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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  • shadowteam - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Did you know these chips can do up to 125C? 90C is so common for ATI cards, I haven't had one since 2005 that didn't blow me hair dry. Your NV card was just a bad chip I suppose. Why do you think NV or ATI would spend a billion dollars in research work, then let its product burn away due to some crappy cooling? They won't give you more cooling than you actually need. It's the same very cards that go to places like Abu-Dhabi, where room temps. easily hit 50C+.
  • soloman02 - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Sorry, but no human would survive a temp of 50C.">
    In fact the highest temp a human has survived was recorded by the Guinness book of world records as: 46.5C (115.7F). Keep in mind that was the internal temp of the guy. The temp on that day was 32.2C (90F).">,9171,9...">,9171,9...

    If it is 50C in those rooms, the people inside are dead or dying.

    The cards are probably fine. All it takes is to search google to back up your figures (or to disprove them like I just did).
  • shadowteam - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    You're just a dumb pissed off loser. There's a big difference in internal human temperature to its surroundings. In places like Sahara, temperatures routinely hit 45C, and max out @ 55C. But does that mean people living there just die? No they don't, because they drink a lot of water, which helps their bodies get rid of excess heat so to keep their internals at normal temperature (32C). You didn't have this knowledge to share so you decided to Google it instead, and make fool out of yourself. Here, let me break it down for you,

    You said: "Keep in mind that was the internal temp of the guy"

    Exactly, the guy was sick, and when you're sick, your body temperature rises, in which case 46C is the limit of survival. I suggest you take Bio-chemistry in college to learn more about human body, which is another 4 years before you finish school.
  • Ilmarin - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    I'm not talking about chips failing altogether... just stability issues, similar to what you experience from over-zealous overclocking. Lots of people have encountered artifacting/crashes with stock-cooled cards over the years. If these are just 'bad chips' that are experiencing stability issues at high temps, then there are a lot of them getting through quality control. Of course NV and ATI do enough to make most people happy... but many of us have good reason to be nervous about temperature. I think they can and should do better. Dual slot exhaust coolers should be mandatory for the enthusiast/performance cards, with full fan control capability. Often it's up to the partners to get that right, and often it doesn't happen for at least a couple of months.
  • shadowteam - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    I think it's more profitable for board partners to just roll out a stock card rather than go through the trouble of investing time/money into performance cooling. What I've seen thus far, and it's quite apparent, that newer companies tend to go exotic cooling to get themselves heard. Once they're in the game, it's back to stock cooling. For example, Palit and ECS came up with nice coolers for its 9600s. Remember Leadtek from past years? They don't even do custom coolers any more. ASUS, Powercolor, Gigabyte, Sapphire etc just find it easier to throw in a 3rd party cooler from ZM, TT TR, and call it a day.
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    you know we actually received an updated bios for a certain vendors 4850 that speeds the fan up a bit and should reduce heat ...

    i suspect a lot of vendors will start adjusting their fan tables actually ...
  • shadowteam - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    I think this reply was meant for the guy right above me. I'm all for stock cooling :).
  • ImmortalZ - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    "Quake Wars once again shows the 4870 outperforming the GTX 280, but this time it offers essentially the same performance as the GTX 280 - but at half the price. "

    You mean the 260 in the first instance?

    No text in The Witcher page. I assume this is intentional.

    Also, I've heard on the web that the 48xx series has dual-link only on one of it's DVI ports. Is this true?

    Oh and another thing - why is the post comment page titled "Untitled Page"? :P
  • rahat5810 - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Nice cards and nice article. But I would like to point out that there are some mistakes in the article, nothing fatal though. Like, not mentioning 4870 in the list of cards, writing 280 instead of 260, clicking on the picture to enlarge not working for some of the figures.
  • feelingshorter - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    AMD almost has a perfect card but the fact that the 4870 idles at 46.1 more watts than the 260 means the card will heat up people's room. At load, the difference of 16.1 watts more for the 4870 is forgivable.

    If its possible to overclock a card using software (without going into BIOS screen), then why isn't it possible to underclock a card also using software when the card's full potential isn't being used? I'd really be interested in knowing the answer, or maybe someone just hasn't asked the question?

    I hardly care about Crysis, its more a matter of will it run Starcraft II with 600 units on the map without overheating. Why doesn't anandtech also test how hot the 4870 runs? Although the 4850 numbers aren't pretty at all, the 4870 is a dual slot cooler and might give better numbers right? I only want to know because, like a lot of readers, i have doubts as to whether a card like the 4850 can run super hot and not die within 1+ years of hardcore gaming.

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