We have been talking about NVIDIA’s NV40 graphics processor through the whole week and just a pair of news-stories was tremendously popular among our visitors (check the this and this news-stories). We think we need to cover some rumours from another camp now and publish something about the product-code-named R420.
In the depths of ATI Technologies’ labs the company is developing its answer to the NV40 GPU. The answer is to be paper-launched with NVIDIA in November, probably at Comdex Fall 2003. The new chip code-named R420 is being developed under project-name, Loki. The Inquirer explained that Loki, named after the Norse deity, son of Farbauti, held responsible for fire and magic, and able to take numerous different shapes. Loki was also held directly responsible for the death of the god of light, Baldur. It is all about mythology, I realize.
Just like the competing graphics chip, the code-named R420 will support Pixel Shaders 3.0 and Vertex Shaders 3.0. It is not known whether ATI will decide to utilize GDDR2 or GDDR3 memory. The most important fact about the chip is that it will have native support of PCI-Express interconnection. However, since it is scheduled to be commercially available early next year, graphics cards based on the new VPU will be equipped with a special PCI Express-to-AGP bridge. Hopefully, the bridge will work fine and will not limit performance of the final products.
According to the report over here, the R420 will have more than 110 but less than 150 million of transistors, however ATI Technologies itself said recently that its [next-generation] visual processing unit (VPU) would have more than 200 million transistors of digital logic. In this case I can assume that the R420 will have a lot in common with existing R300 architecture, whereas the totally new core from ATI Technologies will come a bit later.
As you probably understand, it is too early to estimate performance of the R420, however, based on the fact that ATI has always presented huge speed bumps with totally new products, I would expect it to be 50% to 100% faster than the R350 or R360.
All information about unannounced products comes from unofficial sources, as a result, some parts of the report may be misleading. At this time everything looks logical enough, hopefully, we got the idea right.