While AMD will tell us that R600 is not late and hasn't been delayed, this is simply because they never actually set a public date from which to be delayed. We all know that AMD would rather have seen their hardware hit the streets at or around the time Vista launched, or better yet, alongside G80. But the fact is that AMD had quite a few problems in getting R600 out the door.

While we couldn't really get the whole story from anyone, we heard bits and pieces here and there during our three day briefing event in Tunis, Tunisia. These conversations were short and scattered and not the kind of thing that it's easy to get a straight answer about when asking direct questions. Keeping that in mind, we do have some information and speculation about a few of the road bumps AMD faced with R600.

Apparently, the first spin of R600 silicon could only communicate over the debugging interface. While the upside is that the chip wasn't totally dead, this is not a good problem to have. We also overheard that a later revision of the hardware suffered from fragments getting stuck in pixel shaders. We even overheard one conversation where someone jokingly remarked that AMD should design hardware but leave the execution to NVIDIA.

In a wild bout of pure speculation on our part, we would have to guess about one other problem that popped up during R600's creation. It seems to us that AMD was unable to get their MSAA hardware to work properly and was forced to use shader hardware to handle MSAA rather than go back for yet another silicon revision. Please know that this is not a confirmed fact, but just an educated guess.

In another unique move, there is no high end part in AMD's R600 lineup. The Radeon HD 2900 XT is the highest end graphics card in the lineup and it's priced at $399. While we appreciate AMD's intent to keep prices in check, the justification is what we have an issue with. According to AMD, it loses money on high end parts which is why we won't see anything more expensive than the 2900 XT this time around. The real story is that AMD would lose money on a high end part if it wasn't competitive, which is why we feel that there's nothing more expensive than the 2900 XT. It's not a huge deal because the number of people buying > $399 graphics cards is limited, but before we've started the review AMD is already giving up ground to NVIDIA, which isn't a good sign.

More than anything, we'd guess that the lack of a high end part has a lot to do with the delays and struggles AMD saw this time around in bringing R600 to market. We expect to see the return of a very high end part by the time R700 comes around, assuming that there aren't similarly debilitating delays.

The delays and lack of a high end would be beyond perfect if the Radeon HD 2900 XT could do to NVIDIA what the G80 launch did to ATI, unfortunately the picture just isn't that rosy. ATI's latest and greatest doesn't exactly deliver the best performance per watt, so while it doesn't compete performance-wise with the GeForce 8800 GTX it requires more power. An ultra high end power requirement in a sub-$400 graphics card isn't exactly ideal.

Despite all of this, there's a great deal of cool technology in the R600, and as ATI is now a part of a CPU company, we received more detail on the GPU than we've gotten during any other GPU launch. AMD takes graphics very seriously, and it recently reaffirmed its commitment to continue to deliver high end discrete graphics cards, so amidst countless delays and rumors of strange problems, the R600 architecture is quite possibly more important to AMD than the graphics cards themselves. An eventual derivative of this architecture will be used in AMD's Fusion processors, eventually making their way into a heterogeneous multi-core AMD microprocessor.

With AMD's disappointing Q1, it can't rest too much on the hope of Fusion changing the market, so we'll have to start by looking at where R600 is today and how it stacks up to NVIDIA's latest and almost greatest.

DX10 Redux


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  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Fanboy? What a dork.

    I've had success with ATI, not with NVIDIA, and I know ATI stuff a lot better so it's just easier for me to work with. It's not an irrational like or dislike. I bought one NVIDIA and it was a nightmare. Plus, I'm not as sure they'll be around for very long as I am ATI/AMD, although they had a good quarter, and AMD surely had a dreadful one.

