R600 Overview

From a very high level, we have the same capabilities we saw in the G80, where each step in the pipeline runs on the same hardware. There are a lot of similarities when stepping way back, as the same goals need to be accomplished: data comes into the GPU, gets setup for processing, shader code runs on the data, and the result either heads back up for another pass through the shaders or moves on to be rendered out to the framebuffer.

The obvious points are that R600 is a unified architecture that supports DX10. The set of requirements for DX10 are very firm this time around, so we won't see any variations in feature support on a basic level. AMD and NVIDIA are free to go beyond the DX10 spec, but these features might not be exposed through the Microsoft API without a little tweaking. AMD includes one such feature, a tessellator unit, which we'll talk about more later. For now, let's take a look at the overall layout of R600.

Our first look shows a huge amount of stream processing power: 320 SPs all told. These are a little different than NVIDIA's SPs, and over the next few pages we'll talk about why. Rather than a small number of SPs spread across eight groups, our block diagram shows R600 has a high number of SPs in each of four groups. Each of these four groups is connected to its own texture unit, while they share a connection to shader export hardware and a local read/write cache.

All of this is built on an 80nm TSMC process and uses in the neighborhood of 720 Million transistors. All other R6xx parts will be built on a 65nm processes with many fewer transistors, making them much smaller and more power efficient. Core clock speed is on the order of 740MHz for R600 with memory running at 825MHz.

Memory is slower this time around with higher bandwidth, as R600 implements a 512-bit memory bus. While we're speaking about memory, AMD has revised their Ring Bus architecture for this round, which we'll delve into later. Unfortunately we won't be able to really compare it to NVIDIA's implementation, as they won't go into any detail with us on internal memory buses.

And speaking of things NVIDIA won't go into detail on, AMD was good enough to share very low level details, including information on cache sizes and shader hardware implementation. We will be very happy to spend time talking about this, and hopefully AMD will inspire NVIDIA to start opening up a little more and going deeper into their underlying architecture.

To hit the other hot points, R600 does have some rather interesting unique features to back it up. Aside from including a tessellation unit, they have also included an audio processor on their hardware. This will accept audio streams and send them out over their DVI port through a special converter to integrate audio with a video stream over HDMI. This is unique, as current HDMI converters only work with video. AMD also included a programmable AA resolve feature that allows their driver team to create new ways of filtering subsample data.

R600 also features an independent DMA engine that can handle moving and managing all memory to and from the GPU, whether it's over the PCIe bus or local memory channels. This combined with huge amounts of memory bandwidth should really assist applications that require large amounts of data. With DX10 supporting up to 8k x 8k textures, we are very interested in seeing these limits pushed in future games.

That's enough of a general description to whet your appetite: let's dig down under the surface and find out what makes this thing tick.

DX10 Redux Different Types of Stream Processors
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  • wjmbsd - Monday, July 02, 2007 - link

    What is the latest on the so-called Dragonhead 2 project (aka, HD 2900 XTX)? I heard it was just for OEMs at first...anyone know if the project is still going and how the part is benchmarking with newest drivers? Reply
  • teainthesahara - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    After this failure of the R600 and likely overrated(and probably late) Barcelona/Agena processors I think that Intel will finally bury AMD. Paul Ottelini is rubbing his hands with glee at the moment and rightfully so. AMD now stands for mediocrity.Oh dear what a fall from grace.... To be honest Nvidia don't have any real competition on the DX10 front at any price points.I cannot see AMD processors besting Intel's Core 2 Quad lineup in the future especially when 45nm and 32 nm become the norm and they don't have a chance in hell of beating Nvidia. Intel and Nvidia are turning the screws on Hector Ruiz.Shame AMD brought down such a great company like ATI. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, May 24, 2007 - link

    To be fair, we really don't have any clue how these cards compete on the DX10 front as there are no final, real DX10 games on the market to test.

