ATI: Low-End Graphics Cards Will Continue to Exist Even After Fusion Launch

ATI Sees Future for Low-End Graphics Processing Units

by Anton Shilov
06/17/2010 | 12:47 PM

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.