The AMD ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2, which AMD is touting as the world's fastest graphics chip, is looking to compete in the high-end discrete graphics market against the Nvidia GTX 280 graphics card. AMD and Nvidia are also preparing for when Intel's Larrabee chip enters the discrete graphics card market in either 2009 or 2010.
Advanced Micro Devices is roaring back into the high-end discrete graphics
market with the just released ATI Radeon HD
4870 X2 graphics card that will compete against the best Nvidia has to offer.
The ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2, which AMD
is touting as the "world's fastest graphics card," is expected to deliver 2.4
teraflops, or 2.4 trillion calculations per second, of performance. The new ATI
graphics card can also support up to 2GB of GDDR5 (graphics double data rate 5)
memory, compared with Nvidia's GTX 280 graphics card, which supports 1GB.
The new ATI graphics card is built on a
55-nanometer manufacturing process.
Instead of building a large chip, AMD
took the approach to combine two ATI Radeon
HD 4800 series GPUs on the same board using what the chip maker calls an
advanced cross-GPU (graphics processing unit) connection that is based on
second-generation PCI Express standards. The result is a graphics chip that
should compete head-to-head with Nvidia in the high-end discrete graphics
has a list of some early benchmarking results and comparisons.
is jumping headfirst into the graphics market at a time when the company is
struggling to regain its financial footing
after nearly two years of
quarterly losses. One reason for those losses happens to be its $5.6 billion
acquisition of ATI in 2006.
While a financial burden, AMD is hoping ATI
graphics technology will pay off down the road. In the discrete graphics
market, where gamers and PC enthusiasts look for the latest technology, ATI
gives AMD a platform to compete against
Nvidia. According to IDC, ATI
controlled about 34 percent of the discrete graphics market in 2007, while
Nvidia controlled nearly 65 percent.
In addition, AMD is looking to take ATI's
graphics technology and combine it with its x86 CPUs in a project dubbed Accelerated
Computing, which will eventually combine GPU and CPU on the same piece of
first step toward the Accelerated Computing model is the ability to offer
complete mobile and desktop platforms that offer AMD CPUs and ATI graphics
and AMD accomplished both those goals earlier this year.
While these types of discrete, high-end graphics are meant for the gaming
market, companies such as AMD and Nvidia use
these consumer markets to showcase the limits of their technology before
bringing that technology into the mainstream.
Some analysts also believe that discrete graphics may play a greater role
within business PCs as workers increasingly have more say about which notebook
or desktop they want and as advances such as Microsoft's Windows Vista OS
require greater graphics technology to take advantage of all the features
included in the operating system. However, some industry watchers feel that
discrete graphics will remain most popular with the gaming and consumer markets,
with only limited crossover in the enterprise.
"The enterprise market relies primarily not on PC discrete GPUs but on
PC core logic chip sets that have an integrated graphics processing units (a.k.a.
IGP)," Shane Rau, an analyst with IDC,
wrote in an e-mail. "The value of high-end discrete graphics processing
technology to enterprises is often for high-end desktop PCs that are taking
over traditional workstation functions. Also, the discrete GPU technologies and
performance capabilities eventually do work their way into integrated graphics
While AMD and Nvidia are
fighting for market share when it comes to discrete graphics, Intel
is expected to enter this market in either 2009 or 2010 with its Larrabee chip.
While Intel has touted Larrabee as a chip that can function as a GPGPU
(general-purpose GPU) for high-performance computing, a recent paper focused on
how Larrabee can work to enhance gaming systems, which puts the chip in direct
competition with Nvidia and AMD when it
comes to discrete graphics.
and Nvidia also have their own GPGPUs for the HPC market as well.
Nvidia released its Tesla 10 series GPU, while AMD launched the FireStream
The ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 is immediately
available and is priced at $549. AMD also
released a lower-end version of the chip called the ATI
Radeon HD 4850 X2, which sells for $399.