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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  • Maetryx - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Soooo.... given the products that are on the horizon, and the holiday season, would a person be best off waiting until Q1 2005 to do a fairly comprehensive upgrade to their system... or is the stiff holiday competition and Black Friday going to be the right time to do a massive upgrade?

    I know it's slightly off topic, but everytime I start to visualize the right combination of parts and pieces, something new gets announced with a future ship date.... Oh well, at least my expensive hobby is still exciting.
  • DAPUNISHER - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link


    I have the ATi320M in my Compaq 900z and it is good for what it is. The only thing ATi has had trouble with till now is the memory controller's performance and A64 takes that out of the mix so that ATi can really show what they can do :-) For instance,They paired a POS ALi with my 320M that makes the bandwidth, even for 2100DDR terrible. Don't know why they couldmn't use ATi's version? Must have been cheaper=par for the course.

  • DAPUNISHER - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    "As you can see, the Halo score for nVidia on nVidia is about the same as our past tests of ATI on ATI. nVidia on ATI is about 3% slower than the nVidia on nF4. Far Cry continues the pattern of best performance on an ATI chipset and/or an ATI graphics card. Doom 3 and Aquamark 3 are also very slightly slower on nVidia/ATI than nVidia/nVidia, but the % change of 2% to 3% is hardly significant.

    The ATI Bullhead is equivalent to slightly slower with an nVidia PCIe card than an nVidia nForce4 chipset running the same nVidia card. nVidia has claimed that nVidia on nVidia is a faster combination than ATI on nVidia, but we can only conclude that these performance differences are so small as to be negligible. ATI/ATI and nVidia/nVidia are the fastest combinations in our comparisons, but the differences are so tiny that they really don't matter. You can run any of these in combination with each other without any concern that you have to match Athlon 64 chipset to Graphics chipset."

    WOW! You can say that yet still push ram with tight timings despite similar small performance differences over slightly more conservatively timed but much cheaper ram?
  • landrew - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    What about sound and IDE performance? It seems you totaly ignored this! What about nVidia firewall and RAID? Does ATI do anything like that?

    I want ot know because I'll be buying an A64 soon and want the best motherboard.
  • mczak - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    "The RX480/RS480 is the first ATI chipset for AMD" - this is not true. IGP 320/320M was a chipset for Athlon XP, especially the mobile version was somewhat succesful. Reply
  • jamawass - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Motherboards based on this chipset would be ideal for a cheap htpc. It would have been helpful if the reviewer had looked at video decoding performance for dvd and especially hdtv. Both the fusion gold hdtv and HDTV wonder require dx9 graphics.This forces a lot of people in the htpc community to purchase dx9 cards even though they don't game, just to improve hdtv performance. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    #14 and #17 - If you check older reviews you will see that ATI and nVidia perform very differently in Specviewperf 7.1 benches. The performance we see here is nothing unusual.

    We were trying to establish baselines for both PCIe cards for the future and to compare to the past. Comparing ATI and nVidia performance with Specviewperf doesn't really tell you much. Comparing ATI to ATI in specviewperf or nVidia to nVidia can be useful.

    We will also be updating to Version 8 of Specviewperf for motherboard tests in the near future.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    #2 - Corrected.

    #6 - We could have used the $1,020 3.46EE to compare to the $856 FX55, but the 3.6 P4 560 performs better in many benches. The 560 costs about $500 these days. As #14 said our goal was to compare top to top. We included the 560 for Reference. We did price/performance comparisons in our last CPU launch article.

    #10 - I agree with you. The mfgs don't think ATI when they think AMD chipset. IF they look at RX480 they will change their minds, but that is a big IF.

    #11 - We will do this in an upcoming nF4 retail review.

    #12 - Cool'n'Quiet appears to be working properly with 2 or 4 dimms, but we did not focus on that feature. We will ask ATI about question 2.

    #15 - ATI claims Gigabit PCI Express LAN is just as fast and just as cheap as on-chip Gigabit LAN. PCIe Gigabit LAN is fine, but PCI LAN can also be used with this chipset - an option the low-cost providers will probably exploit. Then again, some Tier 1 mfgs have been using PCI LAN with nForce3 Ultra to save costs.

    #16 - ATI tells us the RX480 will be cheaper than the top Nforce4 Ultra chipset and more expensive than the VIA K8T890 chipset. ATI wants to underscut nVidia prices but still be a premium compared to the cheaper VIA boards.

    ALL - some boards are already shipping. I have seen pics from Germany of a retail board exactly like the Bullhead except it is red. When we have more availability data we will post an update.
  • Ecmaster76 - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    Anyone know what is up witht the benchmarks on page 15? They look a little strange. Reply
  • knitecrow - Monday, November 8, 2004 - link

    what will make or break this product is the price.

    If mobo's based on the said chipsets are cheaper than nforce3/4 ... it can be a good budget overclocker.

    No frills, just performance.

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