ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, on Wednesday unveiled its new graphics processing units (GPUs) that are based on the ATI Radeon HD 3000 architecture and target $50 - $100 market segment. The new chips will bring a number of new features, including Display Port, high-definition video upscaling and DirectX 10.1. But what they lack is breakthrough performance.
AMD Concentrates on Feature-Set
The three new graphics solutions introduced today are ATI Radeon HD 3450, HD 3470 and HD 3650. All the graphics processors support DirectX 10.1 feature-set, universal video decoder (UVD) for high-definition video, Avivo HD post-processing engine that supports both high-definition post-processing as well as upscaling to 2560x1440, DisplayPort interconnection support, HDMI interconnection support, PCI Express 2.0 as well as ATI Hybrid Graphics technology (HD 3400-series only).
With rather unprecedented feature-set for graphics cards that cost from $45 to $99 the graphics product group of AMD hopes to recapture discrete GPU market share from Nvidia Corp., who has been gaining for over a year now ever since AMD announced plans to acquire ATI Technologies. With the ATI Radeon HD 3000 lineup AMD does offer top-to-bottom feature-set advantage over rival’s Nvidia GeForce 8-series, which misses DirectX 10.1, DisplayPort and some other capabilities.
While feature-rich products are definitely in demand by various system integrators (SIs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), end-users who buy their components themselves consider performance on the first place, feature-set is only on the fourth place after price and stability, a recent poll by X-bit labs reveals.
Different Performance, Different Price, Same Name: ATI Radeon HD 3650
The ATI Radeon HD 3600-series graphics cards are based on the code-named ATI RV635 graphics chips that sport the same amount of execution units as ATI Radeon HD 2600-series (RV630): 120 stream processors (SPs), 8 texture units (TUs) and 4 render back ends (RBEs) clocked at 725MHz. Both HD 2600 and HD 3600-series feature 128-bit memory controller.
There will be two configurations of ATI Radeon HD 3650 available: with 256MB 1600MHz GDDR3 memory and with 256MB/512MB/1GB of 1000MHz GDDR2 memory. ATI Radeon HD 3650 GDDR3 will cost $99, whereas ATI Radeon HD 3650 GDDR2 will cost $79, according to AMD.
While the two graphics cards will offer completely different performance and will have 20% - 25% difference in price, they carry the same name: ATI Radeon HD 3650. When asked why the model is the same for different types of products, an AMD representative said that the naming scheme is based on the GPU performance, not graphics card’s performance.
“We sell ASIC and it is the same on different versions of the product,” the spokesperson for AMD stressed.
When asked whether such a naming scheme misleads the consumer, disavows model number scheme in general and whether it was necessary to implement it [the new naming scheme], the representative for AMD said that the consumer did not understand the difference between “GT”, “Pro”, and “XT” monikers anyway and that now it would be generally easier for end-users to find the right product for themselves.
According to performance tests by AMD, the new ATI Radeon HD 3650 (the company did not specify which of the two) is 5% - 30% faster compared to ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro, which featured 600MHz chip, 1000MHz memory and used to cost $89 - $99 at launch about eight months ago.
The graphics product group of AMD does not compare its new ATI Radeon HD 3650 to ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT GDDR3 or ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT GDDR4 products, which used to cost $129 and $149 at launch and featured 800MHz GPUs as well as 1.60GHz and 2.20GHz memory, respectively. Therefore, AMD may be preparing ATI Radeon HD 3670 and/or ATI Radeon HD 3830 products with performance that actually leaves behind AMD’s own graphics cards released last Summer for $130 - $150 price-range.
Multimedia Breakthrough and Integrated Graphics Booster: ATI Radeon HD 3400
The ATI Radeon HD 3400-series graphics cards are based on ATI RV620 graphics processing units and, just like ATI Radeon HD 2400, have only 40 SPs, 4 TUs and 4 RBEs along with 64-bit memory controller.
ATI Radeon HD 3470 graphics cards that will retail for $59 – 65 will have GPUs clocked at 800MHz and 256MB of memory operating at 1900MHz, whereas ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics cards, which are claimed to be sold for $49 – $55, will feature 600MHz speed for the core and 1000MHz speed for 256MB of GDDR2 memory.
The Radeon HD 3400-series graphics cards support so-called Hybrid CrossFire technology, when discrete GPU can assist integrated graphics processor (IGP) of AMD 780G core-logic and bring increased performance in demanding games. Such capability is also supported by Nvidia Corp. and its forthcoming graphics chips and IGPs.
In addition to high-definition video upscaling to 1440p resolution (2560x1440, progressive scan) from 1080p (1920x1080, progressive scan) ATI Radeon HD 3470 graphics chip can also achieve proper scores in HQV HD test thanks to its high clock-speed, which means that its Blu-ray disc or HD DVD playback quality is similar to much more expensive graphics cards.
ATI Radeon HD 3400 and 3600 Already Broadly Adopted by Customers – AMD
The ATI Radeon HD 3400 and ATI Radeon HD 3600 families of graphics chips “have already enjoyed broad customer adoption” and are “designed into a significant number of major OEM mainstream and entry-level PCs scheduled to be shipped in 2008”, the company said without naming any of its customers except Dell.
It can be expected that major add-in-board manufacturers, who are among AMD’s partners, will also release ATI Radeon HD 3400-series and HD 3600-series graphics cards. Usually ATI Radeon-based graphics cards are available from Asustek Computer, Club 3D, Diamond Multimedia, GeCube, Gigabyte, HIS, MSI, Palit, PowerColor, Sapphire and VisionTek.
“With the ATI Radeon HD 3400 and ATI Radeon HD 3600 series, AMD is delivering outstanding graphics performance to the mainstream. AMD is leading the industry by delivering top-to-bottom DirectX 10.1 support with modular graphics capabilities for easy upgradeability. It’s a part of our commitment to deliver ‘The Ultimate Visual Experience’ to more users than ever before,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president of AMD graphics products group.