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Even though performance and the amount of capabilities of integrated graphics processors (IGPs) that are either parts of core-logic sets or central processing units (CPUs) are constantly improving, there will always be a place for low-end standalone graphics processing units (GPUs), believes ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices.

“We will have low-end graphics cards because they still bring value to the end-user. We will make sure that this message comes out once we launch Fusion Llano products,” said Shaila Bansal, a senior product manager for mainstream graphics at AMD’s graphics division.

On Thursday ATI officially allowed its partners among makers of graphics cards to install high-speed GDDR5 memory onto relatively inexpensive Radeon HD 5550 adapters (powered by Redwood chip), effectively sending Radeon HD 5550 graphics cards with (G)DDR3 to lower price-points. By doing a rather simple and formal move, ATI boosted performance of graphics processing in the market segment, where improvements are expected, but not appreciated as in more advanced segments. The natural result of the price drop of the Radeon HD 5550 (G)DDR3 is its inevitable competition against much less powerful ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics cards based on Cedar chip.

The Redwood chip that powers ATI Radeon HD 5500-series graphics solutions has up to 400 stream processors, meanwhile, Cedar chip that is featured on ATI Radeon HD 5400-series boards only has 80 stream processors, the same amount as ATI Radeon HD 2400-series (RV710) processors three years ago.

Early next year AMD plans to launch the code-named Llano accelerating processing unit (APU) with up to four Phenom II-class x86 cores and with up to ATI Radeon HD 5000-class 480 stream processors. Potentially, Llano offers higher computing performance than Redwood, which means that AMD will have to refresh entry-level lineup otherwise Llano will likely stop sales Cedar-based products.

Underperforming Cedar, incoming Llano and inexpensive Redwood-based graphics cards clearly show that performance bar for low-end graphics either has to be increased or the low-end graphics will cease to exist. However, AMD believes that low-end graphics chips with 64-bit memory controllers will continue to serve the market after the launch of AMD Fusion family of APUs for desktops and mobiles. Moreover, even Cedar – which expensive versions cost the same amount of money as affordable more powerful Redwood-based boards – will not be discontinued anytime soon.

“There are no plans to discontinue the ATI Radeon HD 5450. […] 64-bit GPUs will continue [to exist] even after Fusion-type products come out,” added Ms. Bansal.

Low-end graphics cards may be used for upgrades of rather old systems in order to enable better functionality. It is rather obvious that even ATI Cedar is much better than an integrated graphics solution of several years old. However, if AMD plans to quickly adopt new graphics technologies for its APUs, it will have to also ensure that the evolution of low-end discrete graphics processors happens quicker than nowadays.

Tags: ATI, AMD, Radeon, Cedar, Redwood, 40nm, Evegreen, Fusion, Llano

Discussion

Comments currently: 5
Discussion started: 06/17/10 12:49:13 PM
Latest comment: 06/21/10 01:43:44 AM
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1. 
You have to sell something that works to those poor Intel HD Crap graphics users.
0 0 [Posted by: bereft  | Date: 06/17/10 12:49:13 PM]
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With "HD graphics" Intel is competitive with other integrated graphics solutions for the first time. It is a good choice for media, professional use up to 2 monitors, and low end gaming. And with the coming shrink to 32nm it will take a big step forward. So you are misinformed.
0 0 [Posted by: CSMR  | Date: 06/17/10 04:49:10 PM]
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2. 
No, you are, for believing that Intel IGPs are worthy of Serious Graphics.
0 0 [Posted by: bereft  | Date: 06/18/10 04:04:29 AM]
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3. 
Even these low end cards can at least have their own 64 bit GDDR5 memory bus, and hence are going have lots more bandwidth then fusion chips which have to share slow ddr3 main memory with the cpu. That's just an inherent problem with trying to stick a gpu in your cpu.
0 0 [Posted by: Dribble  | Date: 06/18/10 06:54:23 AM]
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4. 
With respect #3, that's just wrong.

Who's to say a Llano motherboard couldn't allow one or two GDDR5 chips connected through HyperTransport, just as we see now with a 128MB GDDR3 chip on AMD's current chipsets?

Price parity with GDDR3 is supposed to happen by H2 this year, making it applicable for cheap products. This is not to mention 7Gbps chips will be available as well. 2Gb (256MB) chips should be around by the time this launches. No low-end or on-board gfx for two to three generations is going to require more than 512MB. 256MB (one chip) could even suffice for one generation.

My thoughts are Llano is 32-bit and can use GDDR5, as the max HT spec is 32-bit. HT can currently support up to 25.6GBps for this purpose. For perspective, that's 1/3 the bw of 5770 or TWICE the max available on a 64-bit 5450/GT210 card (Cedar/GT218...64-bit x 1600mhz GDDR3 /8bits=12.8GBps). On a chip with a 32-bit bus, that means up to 6.4ghz (6400mhz) GDDR5 could be used to saturate it (if HT bus is used at spec...more could be used if overclocked) which will only become more and more feasible going into next year. Compared to current IGP's (16-bit and GDDR2/3) or even a discrete product like 5450, it should be fine. I imagine at some point in the future when HT grows to a wider spec and supports 64-bit/more bw and the gfx core requires it, they'll increase the bus to 64-bit.

Still, the "they will have less bw because of being on the cpu die" and "they will have to use system memory" are false if you compare them to current products.

If Llano is 240sp, which it looks to be from the die shot, it could have up to a 950mhz clockspeed and still, in theory, have up to the same amount of proportional bandwidth as a 5770 using a 32-bit bus. Something like 875-900mhz matched with 6ghz GDDR5 side-port memory would work. So would 725-750mhz/5ghz or even 575-600mhz/4ghz. Certainly AMD will likely tweak the core/bw ratio compared to 5770, but it goes to show proportionally it's overtly possible, even compared to a higher-end product.

BTW, who wants to bet AMD's low-end 64-bit Southern Islands chip is an identicle spec core to Llano's GPU except for bus size...hence why it's launching a quarter or two earlier so it looks better? This is what AMD did with their chipset IGPs. First they launched a discrete low-end card, and then a few to several months later launched a chipset with identicle spec GPU core except with a 16-bit instead of 64-bit bus. I expect this to continue with SI and Llano as well as NI and Llano's successor. It makes too much sense for AMD not to market Llano as having an integrated "6000 series GPU".
0 0 [Posted by: turtle  | Date: 06/21/10 01:43:44 AM]
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