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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  • paydirt - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    This is a review site. This isn't a site to market/promote products.
  • formulav8 - Thursday, June 26, 2008 - link

    They do recommend hardware for different price points and such. So they do market in a way. Have you seen anands picks links? That is promoting products and does it through his referral links as well to get paid to do so. :)

    Anyways, mentioning something as a better buy up to a certain price point would be helpful to someone who is not really in the know.

  • shadowteam - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    You've got excellent written skills buddy, and I can't help thinking you're actually better at reviews than your m8 (no offence Anand), but what I truly meant from my post above is what you summed up rather well in your conclusive lines, quote: "You can either look at it as AMD giving you a bargain or NVIDIA charging too much, either way it's healthy competition in the graphics industry once again (after far too long of a hiatus)"

    Either way? Why should anyone look the other way? NV is clearly shitting all over the place, and you can tell that from the email they send you (or Anand) a couple days back. So they ripped us off for 6 months, and now suddenly decide the 9800GTX is worth $200?

    Healthy competition? Could you please elaborate on this further?
    $199 4850 vs $399 GTX260.... yup! that's healthy

    GTX+ vs 4850?
    Does that mean the GTX260 is now completely irrelevant? In fact, the 2xx series is utterly pointless no matter how you look at it.

    To bash on AMD, the 4870 is obviously priced high. For $100 extra, all you get is an OC'ed 4850 w/ DDR5 support. I don't think anyone here cares about DDR5, all that matters is performance, and the extra bucks plainly not worth it. From a consumers' perspective, the 4850 is the best buy, the 4870 isn't.
  • mlambert890 - Sunday, July 13, 2008 - link

    "200 series is utterly pointless"

    Yep... pointless unless you want the fastest card (280), then it has a point.

    Pointless to YOU possibly because you're focusing on perf per dollar. Good for you. Nice of you to presume to force that view on the world.

    Absolute performance? GTX 280 seems near the top of every benchmark there bud. Both in single card and in SLI where, last I checked, it gives up maybe TWO instances to the 4870CF - Bioshock and CoD and in both cases framerates are north of 100 at 2560. The 4870, on the other hand, falls WELL short of playable at that res in CF in most other benches.

    High res + high perf = 200 series. Sorry if thats offensive to the egos of those who cant afford the cards.

    Theres a lot in life we can and cant afford. Should have ZERO impact on ABSOLUTE PERFORMANCE discussions.
  • FITCamaro - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    AMD/ATI has to make some money somewhere. And regardless, at $300, the 4870 is a hell of a deal compared to the competition. Yes the 4850 is probably the best value. But the 4870 is still right behind it if you want a decent amount of extra performance at a great price.

    Nvidia may have the fastest thing out there. But only the richest, most brain dead idiots who have not a care in the world about how they spend their (or their parents) money will buy it with cards like the 4850 and 4870 available.

    And its pretty sad when your new $650 high end card is routinely beat by two of your last generation cards (8800GT) that you can get for $150 each or less. It wouldn't be as big a deal if the new card was $300-350 but at $650, it should be stomping on it.

    I think Nvidia is in for a reality check for what people want. If their new chips are only going to cater to the top 1% of the market, they're going to find themselves quickly in trouble. Especially with the all the issues their chipsets have for 6 months after release. And their shoddy drivers. I mean this past Friday I decided to try and set up some profiles so that when I started up Age of Conan, it would apply an overclock to my GPU and unapply it after I exited, it ended up locking up my PC continuously. I had to restore my OS from a backup disc because not even completely uninstalling and reinstalling my nvidia chipset and video drivers fixed it. And in my anger, I didn't back up my "My Documents" folder so I lost 5 years worth of stuff, largely pictures.
  • mlambert890 - Sunday, July 13, 2008 - link

    "Nvidia may have the fastest thing out there. But only the richest, most brain dead idiots who have not a care in the world about how they spend their (or their parents) money will buy it with cards like the 4850 and 4870 available."

    You just summed it up in that first sentence there bud. NVidia has the fastest thing out there. The rest is just opinion, bitterness and noise.

    I notice that the tone of the "enthusiast" community seems to be laser focused on cost now. This is like car discussions. People want to pretend to be "Xtreme" but what they really want to see is validation of whatever it is THEY can afford.

    Have fun with the 4870 by all means, its a great card. But the GTX280 IS faster. Did NVidia price it too high? Dont know and dont care.

    These are PERFORMANCE forums to all of the people that dont get that. Maybe even the editors need to be reminded.

    If I want to see an obsession with "bang for the buck" Ill go to Consumer Reports.

    I mean seriously. How much of a loser are you when you're taking a shot like "your PARENTS money"? LOL...

    Personally, I treat the PC hobby as an expensive distraction. Ive been a technology pro for 15 years now and this is my vice. As an adult earning my own money, I can decide how I spend it and the difference between $500 and a grand isnt a big deal.

    The rehtoric on forums is really funny. People throw the "kid/parents" insult around alot, but I think its more likely that the people who take prices beyond what they can afford as some kind of personal insult are more likely the kids here.
  • formulav8 - Thursday, June 26, 2008 - link

    "Nvidia may have the fastest thing out there. But only the richest, most brain dead idiots who have not a care in the world about how they spend their (or their parents) money will buy it with cards like the 4850 and 4870 available."

    Yuk Yuk Yuk :)

  • drpepper128 - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    To be honest, while I was reading the article I felt as if the article seemed a little ATI biased, but I guess that goes to show you that two different people can get drastically different opinions from the same article.

    The real reason I’m posting this is I want to thank you guys for writing some of the best articles that Anandtech has ever written. I read every page and enjoyed the whole thing. Keep up the great work guys and I look forward to reading more (especially about Nehalem and anything relating to AMD’s future architecture).

    Also, is GDDR5 coming to the 4850 ever? If so, maybe it would be a drastically better buy.

    Thank you,
  • Clauzii - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    Damn, You R pissed!! :O

    OK, get some sleep and wake up smiling tomorrow, knowing that It's ATI needing to raise prices - - - and go get that 4870 :))
  • Clauzii - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - link

    OH, " ... that It's NOT ATI needing to ... "

    BTW: I actually read the review as pretty neutral, making a hint here and there that the further potential of the HD4870 is quite big :)

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