About 6 months ago, we reported that ATI would be introducing their first chipset for AMD Athlon 64. Between that first report and today's introduction of the ATI RX480 chipset, a lot has happened. In round 2 of the A64 chipset wars, the industry moved from the single-channel memory Socket 754 to the dual-channel Socket 939. VIA morphed their successful K8T800 chipset into the K8T800 PRO by adding 1000 Hyper Transport and a PCI/AGP lock. nVidia performed a more massive transformation of their nForce3 chipset, moving from the pedestrian nForce3-150 to the leading-edge nForce3-250 family in May. Clearly, the stakes for a new player in the Athlon 64 chipset market went up as Athlon 64 chipsets evolved.

Fast forward just five months and round 3 begins. nVidia and VIA both introduce PCI Express graphics into the Athlon 64 equation. However, the pioneer for discrete PCI Express graphics has been ATI, so it should come as no surprise that ATI is choosing round 3 to launch their first chipset for the AMD Athlon 64 - the RX480 discrete graphics chipset and the sister RS480 with integrated graphics.

In the larger marketplace, ATI has timed this introduction perfectly. Athlon 64 is now the undisputed performance king among processors, and the retail market share has been growing rapidly for the Athlon 64 processors. Looking ahead, the next year is likely to continue to be a great climate for Athlon 64 processors as Intel regroups for their next CPU introductions. AMD is in the process of successfully moving production to 90nm, which will likely allow even further extension of their performance lead. AMD also seems to have avoided the power and heat problems that have plagued Intel's move of the Pentium 4 to 90nm. Microsoft should finally launch the long-awaited 64-bit version of Windows, which will make Athlon 64 ever more attractive.

All of these market developments are good news for the ATI introduction of their first Athlon 64 chipset - if the RX480 can compete effectively with nForce4 and the "as yet unseen" retail K8T890. If the RX480 is competitive or even better than competitive, the introduction of RX480 could be the most significant event of round 3.

The Radeon Xpress Family


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  • ImJacksAmygdala - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Good job Wesley and Anandtech staff, very nice article! Thanks for answering all the questions Wesley...

    Things are really heating up for AMD64 chipsets... I might just have to wait for Q1 2005, but then dual core CPUs will be the rage of rumor and HL2 is right around the corner ARGH!!!!!!

    I might just bite the bullet and pull the trigger on an AMD64 3500+ with a Nforce4 or ATI chipset this holiday season because I really can't run HL2.... I cannot continue to wait for the next best thing. I have been waiting to upgrade since dual DDR was just a rumor... LOL!

  • xsilver - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Are these going to be shipping mainly for s754 or s939? I think determining factor will be price, cheaper than nforce 4 ultra? isnt that going to be $150+? I think they need to get closer to $100 for any serious challenges.. Reply
  • Penty - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    I don't know, I still want Tyan's new dual Opteron with dual SLI board.

  • Zebo - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Nice article. But I'm afraid, like the out-standing SiS ref board, these may never see light of day but in budget off brand products like ECS, FOXCONN, MATSONIC etc nVidia just seems to dominate the enthusiast sector.:( Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    #29 - A new Sounthbridge, called SB450, is due to debut the first of the year. It will feature High-Definition audio and other updates.

    RAID - Here is the reply from ATI regarding RAID on the Rx480/SB400:
    "Your Raid answers are as follows:

    Our Raid implementation will support up to 8 SATA devices. This is limited by ODM implementing appropriate amount of SATA channels on pcb.

    1) Currently SB400 supports RAID on SATA, not on IDE (PATA).

    2) IDE cannot be combined with SATA in RAID. Limited to SATA only.

    3) We only support RAID 0 and RAID 1.

    4) We do support hot swap for RAID 1. We can replace the failed hard disk and rebuild a new driver in RAID 1"

    The review will be updated.

  • keitaro - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Here's a hardware question for you folks. Given that SLI is becoming more and more of an option, I'd like to know if the scenerio I thought up can be possible. Also, a general question is "What can a HyperTransport link be used? Is it specifically a link from CPU to north/south-bridge or is it a general link for general access?"

    The above question will basically determine if the scenerio I thought of is possible. Basically have a HT link big enough for an additional chip where it supports additional PCI Express lanes for 1x, 2x, or 4x slots. I see current chipsets designed with 20 lanes, or in ATi's case 22 lanes, and it got me to wondering if such a scenerio is truly possible that a full dual 16x instead of dual 8x can be a reality. If you can explain or answer this, that'll be great.
  • mctmcpoop - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    The main problem of the ATI chipset will be the compatibility of south bridge ... Their south bridge sucks and that's why some of the RS350 motherboard use ULI south bridge instead of their solution ...


    You can check with the USB performance ... That can be called the most worst that I have ever seen ... And we still do not know if there is any compatibility issue of the USB interface unless there is a lot of ATI chipset based retail board hit the market …

    And a preview board of chipset vendor is nothing important ... Where is the highly phrased SiS 755/755FX chipset based and good quality motherboard we can buy ? Sometimes there is something inside the chipset that we can reveal from the demo board if all the motherboard maker does not have the solution …

    Anyway , time will tell …
  • FinalFantasy - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    #27 I doubt ATI is doing that. If the mobo's that ship are noticealbe different (performance wise) from the one's ATI are sending out for review, I know that there will be a huge backlash from the hobbyist community and ATI knows this. Reply
  • blckgrffn - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Is no one else suspicious that ATI shipped out hand picked, thouroughly tested MOBO's that may not be representative of shipping boards? I will wait until I see a review of boards using this chipset in the future before I make up my mind. Reply
  • FinalFantasy - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Wow...ATI really stepped it up with their new chipset and integrated graphics solutions. This chipset should really give nVidia's NF4 a run for it's money. Also I agree w/#22...let's see some HDD performance benchies and what about an integrated software firewall or on-board RAID controller (article says similar to NF4's "Any-Drive")...how do these components compare to NF4's or does ATi's chipset even have them.

    I know I was skeptical about ATI coming out with an A64 chipset, but they've really gone above and beyond what I've expected with their "first" board. I am VERY impressed with their OC'ing performance.

    I don't want to say that this new chipset is the best thing since sliced bread (I'm sure nVidia has a response to ATI's chipset in the works), but when it comes time to buy my 90nm A64 rev E0, ATI looks like they might have my business/money/whatever the hell you want to call it ;D.

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