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Only weeks before the release, ATI Technologies decided to boost performance of its next-generation code-named R420 processor by increasing the number of pixel pipelines inside the chip. Industry source told X-bit labs that the story is not about redesign, but about enabling “big guns” that were “hidden” inside the chip from the very beginning.

ATI Technologies’ chip known as R420 will be called RADEON X800 PRO and is likely to be launched on the 26th of April, 2004. Higher-speed flavour of the R420 – the RADEON X800 XT – is expected to debut on the 31st of May, 2004, if the assumptions posted earlier this week are correct. PCI Express x16 solution powered by the R423 architecture will see the light of the day on the 14th of June. ATI on Tuesday began marketing campaign on its web-site to support the launch of the new graphics architecture.

Sources familiar with the company’s roadmap revealed Thursday, the 8th of April, that the 420/R423 graphics processors will have 16 rendering pipelines, significantly more compared to the previously released information about 8 or 12 pipes. Apparently, the company’s future chips have the same capability of enabling and disabling pixel pipelines like the predecessors – the R300 and R350/R360 chips – which were capable of working either with 4 or 8 rendering pipelines. Initially the company believed that 8 pixel conveyers would be enough to stay competitive against the rivaling NVIDIA NV40 chip, however, at this point ATI wants to expose all capabilities of the RADEON X800-series chips to fight with the competitor.

According to previously released information, the ATI code-named R420/R423 graphics processors will contain about 160 million of transistors and will be produced using low-k 0.13 micron technology at TSMC. The chips are projected to utilize the current R300 architecture, but with general improvements in the way they compute and perform.

Sources did not elaborate on possible yield impact as a result of boosting the specification of the R420. They also declined to comment on clock-speeds of the RADEON X800-series graphics cards. It was stressed that availability and launch dates unveiled earlier this week are not projected to be pushed forward as a result of specification change. Typically ATI Technologies is very concentrated on high gross-margins and volume availability of graphics cards based on its high-end processors.

Officials from ATI Technologies did not comment on the story.

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