    Selling discrete video cards alone might get a lot more difficult with the integration of CPUs, and GPUs.
  • yyrkoon - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    You are a fanboy, face it. 'I tried a nVidia card once . . .' How long ago was that ? Who made the card ? Did you have it configured properly? Once?! Details like this are important, and seemily/conviently left out. Anyhow, anyone claiming that nVIdia cards are 'junk' has definate issues with assembling/configuring hardware. I say this because my current system uses a nVidia based card, and is 100% rock solid. 'Person between the chair and keyboard' rings a bell.

    Ask any Linux user why they refuse to use ATI cards in their system . . . You are also one of these people out there that claims ATI driver support is superior to nVIdias driver support I suppose ? If you have truely been using ATI products for 20 years, then you know ATI has one of the worst reputations on the planet for driver support(and while it may have improved, it is not as good as nVidias still).

    Yeah, anyhow, ATI, and nVidia both can have problems with their hardware, it is not based 100% on their architecture, but the OEM releasing the products have a lot of effect here also. There are bad OEMs to buy from here on both sides of the fence, knowing who to stay away from, is half the work when building a PC, and probably had a lot more to do with your alleged 'bad nVIdia card', assuming you actually configured the card properly.

    I also had a problem with an nVIdia card once, I bought a brand new GF3 card about 7 years ago, and a few of the older games I had, would not display properly with it. What did I do ? I waited about a month, for a new driver, and the problem was solved. I have also had issues with ATI cards, one of which drew too much power from the AGP slot, and would cause the given system to crash 1-2 times a day. This was a design issue/oversight on ATI's behalf(the card was made by Saphire, who also makes ATIs cards). What did I do ? I replaced the card with an nVIdia card, and the system has been stable since.

    So you see, I too can skew things to make anyone look bad also, and in the end, it would only serve to make me look like the dork. But if you want to pay more, for less, that is perfectly fine by me.
  • Pirks - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    I've got all problems and crappy drivers (especially Linux ones) only from ATI while nVidia software was always much better in my experience. power hungry noisy monsters made by whom? by ATI! as always :) same shit as with their x1800/x1900 miserable power guzzling series

    discrete video cards are not going away any time soon. ever heard of integrated video used in games, besides ones from 2000, like old Quake 2? no? then please continue your lovefest with ATI, but for me - it looks like I'll pass on them this time again - since Radeon 9800Pro they went downhill and continue in that direction. they MAY make a decent integrated CPU/GPU budget-oriented vendor in a future, for all those office folks playing simple 2D office games, but real stuff? nope, ATI is still out of the game for me. let's see if they manage to come back with reincarnation of R300 in future.

    ironically, AMD CPUs on the other hand have best price/performance ratio, so intel won't see me as their customer. I wish ATI 3D chips were as good as AMD CPUs in that regard (and overclockers please shut up, I'm not bothering to OC my rig because I don't enjoy benchmark numbers, I enjoy REAL stuff like games, and Intel is out of the game for me as well, at least until their budget single core Conroes are out)
  • utube545 - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Get a clue, you fucking cretin. Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    haha... lol, wow. facepalm. Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    Damn you're a fail noob of an ATI fanboy. Time has not been kind to the HD2900XT, and now you sound more ridiculous then ever... lol. Reply
  • yzkbug - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Not a word about new AVIVO HD and digital sound features? Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    we mentioned this ...

    on the r600 overview page ...
  • photoguy99 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    First to be clear and I do not condone the title of this article, there's no need to bring racism into this.

    But my point is NVidia can and will react by making the performance per dollar competitive for the R600 vs 8800GTS.

    Once the prices are comparable, why buy a more power hungry part (the ATI)?

    This is one disadvantage they can't correct until the next respin.

  • DrMrLordX - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Based on the benchmarks results, the only reason I can see for getting 2900XTs is if a). you don't care about power consumption and b). want to run a Crossfire rig at a lower cost of entry than dual-8800 GTXs or 8800 Ultras.

    As others have said, some more benchmarks in mature DX10 titles might show who the real winner here is performance-wise, and that holds true for multi-GPU scenarios as well.

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