AMD's "Small-Die" Strategy

We outlined AMD's "new" GPU strategy in our Radeon HD 4850 preview article, but in short AMD has committed to designing GPUs for the mainstream $199 - $299 segment and simply using CrossFire (multi-GPU) to address higher end markets. NVIDIA on the other hand will continue to make very large monolithic GPUs in order to continue to push the industry forward. Both approaches are appreciated and necessary, they simply target different markets.

In our GT200 review we highlighted the fact that NVIDIA had built an extremely large, highly parallel, microprocessor. With 1.4 billion transistors and a die size of around 576 mm^2, NVIDIA's GT200 is nothing short of huge.

The table on the previous page shows that AMD's RV770, despite being aimed at mainstream gamer price points ($199 - $299), is also very large. At 956M transistors, the RV770 has 44% more transistors than RV670 and 68% the transistor count of NVIDIA's GT200. We threw the RV770 into NVIDIA's die size comparison just for kicks:

Based on what we know of NVIDIA's die size, this should be to scale

Even AMD's die, although designed to be svelte and affordable, is big - especially for being fabbed at TSMC. NVIDIA still holds the crown for largest die fabbed at TSMC, but AMD shows us that even a more mainstream approach still requires tons of transistors. As we mentioned in our 4850 preview:

"A pair of RV770s, AMD's new GPU, end up consuming more power than a single GT200 - despite being built on a smaller 55nm process.

A pair of these RV770s only costs $400 compared to $650 for a single GT200, but I suspect that part of that is due to differences in manufacturing process. If NVIDIA hadn't been so risk averse with the GT200 and built it on 55nm (not that I'm advocating it, simply posing a hypothetical), the cost differences would be smaller - if not in favor of NVIDIA since GT200 is built on a single card.

When the smoke clears, AMD's strategy is to simply build a GPU for the masses and attempt to scale it up and down. While NVIDIA is still building its GPUs the same way it has for decades, starting very large and scaling down.

AMD isn't taking a radically different approach to building and designing GPUs than NVIDIA, it's simply building one market segment lower."

We've got a lot of discussion on efficiency between AMD and NVIDIA coming up in this article, although AMD's die is noticeably smaller than NVIDIA's - as you've already seen with the Radeon HD 4850 - there are many areas where RV770 can go toe-to-toe with NVIDIA's mammoth GT200.

Index Building a RV770
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  • Amiga500 - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Apple has passed over control of Open CL to the Khronos group, which manage open sourced coding.

    To all intentions and purposes, it is open source. :-)
  • emergancyexit - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    i hope you do 3x crossfire can do. maybe a 4x 4850 vs 3x GTX 260 just to satisfy us readers for the moment would be lovely!
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    i'm not sure if this is supported out of the box ... ill have to check it out ...
  • emergancyexit - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    i would really like to know what type of performance theese cards could get in an MMO. (and hopefully compare them to some cheaper cards) Games im interested in are some of the newer titles like Age of conan ( i hear it's graphics are great and is a workout for even a 8800 ultra) And Eve-online (thier new graphics engine works cards pretty hard too)

    MMO's Graphics usually get pretty intesive with some odd 200+ characters flying around shooting fireballs evrywhere with missles sailing through the air in a land of hundreds of monsters as far as the eye can see. it can get pretty demanding on a gameing computer, just as much (if not more) as a hit new title.

    for example, on my current Rig i can get around 50FPS steady at 1440x900 but on Eve-Online i get 35 at the most at peacefull times and 20 or even 15 in a large fight with FEW graphics options selected.
  • MIP - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Great review, the 4870 looks to be fantastic value. However, we're missing the 'heat and noise' part.
  • skiboysteve - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Not only do these cards rock, but I wouldn't be surprised if AMD has an ace up its sleeve with the 4870x2... with that crossfire interconnect directly connected to the data hub that you showed on the chart. That and the fact that they have been looking forward to this crossfire strategy of attacking the high end for quite some time so they might have some tricky driver stuff coming with it.

    I have been disappointed with the heat and power consumption of these cards. But:
    1) Someone said powerplay is getting a driver tweak and, I can always clock them lower in 2D than 500/1000 (which is insane for 2d)
    2) That hardware site someone linked earlier showed a more than 50% reduction in temperatures with an aftermarket cooler! Thats insane!!

    And finally, if I can get the 1 & 2 fixed... I want to know how well these babys overclock. If I can get a 4850 running like a 4870 or better... yum. And in that case, how high will a 4870 OC? And I want to know this with a non stock cooler, because apparently the stock ones suck. With a non stock cooler if the 4850 clocks up to 4870 level, but the 4870 clocks way up too... i'm gonna have to grab a 4870.

    So yeah, fix #1 and #2 and find me non-stock cooler OC #s and I'll go buy one (maybe two?) when nehalem comes out
  • Powered by AMD - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Impressive review, Thanks :)
    A few glitches:
    It says "Power Consumption, Heat and Noise", but the graphs only shows Power Consuption.
    In Page 17 (The Witcher), in second paragraph, it says 390X2 instead of 3870.

    Thanks again.
    Cheers from Argentina.
  • Conscript - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    atleast that was the tile of the second to last page...but only see two power consumption graphs?
  • Proteusza - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    I quote one Kristopher Kubricki regarding whether the RV770 is inferior to the GT200:

    "It is. Even AMD isn't going to tell you otherwise. You can debate this all you want, but it's still a $200 video card."

    So, please tell me now why I should pay $650 for a GTX280. I'm struggling to see the logic here.

    (near the bottom)
  • AbRASiON - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    I can live with a greedier card than my 8800GT but I refuse to put up with a noisy machine.

    Any comments on the heat and noise please? would be nice!

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