Radeon Xpress' Integrated DirectX 9 GPU

Although we generally focus on the performance of desktop chipsets with the fastest discrete graphics solutions, in order to truly be successful in the chipset business, you have to gain significant OEM market share. And what do the majority of computers sold use? Chipsets with integrated graphics.

The integrated graphics core on a North Bridge comprises almost 90% of the die, but despite this figure, in terms of GPU performance, integrated graphics solutions generally perform far worse than even the cheapest discrete graphics solutions. Part of the reason behind this phenomenon is that the major chipset manufacturers (Intel, SiS, VIA) are not graphics companies, and they operate on fairly long 2-year product cycles for major changes in their graphics designs.

When NVIDIA first made an effort to get into the chipset business, they brought their graphics expertise to the market - quickly raising the performance bar with integrated graphics solutions. But with the nForce4, NVIDIA lacks an integrated graphics solution for the Athlon 64 platform, paving the way for ATI's Radeon Xpress 200 to make a splash.

In the past, you could integrate the slowest desktop GPU into a chipset unmodified, but with the extreme complexity and FP requirements of DirectX 9 GPUs, this is no longer possible. The Radeon Xpress 200 features a modified version of the X300 core, modified to have only two operational pixel pipelines. As a desktop part, only having two pipes would be terrible for performance, but keeping in mind that the market for integrated graphics solution is much less performance-conscious, then it's much more acceptable.

With only two pixel pipes, the Radeon Xpress integrated graphics core can render up to two pixels per clock, with the ability of applying one texture operation per pixel per clock. Compared to Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator 900 (the integrated graphics core of the 915G chipset), ATI is actually at a disadvantage here, with the GMA 900 capable of rendering 4 pixels per clock. Where the Radeon Xpress integrated graphics pulls ahead in the specs is in its two hardware vertex engines. Intel's GMA 900 features no hardware vertex acceleration and instead, depends on the host CPU to handle all vertex operations.

The Radeon Xpress 200 is built on a 0.13-micron process, a larger process than what the 110nm process the X300 is built on, and thus, the integrated GPU runs at a slower core clock speed of 300MHz.

Since the Radeon Xpress' integrated graphics core is based on the X300's core, game compatibility - a weakness for Intel's GMA 900 - should not be an issue with the integrated graphics. If you look back at our recent review of NVIDIA's GeForce 6200, out of the 8 games that we tested, only 5 would run on Intel's integrated graphics solution. Given that integrated graphics is usually all that first-time gamers have access to, game compatibility is quite important.

ATI Bullhead: Workstation Performance SidePort: On-Board GPU Memory


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  • flatblastard - Saturday, April 9, 2005 - link

    Hmmmm, still no real availability even now...Looks like MSI may be our only chance at this chipset....what as bummer :( Reply
  • philpoe - Sunday, February 20, 2005 - link

    Hmmm, after no real availability (in the US at least) as of Friday 2/18/05, there's suddenly a slew of shops selling the MSI board on pricewatch, including Newegg. Anyone know of a reason why the boards are so slow to trickle out? Reply
  • philpoe - Monday, February 7, 2005 - link

    Is it possible to purchase these reference boards? I seem to see them in retail-looking packages in reviews from Canada.
    If you can get your hands on one, are the BIOSes available to the public, or only to the select HW review sites?
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link


    We have added the following update to p.6:

    "UPDATE 11/11/2004: ATI has provided an updated BIOS which corrects the issues of 333 timings with 4 double-sided dimms. With the new BIOS we were able to run 4X512MB DS OCZ 3200 Platinum Rev.2 at 2-2-2-10 timings at DDR400 with a 2T Command Rate. This performance matches the best we have seen with 4 DS dimms on an Athlon 64 motherboard."
  • Momental - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    #35: I'm right there with ya, bud. Just when I "think" I've made up my mind to do the complete overhaul, the next exit appears on the highway taking me that much closer to the "Best Soft Serve in Town"!!

    The ol' gut tells me to hold out until some time just after the ball drops in Times Square and we'll all be in Fat City, so to speak. ;)
  • callius - Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - link

    Somewhat OT maybe:

    anyone seeing a reason that the next rev of A64 supporting SSE3 (in market Q1/05) coul not be plugged in a 939-mobo (nvid, ati or via) without problems (except any necessary BIOS update) ?

  • callius - Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - link

    Only minus vs nforce4 is that the SB does not support SATA-II's NCQ (for Seagate's upcoming 7200.8 series). Maybe with next SB in Q1/05 though ??? Reply
  • mlittl3 - Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - link

    Completely off topic, but does anyone know why there are four chipsets (two actively cooled, one passively cooled and the other with no cooling) in the SLI Tyan motherboard that #33 gave a link for? Reply
  • xeper - Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - link

    i can't seem to find ANY mention whatsoever of shared memory allocation. can someone help me out here? Reply
  • nserra - Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - link

    Isn’t this very funny, I mean Ati was a very close partner to Intel, and they now bring to intel its one competition product but for the intel competitor.

    I see now no reason for Dell or other companies go for intel, because really intel had (has) the edge with integrated solutions.

    A "part" I thought that there weren’t AMD IGP chipsets because it wasn’t possible to use the integrated memory controller for graphics, at least until AMD64 rev E0 came out?

    If ati is going amd on pcie first, these shows that amd have the best processor and will continue for the time been. Even dothan can do much to turn it around again to intel side. And i bet that new p4 2mb is still with problems (performance, heat, …) and every one is running away from intel because already know this even intel, bringing dothan to the desktop market.

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