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ATI Technologies said Thursday its “forthcoming RADEON graphics processor”, which is known under R520 code-name, would feature hardware acceleration of H.264 Advanced Video Codec, which is to be used with forthcoming HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The first public demonstration of the capability is promised to be scheduled for Computex Taipei 2005.

“ATI is transforming the PC video landscape by leading the industry adoption of Blu-ray and HD DVD on the PC. This new innovation builds upon ATI's unrivaled video and display technologies,” said Rick Bergman, Senior Vice President, PC Business Unit, ATI Technologies.

H.264 compression technology allows High Definition videos in 1280x720 or 1920x1080 resolutions to fit into 8Mbps – 10Mbps bit rate, whereas typical MPEG-2 consumes 15Mbps – 20Mbps for this type of quality. This increased compression efficiency is highly computationally demanding, therefore graphics hardware assistance is crucial for real-time decoding of high bit-rate video. Furthermore, graphics hardware designers should keep in mind that demand for increased computational resources means higher energy consumption by the chips, which is not a good news for mobile computers with battery time constraints.

Earlier the Markham, Ontario-based graphics company said that the only way to efficiently playback HD content nowadays is to have dedicated hardware that is tailored for the purpose. By contrast, currently MPEG 4 acceleration is performed by ALUs of pixel processors within a graphics chip. The company alluded it would use technologies developed by its Consumer Electronics Group for Xilleon processors to provide efficient HD video playback on the PC. The firm, however, did not elaborate whether dedicated hardware will be a special circuitry within a visual processing unit, or a special video chip.

     
Slides from an ATI's presentation. Click to enlarge

The ATI demonstration at Computex features H.264 playback with “ATI’s next-generation” RADEON technology and a CyberLink video player application. In addition to hardware acceleration of H.264, the RADEON “R520” processor is set to perform next generation video processing and show off advanced display capabilities, ATI said.

ATI will exhibit PC video and graphics innovations from May 31 to June 4, in the Regency Ballroom-1F, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan.

A web-site recently published a story claiming that ATI’s R520 would not be launched in June, 2005, as expected, but will be announced at a later date. While ATI’s officials do not comment on the unannounced products, some sources close to the company indicated that the information has good chances to be accurate and ATI would launch its next-generation VPU when it is feasible from the tactical point of view, as currently the company’s RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition is the world’s fastest single-chip graphics accelerator. Some other sources said ATI was seriously working on the launch of the company’s multi-GPU consumer technology.

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