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ATI Technologies, a designer of graphics and multimedia chip solutions, is said to prepare the production of two new visual processing units this quarter that are expected to eventually replace the current high-end graphics processors from the company.

ATI Preps New High-End Chips

According to a high-ranking source among graphics card partners of ATI Technologies, the company preps to start making code-named R430 and R480 visual processing units in Q4 2004. ATI’s R480 and R430 products are expected to feature native PCI Express x16 connectivity and are said replace ATI RADEON X800 XT-series along with ATI RADEON X800 PRO SKUs in the segment. The source declined to reveal whether the chips are expected to be introduced or sold in volume in Q4 2004.

ATI’s RADEON X800 AGP 8x and PCI Express x16 product lineups are currently based on the chips internally called R420 and R423 respectively. At present ATI ships three RADEON X800 flavours for each bus into the channel: RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition, RADEON X800 XT and RADEON X800 PRO. The “X800” graphics cards distinguish by the different number of pixel pipelines enabled: the “PRO” version features 12 pixel processors, while both “XT” parts sport 16 pixel processors. The new R480 and R430 chips will allow ATI to diversify PCI Express “X800” product lineups and supply different chips for different add-in boards.

Earlier this year a report about ATI’s code-named R430 chip to be produced using 0.11 micron process technology at TSMC emerged. Technical specs and availability dates of the chip are unknown. No details about the code-named R480 are clear at the moment as well.

Late last week some other sources said ATI and NVIDIA were unlikely to launch new high-end graphics chips in 2004. They expected that products code-named R480 and NV48 would only ship in volume in Q1 2005.

Both NV48 and R480 are unlikely to offer any new functionality, but maybe some additional performance compared to the current high-end offerings, such as the GeForce 6800 Ultra and the RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition. The new high-end chips are also expected to solve the problem with pretty limited availability of the contemporary high-end parts, though, it is uncertain whether the developers of graphics chips plan to adopt any new fabrication processes or design tricks.

More Changes in the Roadmap

Apart from the RADEON X800 family of visual processing units a number of more changes are expected to be faced by makers of graphics cards. ATI reportedly plans to cease manufacturing of the RADEON X600 XT, RADEON 9600 SE and RADEON 9200 SE chips. However, all three will still be available for orders some time after the move.

New graphics architecture from ATI Technologies is code-named R520 and expected to emerge in the first half of 2005. Approximately at the same timeframe ATI’s arch-rival NVIDIA Corp. is projected to release its anticipated code-named NV50 product with some new capabilities.

Officials from ATI Technologies typically do not comment on unannounced products.

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