The part that everyone wants to hear about is, of course, the Radeon X1800 based on ATI's long awaited R520 GPU. Due for introduction later this quarter, the 90nm R520 will be a 16-pipe, 16-shader processor design with a number of different SKUs based on the GPU. Internal ATI documentation specifically claims that the R520 series will ship at launch, just as NVIDIA's 7800GTX and 7800GT series shipped and launched on the same dates.

ATI R520 Roadmap and Pricing
Card Pipes Std Core Clock Std Memory MSRP
X1800 XT 16 600MHz 700MHz 512MB GDDR3 $599
X1800 XL 16 550MHz 625MHz 512MB GDDR3 $499
X1800 Pro 16 500MHz 500MHz 256MB GDDR3 $449
X1800 LE 12 450MHz 450MHZ 256MB GDDR3 $349

Common features to all R520 based boards include the new 90nm lead free manufacturing process, a Xilleon based TV encoder, SM3.0, H.264 decode acceleration and CrossFire support. Also expect to see HDTV options for all 90nm ATI cards in the near future, although they may be limited to the All In Wonder series for R520.

At the top end is the Radeon X1800 XT; this 16-pipe R520 will feature a 600MHz core clock, with a 256-bit memory bus connected to 512MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 700MHz. The 600MHz core clock will give it a lower fill rate than the GeForce 7800 GTX (24-pipes at 430MHz), while the 700MHz memory clock will give it more memory bandwidth than the stock GTX (600MHz). Much like the GTX, the X1800 XT will be priced at $599. The X1800 XT will feature two DVI outputs with HDCP support. The lower fillrate seems alarming at first, but consider several factors. First of all, ATI's traditional core design can do "more" per clock cycle (at least on the R420 design) than NVIDIA. Secondly, R520 has a lot of little tweaks including hardware asissted H.264 decoding. Just last week, we also received details about ATI's revamped memory controller which operates on an internal 512-bit ring bus. There is a lot to speculate about performance, but even with similar fill rates as NVIDIA, there is a strong possibility that other workings in R520 will differentiate the card on a real world performance level.

Next up is the Radeon X1800 XL, which is positioned between the GeForce 7800 GTX and the 7800 GT. The XL drops the core clock down to 550MHz, and the memory clock down to 625MHz. Other than the lower clock speeds, the XL is identical to the XT, meaning it still has 512MB of GDDR3 memory connected to a 256-bit memory bus. The X1800 XL will be priced at $499. Both the X1800 XT and X1800 XL appear to be dual-slot designs from previous roadmaps and existing box art. The roadmap also details that there will be HDCP support for the X1800 XL and X1800 XT via Texas Instrument's TFP513PAP DVI transmitter.

Priced at $449, we have the X1800 Pro, once more a 16-pipe R520 design but this time the core runs at 500MHz. The Radeon X1800 Pro only has 256MB of memory, also running at 500MHz, but still retains the same 256-bit memory bus. What is interesting about the Radeon X1800 Pro is that its fill rate and memory bandwidth appear to be identical to that of NVIDIA's GeForce 7800GT; coincidentally, so does its price. The reference design for the X1800 Pro features a single VGA and a single DVI connector, with no HDCP support.

The last member of the R520 family is the Radeon X1800 LE, which disables four of the pipelines of the R520 taking it down to a 12-pipe design. The LE runs at 450MHz with 256MB of 450MHz GDDR3 memory. Once again we're dealing with a 256-bit memory bus, and this time a $349 price tag. The outputs are identical to the X1800 Pro. Both the Pro and LE cards are single slot cooling design, thanks to their lower running clock speeds.

According to our roadmaps, it looks like ATI will abandon the "vanilla" nomenclature for future products. For example, instead of a plain X1800, instead we will get an X1800 LE. Likewise, on our previous roadmaps components that were named with the non-XT non-LE non-Pro non-XL name will thus become "LE" parts. Certainly a good move on ATI's behalf, as "vanilla" X800 cards are hard enough to explain to readers.

The roadmap also refers to R580, and that the card is working in-house at the moment. R580 is essentailly a clock ramp and pipe ramp of R520, but both of those details have not been disclosed yet (even to AIBs). Unforunately, the R580 will not ship at the same time as R520.



View All Comments

  • Cybercat - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    This is false. There are actually quite a few improvements and optimizations to the efficiency of the engine in the R420 over the original R300 architecture. The basic principle and design is still there, but you have to take into account other smaller features that make no small difference altogether. Reply
  • Jep4444 - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    either way the level of improvements made from R300 to R420 since they are based upon the same architecture is likely to be smaller than that from R420 to R520, also factor in the move to SM3.0(and consequently the move from FP24 to FP16/32) and we'll definitely see changes in performance on a pipeline level Reply
  • arturnow - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    no, you're tring to tell me, that 32 pipeline card will always be better then 16 pipeline and it's not true :] In that way making R520 16-pipeline would be suicide :] Reply
  • KHysiek - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    Before game devs bumb up game requirements to these absurdal prices. Reply
  • wien - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    Any game-dev that did that, would be a complete idiot. The graphics high-end account for a small fraction of the market. Why whould they make a game only for that small fraction, when they can lower the requirements, and sell millions upon millions? Reply
  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    That sums it up, used to be 6 months after a top of line card was released, you can get it for $200. Now if you look at it you will see you have OVER a year to get that same price vs performance.

    Seems like ATI and Nvidia are going backwards imo...who cares about performance when its adding %30+ onto a cost of a PC to build. The whole idea about hardware is that even if performance doubles, price should not.
    A case in point, i run a 9700 Pro, used to be the best card, when it first came out it was $350, i got mine for $120 about 6months after launch. When your best card now is topping out around $500-600, and 6 MONTHS after release your seeing less than $20 than that something is wrong

    Just my 2 cents
  • yacoub - Thursday, September 15, 2005 - link

    Totally agree. Prices are ridiculous. Reply
  • AnnoyedGrunt - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    I have a hard time believing you got a 9700pro for $120 six months after launch, unless you bought it used.

    I got a 9700pro in Jan 2004 for $180-190 (purchased thru newegg), and that was more than a year after launch if I recall correctly.

    Aside from that minor quibble, I do agree with your overall point. It does seem as though the vendors are much more slow in lowering the price of previous gen "high-end" cards to bring them to the mid range. Instead, they release faster cards that are also much more expensive.

    I will admit that I got my first 2nd and third 3d card (Voodoo 1, GF 1 SDR, GF3 Ti200) for about $200 each. The first two cards were definitely high end at the time, while the GF3 was second in line to the Ti500. It does seen somewhat odd that graphics cards are about the only computer compenent that has seemed to get higher and higher in price, instead of lower and lower like most other parts. On the other hand, I think the performance of the GPU has increased at a greater rate than that of the CPU over the last few years, so maybe the higher cost is somewhat justified (but it definitely is annoying).

    I'm currently using an X800XL which I bought for $300 when they first arrived, and I don't plan on upgrading for at least another year, so I'll be interested in the next, next gen from NV and ATI.

  • 100proof - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    I'm of the same opinion.. It used to be the CPU was the most expensive part of an build from a buyers standpoint, but over the past three years that has changed entirely.. Video cards manufacturers have consistently increased prices to the point that it's not affordable for most people to purchase a current generation card.. If ATi and Nvidia think that they continue this present trend of pushing MSRPs to new levels, they'll eventually find they've priced themselves out of most consumer's budgets.. Reply
  • Sh0ckwave - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    The fastest CPUs are still more expensive then the fastest graphics cards though (4800 X2 $880, FX57 $1000). Reply

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