it's just that - with all this text, we can forgive them, can't we?

    I have a bachelor of computer science, studying for higher degree, but: I look at the technical side of the article, so I don't even notice the errors :D (although I can tell the difference I simply don't see it while reading)
    Reply
  • CyberHawk - Thursday, June 26, 2008 - link

    Oh, I forgot: maybe I'm just being too enthusiastic ;) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    More likely is that with a 10000 word article and four lengthy GPU reviews in two weeks, errors slipped into the text. I know at one point I noticed Derek says "their" instead of "there" as well, and I can assure you that he knows the difference. I know I use Word's grammar checker, but I'm not sure Derek even uses Word sometimes. :) Reply
  • araczynski - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    of the 4850's, slickdeals has posted a sale, between rebate and coupon off...$150 each. can't beat that bang/$ by anything from nvidia.

    first ati cards that will ever be in my computers since i've started with the voodoo/riva tnt :)
    Reply
  • Denithor - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Page 15: first reference to "GTX 280" should be "GTX 260" instead.

    Page 19: I think you meant "type" not "time" in this paragraph.
    Reply
  • natty1 - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    This review is flawed. It shows greater than 100% scaling for Crossfire 4870 in Call of Duty 4. Why don't they just give us the raw numbers for both single and dual cards in the same scenario? Why use a method that will artificially inflate the Crossfire results? Reply
  • Denithor - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    If you read the comments before yours, you'd see the answer.

    Experimental error and/or improved scaling for each card versus a single card. Read the earlier comment for more details.
    Reply
  • natty1 - Thursday, June 26, 2008 - link

    There's no good reason to pull that garbage. People assume they are seeing raw numbers when they read these reviews. Reply

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