by Anton Shilov
06/12/2006 | 12:16 PM
ATI Technologies, a leading supplier of graphics processors, has reportedly taped out its code-named R600 graphics processing unit (GPU), which means that the company may release its new chip by the end of the year.
A news-story over VR-Zone web-site claims that ATI’s processor internally called R600 has been made at a fab using 65nm process technology. Usually the “tape out” term means that the chip developer had received working sample of a processor from its foundry partner. Usually, it takes chip companies several months before such chip can be finalized and sold to end-users.
While the news about tape-out of ATI’s next-generation high-end graphics chip is generally good one for ATI, it does not mean that the company will release the chip on time. ATI’s code-named R520 GPU was taped out in late 2004, but it took ATI ten months to make the chip work properly and the firm only released its Radeon X1800 product lineup in October, 2005.
According to sources familiar with the plans of ATI Technologies as well as some media reports, ATI R600 will have 64 unified shader processors – an unprecedented number so far, 16 texture units – inline with today’s GPUs, clock-speed beyond 650MHz and support for high-speed GDDR4 memory controller.
Traditional GPUs have dedicated pixel shader and vertex shader processors. In cases, where a frame being rendered contains a lot of geometry and just a few pixel shaders to determine colour, the performance is limited by vertex shaders, while pixel processors are standing idle. GPUs with unified shader processors will have special scheduler inside them, which will determine the load from pixel, vertex and geometry shaders and then assign appropriate number of processors for every kind of work. This will allow to utilize all the computing power of the GPU, believes ATI. Nevertheless, rival Nvidia Corp. believes that implementation of a unified shader architecture should be gradual and cautious.