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ATI Technologies demonstrated a personal computer with working prototype of its next-generation graphics processor known under R420 code-name at Intel Developer Forum, giving a glance at performance of the forthcoming visual processing unit.

The upcoming graphics chips from the two leading graphics processors developers, dubbed ATI R420 and NVIDIA NV40, are expected to offer more advanced capabilities along with tangibly improved performance in modern 3D applications. Both chips will sport Pixel Shaders 3.0 and Vertex Shaders 3.0, more efficient FSAA and anisotropic filtering patterns as well as new 256-bit memory controllers supporting DDR, GDDR2 and GDDR3 memory types.

ATI code-named R420 processor is rumored to be made using 0.13 micron low-k process technology at TSMC. The chip incorporating 160 million of transistors is projected to have 8 advanced pixel pipelines ATI calls “extreme pipelines” as well as 6 vertex shader engines.

ATI Technologies is reported to have said that the next-generation visual processing unit shown off at IDF – the code-named R420 – is capable of running at 100fps in Colin McRae Rally 2004 game, which is 2 or 3 times faster compared to “today’s DirectX 9.0 hardware”.

In case ATI’s performance indications are correct and the R420 is compared to the RADEON 9800 PRO-class hardware, it means that the R420 has very seriously revamped architecture compared to the R300/R350 processors. David Orton, the President and COO for ATI Technologies, indicated in early December 2003 that the next-generation VPU will have 32-bit precision for Pixel Shaders, a bit higher precision compared to R300’s 24-bit.

This is not a new trend for ATI to showcase unannounced hardware during exhibitions. Nearly two years ago ATI demonstrated its R300 – RADEON 9700 PRO – graphics card at E3 show in the USA about 2.5 months before announcement and nearly 3.5 months before the actual shipments.

Spokespersons for Markham, Ontario-based ATI Technologies were not ready to comment at press time.

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