ATI Answers Rival with New Graphics Chip

Graphics chipmaker ATI upped the ante in its battle
with rival NVIDIA with the release of a new high-end
processor: the RADEON X800.

Markham, Ontario-based ATI said it is offering the processor in two
formats, the RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition and the RADEON X800 PRO through
its OEM partners. The chips are expected to compete with NIVIDA’s GeForce
6800 processors, which were unveiled three weeks ago.

ATI regularly jousts with NVIDIA for leadership in the graphics processor
marketplace, where processors can fetch close to $500 apiece. In
addition to their usual battles for desktop and notebook platforms,
workstation, set-top boxes and digital televisions, the rivals also compete
in the gaming console marketplace.

Recently, it’s been ATI out in front as
the company has a lucrative contract with Microsoft
supplanting NVIDIA as the graphics chipmaker that powers the Xbox.

NVIDIA’s inroads with Dell and HP
have helped it sell more of its GPUs and the GeForce 6800 chip is based on
some of the same core specs as the RADEON line but some analysts and
enthusiasts sites are already crowning the X800 as the faster of the two.

“Currently nearly 80 percent of high-performance DirectX 9 graphics cards
shipping are powered by ATI’s visual processors,” said Dean McCarron,
Mercury Research. “The new series demonstrates ATI’s focus on the high-end
segment of the PC graphics market.”

ATI said its other advantage included in X800 is its new 3Dc compression
technology. The advancement allows game developers to use high-resolution
normal maps. Normal maps are used to give characters and scenes high levels
of detail without the performance hit that would normally be associated with
using high-polygon models.

Previously, developers had the option of using
some kind of low-quality compression, or to cut back on the number and size
of normal mapped assets. ATI boasted that gaming graphics running on its
processors are equivalent to watching a sporting event on an HDTV.

Designed for graphics workstations and hardcore PC gamers, the RADEON
X800 XT Platinum Edition ($499) will ship later this month. The chip will be
powered by a 16-pipe pixel processing engine clocked at 520MHz and has been
paired with high-speed 1.12GHz data rate GDDR3 memory and a 256-bit memory

The company said its RADEON X800 PRO ($399) is shipping now and is
powered by a 12-pipe pixel processing engine clocked at 475MHz, a 256-bit
memory interface and GDDR3 memory running at speeds of 900MHz.

ATI has already lined up its usual OEM suspects. The company said its
board partners include ABIT, ASUS, Celestica, Club 3D, Connect 3D, Creative,
Diamond, Elsa, FIC, Gigabyte, Hightech Information Systems, Info-Tek, MSI,
Sapphire, Tul, VisionTek, Xpertvision and Yuan. The company’s current list
System Integrators consists of ABS, Alienware, Falcon Northwest, Velocity
Micro, VoodooPC and ZT Group.

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