Given the fact that ATI rumors are a dime a dozen these days, when I received the initial ATI market advisory for R520 this week, I somewhat disregarded it -- ATI changes their roadmap plans faster than I change my socks. However, with the copious amounts of incorrect speculation lately, we decided to go ahead and produce another roadmap update. Here is a glimpse of the confirmed cards launching in the upcoming months.

ATI Radeon X1800 (R520)

  • Radeon X1800 XT Crossfire Edition

  • Radeon X1800 XT

  • Radeon X1800 XL

  • Radeon X1800 Pro

The 90nm R520 components will come in three flavors as we mentioned earlier, all with the X1800 Radeon moniker. The available marketing information claims that the GPU uses an "ultra-threaded quad-core 3D architecture" and a "512-bit ring bus" memory controller. There's definitely some marketing hyperbole going on there, but let's get into the details.

Those of you who know a little bit about GPU architecture should recognize the "ultra-threaded quad-core" design as a standard GPU. X800XL/XT would also qualify as ultra-threaded and quad-core, as would the 6800GT/Ultra. They have a core split up into groups of "quads" - four pixel pipelines that can be deactivated as a group in case one of them is faulty. Our understanding from the documentation is that there are once again four quads, so expect to see 16 pipes on this card. There are some "confirmations" of 24pp and 32pp, but the roadmaps clearly say four cores/quads (at least to begin with) due to yeild. All signs indicate that a future generation, R580, will use six cores instead.

The 512-bit internal ring bus actually excites us the most; Cell's Elemental Interface Bus (EIB) uses a 16-byte wide quad ring bus, capable of transferring 16-bytes per cycle to the various SPEs. R520's ring bus would actually be four times wider than the bus found on Cell; though this implementation is in R520's memory controller rather than the PPE-to-SPE interface. With all the hype for R520 so far, everyone is banking on the memory controller to put X1800 ahead of G70. However, there is once again some hype occurring. The memory subsystem is still connected by a more typical 256-bit memory bus, and the 512-bit ring bus is something else. We'll have to wait for actual cards and benchmarks before we can really discover how the card performs.

Other interesting technologies on R520 include Shader Model 3.0 (and thus HDR), Adaptive anti-aliasing, and up to 512MB of GDDR3 memory. Our sources indicate that only the Crossfire versions of X1800 will support 512MB initially, but this may change further downstream. Radeon X1800, X1600 will also feature ATI's AvivoTM technology, which we currently cannot discuss further. There was also indiciation in the roadmap that this generation of ATI cards will fully support Windows Vista, with beta drivers already available.

Radeon X1600 (RV530)

  • Radeon X1600 XT Crossfire Edition
  • Radeon X1600 XT
  • Radeon X1600 Pro

X1600 is very similar to X1800 with respect to features, although there will be different clocks and pipelines. The roadmap lists a 256-bit internal ring bus, whereas the X1800 models will have a 512-bit bus instead. The external memory bus will be half as wide as well: 128-bits vs. 256-bits. Obviously, with fewer quads the need for a wider bus is diminished, and the X1600 only has three quads (12 pipes). To our knowledge, everything from RV530 and lower is virtually identical to the roadmap we published a few weeks ago, with a few of the launch dates pushed back.

Radeon X1300 (RV515)

  • Radeon X1300 Pro

  • Radeon X1300

  • Radeon X1300 HyperMemory

Our original roadmap from just a few weeks ago claimed an "LE" version of RV515, but it appears this has been replaced with just an RV515 "vanilla" offering instead. Since then, we have also gotten wind of a HyperMemory card. If priced right, a high performance HyperMemory card from ATI could really give NVIDIA a run for their money on the low end; NVIDIA's GeForce 6500 is the upcoming TurboCache replacement. The roadmaps also indicated Crossfire on X1300, but so far there are no Master Cards slated for RV515.

Several of ATI's AIB partners told us that there will be no Radeon X800GTO2 recently. There might be an exclusive deal lined up for a specific AIB, but all signs seem to indicate that X800GTO and X800GT are the short term products that are supposed to replace X800XL, and that inventory of the 90nm components should be widely available before the EOL of X800GTO.

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  • Regs - Sunday, September 11, 2005 - link

    That's all I really care about right now between Nvidia and ATI. 550 dollars for a video card is almost as marked up as today's crued oil market.
  • Rza79 - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    One other possibility would be that each quad consists of 8 pipes on the R520.
    That would explain why they talk about 16 - 24 - 32 pipes = 2 - 3 - 4 quads.
    I seriously doubt that ATI would call it X1800 if it would have the same amount of pipes compared to the X800.
  • Jep4444 - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    the GeForce 2(Mx aside), GeForce 3, GeForce 4(Mx aside again) and Fx 5800/5900 all have the same pixel pipeline configuration yet we saw some significant performance increases from generation to generation

    remember the R520 will utilize FP16/32 as opposed to FP24 so we should see some immediate performance changes there and the architecture is entirely different so i think a new name is fitting for the card, even if they do end up with 16 pixel pipes
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    We've heard specifically that RV530 is 12 pipelines. More importantly, deactivating 8 pipelines at a time doesn't make much sense - it's too coarse-grained. A quad of pipelines might use up something like 20 million transistors, so an octet would be twice that many. There are some pretty significant enhancements to the pipelines, so changing the name to X1800 would be warranted if the new chips are significantly more powerful, clock for clock.
  • Rza79 - Sunday, September 11, 2005 - link

    I was specificly talking about the R520 not the RV5xx series.
    But it's just a thought ...
  • shabby - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    Any word on agp cards?
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    I have heard rumors that ATI won't be pursuing AGP versions of these cards at all. Nothing official, though.
  • Slappi - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    The name is lame and the marketing BS talk about 4 quad trying to cover up that it is ONLY A 16 PIPE card smacks of desperation.

    Wow did ATI drop the ball on this one big time.
  • Griswold - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    Wonder if you still say that once they pop 24 and 32 pipe versions - or even after this 16 pipe thing pulls even with the g70 due to some other "gimmicks". Pipelines isnt everything, you know.

    I probably still wont wait and buy me some NV piece this time, for my new box.
  • dwalton - Saturday, September 10, 2005 - link

    I highly doubt that we will see a 32, 24 pipeline version of the R520 if all the current 1800s being released are 16 pipeline parts unless your comment includes the R580.

    While a lot of people believe these new parts will be 32 pipeline parts with half the pipelines disabled, I find it highly unlikely for ATI to go this route. This would produce a lot of wasted silicon per core and wafer and would kill the profit margin on the 16 pipeline chips.

    Even if ATI could regain the performance title under this scenario, Nvidia could simply drop the prices of their cards and beat ATI on a performance per dollar ratio. This would squeeze the profit out of the R520 cards. Taking in account the capital invested into several tape outs of the 520 and this puts ATI in a very undesirable position. Its no use of being the performance king if you cannot not capitalize on it profitwise.

    I want to believe that ATI spent part of the delay taping out a 16 pipeline part that is somewhat competitive against the g70 and provides good profit margins. Enough to compete with nvidia on performance per dollar ratio if not on performance alone.

    ATI's time and resources would be better spent on concentrating on the R580 and R600. If nvidia's 5XXXs showed us anything, then it would be that a unsucessful launch of a underperforming GPU won't kill you if you are price competitive and have a better performance competitive GPU on the way.

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