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ATI Technologies unveiled its new initiative for notebook graphics to allow upgradeable, cost-effective and future-proof graphics options for mobile computers. ATI’s new AXIOM graphics modules will oppose recently announced NVIDIA MXM graphics standard later this year when PCI Express-enabled notebooks show up.

The world’s leader in mobile graphics – ATI Technologies – said that the whole industry is switching to PCI Express bus that delivers low-cost high-bandwidth solution for desktops, servers and laptops. For mobile computers transition to PCI Express means more reliable, simplified design that provides higher-speed, ATI believes.

AXIOM Shows on the Scene

AXIOM is ATI’s compact PCI Express graphics module for mobile computers that features standard form-factor, but still allows certain design flexibility to tailor the graphics sub-system for certain application. AXIOM is not only intended as a solution for graphics cards, but also allows ATI or notebook makers to develop certain multimedia add-in boards, like TV-tuners or video-capturing cards. AXIOM PCI Express modules handle only VGA signals, not LVDS, SDTV or HDTV signals.


ATI AXIOM graphics module. Please click to enlarge

AXIOM enables OEM and ODM designers to easily develop notebooks that can accommodate upgradeable modules for graphics and enhanced multimedia. Over the coming months ATI will introduce a family of AXIOM modules for performance notebooks. AXIOM will eventually be offered for numerous market segments allowing design flexibility and cost-efficiency for notebook makers.


ATI AXIOM graphics module. Please click to enlarge

Leading notebook designers and builders, such as Acer, Arima, ASUS, Clevo, ECS, eMachines, FIC, Gateway, HP, Inventec, LG, Mitac, Samsung, Quanta, Uniwill and Wistron said they were excited by ATI’s AXIOM technology.

MOBILITY RADEON X600 Uncovered

ATI also pulled the wraps off the latest mobile graphics processor MOBILITY RADEON X600 that will be available in July 2004 in various form-factors, including AXIOM, multi-chip-module as well as discrete graphics processor for mobile personal computers.

The MOBILITY RADEON X600 chip inherits the architecture of MOBILITY RADEON 9700, but builds-in a number of enhancements that touch upon power-saving capabilities (POWERPLAY 5.0) as well as image quality (LCD-EE). The full list of specifications looks as follows:

  • Four rendering pipelines with one texture unit per each;
  • 2 vertex shader engines;
  • SMARTSHADER 2.0 technology to support DirectX 9.0 features in hardware;
  • SMOOTHVISION 2.0 for advanced FSAA and anisotropic filtering;
  • Power-saving POWERPLAY 5.0 technology that supports multiple power-saving methods, including flexible POWER-ON-DEMAND and OVERDRIVE engines that constantly monitor system activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario; LOW POWER LCD technology that enables lower LCD refresh rate for longer battery life in addition to newly added VARI-BRIGHT tech that controls the backlight brightness; Additionally, POWERPLAY 5.0 makes use of new PCI Express power management modes.
  • VPU Recover feature that does not let your notebook PC freeze when playing computer games;
  • Hyper Z-III+ technology is an advantage ATI claims the MOBILITY RADEON 9700 chip has over the MOBILITY RADEON that included Hyper-M mechanism to optimize usage of memory bandwidth, encompassing lossless colour compression and lossless z-compression (8:1 with no FSAA, up to 24:1 with FSAA). It is not fully clear, what actually differs one technology from another, though;
  • LCD-EE technology that compensates LCD response time and allows better image scaling;
  • Integrated dual-channel LVDS, with support for QXGA resolutions (2048x1536);
  • 165 MHz integrated TMDS transmitter;
  • Integrated TV-Out Encoder;
  • Integrated Dual 400MHz RAMDAC;
  • Integrated HDTV encoder, supporting component output (YPbPr) for both North American and Japanese D-link connectors;
  • Hardware accelerated DVD playback;
  • PCI Express x16.

ATI MOBILITY RADEON X600 is made at TSMC using 0.13 micron fabrication process with low-k dielectrics. In idle mode the chip consumes around 1W of energy, while under maximum load the processor devours about 9W to 10W, the company said. Core-clock of MOBILITY RADEON X600 is expected to be from 390MHz to 450MHz depending on applications and feature 128MB of DDR memory clocked at 500MHz – 600MHz.

First Notebooks with PCI Express Coming in July 2004

The initial mobile computers for performance-hungry enthusiasts with MOBILITY RADEON X600 graphics processors will ship in July 2004. The notebooks will serve mainly as desktop replacements, as they are likely to feature chipsets originally developed for desktop computers, powerful processors and other components to satisfy the demands of gamers.

The first truly mobile mainstream platforms with PCI Express support will emerge sometime towards 2005. But once the affordable platforms are here, the ramp will be quick: ATI believes that already in the second half of 2005, about 12 to 18 months from now, nearly all mobile computers will feature PCI Express bus.

New Graphics Chips Planned

While the newly announced mobile graphics processor MOBILITY RADEON X600 is the company’s first PCI Express x16 product for mobile market and the firm is confident that eventually it will develop top-to-bottom family of graphics processors with PCI Express support for portable computers, the Markham, Ontario-based graphics giant will unveil a number of graphics processors for now outdated AGP platform.

Two new series of graphics processors are planned for late summer launch: for entry-level notebooks and for hardcore enthusiasts. While the former will employ the already available technologies, the visual processing units for enthusiast market segment will be based on a new mobile architecture from ATI Technologies.

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