ATI assembled a room of IT hacks in London last week to chat about its plans for DirectX 10.
The biggest introduction that the DirectX 10 API will bring is a geometry shader, to go alongside pixel and vertex shaders. Microsoft has made a unified instruction set for the geometry, pixel and vertex shaders - and ATI has taken this a step further by mirroring this in hardware.
ATI's first DX10 part will not have pixel and vertex shaders - it will just have shaders, which can process any one of the three different types of shader instructions. A hardware shader unit that was running a vertex operation can become a pixel shader in a mere clock cycle. ATI was insistent that unified is the way forward, and that it's next graphics chip will provide the best DX10 performance.
Why so? Well, ATI already has a unified hardware architecture, in the form of the Xenos chip at the heart of the Xbox 360. Its first DX10 release will be its second unified architecture, whereas it says that its opposition will only be on their first. ATI believes its approach is more refined and efficient.
Efficiency is also something the Canadian co. is keen to get right with its next architecture. With the added efficiency that will come from having a unified pipeline, ATI believes that it can push the power and thermal requirements of its desktop parts even higher - making hotter, more power-hungry but far faster cards.
Microsoft is laying the smack down when it comes to DX10, and ATI stressed that it will be 100% compliant with the official spec - Microsoft is going to clamp down on those people introducing 'extra' features on their cards - cards and software will have to be 100% compliant to carry the logo. MS is also requiring that any driver for Windows Vista be WHQL validated.
ATI looks like it has some cool plans for DX10, although we're not sure about the idea of having even hotter cards on the desktop. Let us know your thoughts over in the forums.