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Web-site [H]ard|OCP published preliminary specifications of graphics cards powered by RADEON X800-series of visual processing units. Apparently, the products will differ from each-other not only by core-clocks, but also by the number of rendering pipelines.

ATI Technologies’ chip known as R420 will be called RADEON X800 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 last week are correct. PCI Express x16 solution powered by the R423 architecture – RADEON X880XT – will see the light of the day on the 14th of June. Besides, there will also be a cost-effective version of the R420.

Visual processing unit code-named R420 is ATI Technologies’ next-generation DirectX 9-supporting graphics chip.

[H]ard|OCP reports that various versions of the R420 will be branded as RADEON X800 PRO, RADEON X800 XT, RADEON X880 XT and RADEON X800 SE citing a “classified ATI document”. The solutions will enable different number of rendering pipelines: 12, 16, 16, 8  and will function at clock-speeds of 500MHz, 600MHz, 600MHz and 450MHz respectively. Higher-end graphics cards will have 256 or 512MB of GDDR3 memory functioning at 1000 and 1200MHz for “PRO” and “XT” parts. The performance-mainstream offering RADEON X800 SE will boast with 800MHz DDR memory with 128-bit bus.

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 rivalling NVIDIA NV40 chip, however, at this point ATI wants to expose all capabilities of the RADEON X800-series chips to fight with the competitor.

A lot of graphics cards based on R300 and R350/R360 chips with 4 pipes enabled could be tweaked to turn on the remaining 4 pixel pipelines, a modification that dramatically improved performance. Computer hardware enthusiasts are likely to pay a lot of attention on the RADEON X800 SE and RADEON X800 PRO graphics cards that will enable only 8 and 12 pixel pipelines out of 16 respectively.

There is a controversy over a number of transistors in the ATI R420 graphics processor. Initially there was a claim about “more than 200 million of transistors” from Synopsys, the company from whom ATI Technologies acquired its design-for-test software for its “high-end 0.13 micron processor” in mid-2003. In mid-February 2004 an unofficial source reported that R420 contained 160 million of transistors. Now [H]ard|OCP claims about 160 to 180 million of transistors.

Representatives for ATI Technologies usually do not comment on unreleased products.

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