    We will try really hard to get a good idea of what DX10 will look like on the HD 2000 series and the GeForce 8 Series using game demos, pre-release code, and SDK samples. It won't be a real reflection of what users will experience, but we will certainly hope to get a glimpse at performance.

    It is fair to say that NVIDIA bests AMD in current game performance. But really there are so many possibilities with DX10 that we can't call it yet.
    Reply
  • spinportal - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    From the last posting of results for the GTS 320MB round-up
    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2953...">Prey @ AnandTech - 8800GTS320
    we see that the 2900XT review chart pushes the nVidia cards down about 15% across the board.
    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2988...">Prey @ AnandTech - ATI2900XT
    The only difference in systems is software drivers as the cpu / mobo / mem are the same.

    Does this mean ATI should be getting a BIGGER THRASHING BEAT-DOWN than the reviewer is stating?
    400$ ATI 2900XT performing as good as a 300$ nVidia 8800 GTS 320MB?

    Its 100$ short and 6 months late along with 100W of extra fuel.

    This is not your uncle's 9700 Pro...
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, May 20, 2007 - link

    We switched Prey demos -- I updated our benchmark.

    Both numbers are accurate for the tests I ran at the time.

    Our current timedemo is more stressful and thus we see lower scores with this test.
    Reply
  • Yawgm0th - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    The prices listed in this article are way off.

    Currently, 8800GTS 640MB retails for $350-380, $400+ for OC or special versions. 2900XT retails for $430+. In the article, both are listed as $400, and as such the card is given a decent review in the conclusion.

    Realistically, this card provides slightly inferior performance to the 8800GTS 640MB at a considerably higher price point -- $80-$100 more than the 8800GTS. I mean, it's not like the 8800Ultra, but for the most part this card has little use outside of AMD and/or ATI fanboys. I'd love for this card to do better as AMD needs to be competing with Nvidia and Intel right now, but I just can't see how this is even worth looking at, given current prices.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    really, this article focuses on architechture more than product, and we went with MSRP prices...

    we will absolutly look closer at price and price/performance when we review retail products.
    Reply
  • quanta - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    As I recalled, the Radeon HD 2900 only has DVI ports, but nowhere in DVI documentation specifies it can carry audio signals. Unless the card comes with adapter that accepts audio input, it seems the audio portion of R600 is rendered useless. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    the card does come with an adapter of sorts, but the audio input is from the dvi port.

    you can't use a standard DVI to HDMI converter for this task.

    when using AMD's HDMI converter the data sent out over the DVI port does not follow the DVI specification.

    the bottom line is that the DVI port is just a physical connector carrying data. i could take a DVI port and solder it to a stereo and use it to carry 5.1 audio if I wanted to ... wouldn't be very useful, but I could do it :-)

    While connected to a DVI device, the card operates the port according to the DVI specification. When connected to an HDMI device through the special converter (which is not technically "dvi to hdmi" -- it's amd proprietry to hdmi), the card sends out data that follows the HDMI spec.

    you can look at it another way -- when the HDMI converter is connected, just think of the dvi port as an internal connector between an I/O port and the TMDS + audio device.
    Reply
  • ShaunO - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    I was at an AMD movie night last night where they discussed the technical details of the HD 2900 XT and also showed the Ruby Whiteout DX10 Demo rendered using the card. It looked amazing and I had high hopes until I checked out the benchmark scores. They're going to need more than free food and popcorn to convince me to buy an obsolete card.

    However there is room for improvement of course. Driver updates, DX10 and whatnot. The main thing for me personally will be driver updates, I will be interested to see how well the card improves over time while I save my pennies for my next new machine.

    Everyone keeps saying "DX10 performance will be better, yadda yadda" but I also want to be able to play the games I have now and older games without having to rely on DX10 games to give me better performance. Nothing like totally underperforming in DX9 games and then only being equal or slightly better in DX10 games compared to the competition. I would rather have a decent performer all-round. Even saying that we don't even know for sure if DX10 games are even going to bring any performance increases of the competition, it's all speculation right now and that's all we can do, speculate.

    Shaun.
    Reply

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