ATI's new R580 = Radeon X1900?

Written by Tim Smalley

December 13, 2005 | 12:55

Tags: #clock-speed #gddr4 #january #november #r520 #r580 #shader #texture #x1800xt

Companies: #ati

ATI will announce its new flagship GPU on Tuesday 24th January, 2006 if reports from China today prove to be accurate (thanks to reader Adrian Diaz for the translation). Thus far, the new chip has been known by its R580 codename, but it will reportedly be released as the Radeon X1900.

This comes after Radeon X1800XT being ATI's top video card for little over three and a half months since its announcement on October 5th, and less than a single sales Quarter from when it started shipping in November. Every man and his dog knows that R520 was delayed by months because of a soft grounding issue inside the early revisions of the GPU. Its initial launch was planned to be as early as June this year.

ATI has not disclosed specifications of R580, but we are under the impression that it will have significantly more shader power and higher clock speeds over R520. We're expecting to see 48 shader processors attached to the Ultra Threaded Dispatch Processor compared to the 16 shader processors in R520. However, there will be no increase in texture units or pixel output engines - there will still be 16 texture units and 16 pixel output engines.

R580 (Radeon X1900) is reported to be pin-compatible with the current Radeon X1800-series PCB, meaning that we are not expecting to see ATI move to GDDR4 with the first R580-based products. We could see that move later down the line, though.

We also understand that ATI will use the same cooling solution as found on the current flagship Radeon X1800XT on the new top end card that we're expecting to be called Radeon X1900XT. Yesterday, Wil let on that it might be known as Radeon X1850 series but - based on the differences between R520 and R580 - I suspect it justifies a bigger leap in nomenclature to X1900.

The differences between the previous generation of R423 and R480 were small, and the main reason behind R480 was to resolve the production issues that ATI was having with Radeon X800XT PE. R480 didn't change anything in the pixel shader, unlike R580, which should have some significant gains in performance in shader-intensive titles, like F.E.A.R. and Call of Duty 2.

Of course, NVIDIA aren't likely to take this lying down. If R580 proves to be substantially quicker than X1800XT, and therefore also GeForce 7800 GTX, then expect Santa Clara to counter-punch with G71. Little is publically known about this new GPU, other than it improves on G70's 110nm process by joining ATI at 90nm.

This normally results in lower power consumption, less heat generated, and higher clock speeds - rumours put G71's core clock in excess of 700MHz; possibly as high as 750MHz. It's worth noting that the reference speed of the 7800 GTX is 430MHz, though the recently released GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB increased that to 550MHz. This would put G71 over 60% faster than the former, and still a third quicker than the latter.

We may have to wait until the New Year before we will know any more than that.

Register your thoughts - is everything changing too quickly? Can you name a single game that runs "too slowly" on your current X1800XT / 7800 GTX setup?
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