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ATI Radeon 4800 Launch Details

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 39 comments

We previously published several details about AMD’s next-generation graphics card lineup and as we get closer to the launch we are getting more details about the launch date, feature set and prices. The good news: The new boards will come with “physics processing capability” and prices that will start below $200 for a 512 MB board. The bad news: The 4800 series will launch after Nvidia’s GT200.

Yes, we know, we previously said that the 4800 series would launch in May, but as it stands right now, we won’t be seeing the first new cards until mid-June. According To AMD’s current introduction schedule, the Radeon 4800 series will launch in week 25, which puts the day of the introduction somewhere between June 15 and June 22. What is significant about this time frame is that ATI will trail Nvidia and their new high-end chip GT200.

This comes as a major surprise, because it was widely expected that ATI will debut its RV770 chip first, followed by Nvidia’s summer part. But as it stands right now, Nvidia has the pole position in a new round of the graphics wars. Of course, the GT200 and RV770 are actually not entirely comparable, because of their huge price difference. But performance-wise, we’re in for a possibly close race.

ATI’s Radeon 4800 series will be introduced in three flavors - as 4850, 4870 and 4870 X2. The company will also offer a “4850 256MB” (as opposed to 512 MB in other versions), but this SKU is a so-called "option" and is geared towards to the OEM/ODM/SI crowd to support them with cheaper parts for the back-to-school period and beyond.

The Radeon 4850, code-named “Makedon,” is AMD’s launch board. The name, by the way, is likely to refer to Terry "Catalyst" Makedon, group manager for software and video in the AMD (ATI) graphics division. Of course, there is a small chance that Alexander Makedonski (Alexander the Great) may have influenced the naming, but somehow we feel that Terry has won this time.

The 4850 board features 512 MB of GDDR3 memory and is expected to be available in volume at launch. We heard that card vendors will start printing their boxes next week, which means that the specifications are final at this time. According to our sources, the 4850 will come with single-slot cooling; CrossFireX is supported with up to four boards in a single system (if you have the appropriate board based on AMD 790FX, 790GX, Intel Skulltrail, X48) and each board will require a single 6-pin PCIe power connector.

AMD will follow up in July and launch the Radeon 4870 512 MB GDDR5 and the 4870 X2 1024 MB GDDR5 (R700). The Radeon 4870 chip is built onto a board codenamed “Trojan” (could be named after a condom brand or a horse; we pick the latter) and comes with a dual-slot cooler, following the tradition of earlier XX70 boards. Our previous information about the memory buffer was a bit inaccurate, since the cost of Qimonda’s GDDR5 memory apparently was not compatible with the targeted pricing of these cards. The 4870 includes 512MB GDDR5 memory and surpasses upcoming Nvidia cards in terms of bandwidth. However, if any ATI partner wants to build a 1024 MB GDDR5 board, ATI will not say no, we were told. But don’t expect this to happen until early fall, since everybody wants to move as many units as possible.

In terms of performance, we heard some interesting claims. A 4870 should perform on par with or better than a dual-chip 3870 X2. Our sources explained to us that using a PCIe Gen1 controller 3870 X2 was a mistake, since the board was hungry for data and didn’t sync well with this interface. Don’t expect the ATI team to repeat that mistake with the 4870 X2. However, we admit that we have no idea what kind of connection two RV770 GPUs will have.

Looking at features, ATI will promote DirectX 10.1, PCI Express 2.0, dynamic geometry acceleration and other functions that were introduced with the Radeon 3800 series. What surprises us is that the manufacturer is highlighting a "Game physics processing capability" in its launch materials. Since ATI didn’t bid for Havok (which ended up in Intel’s lap) and Nvidia snapped up PhysX we wonder who provides a physics engine for ATI. Perhaps the company took a completely different direction and it simply expanded its GPGPU capabilities from professional FireStream cards to the desktop.

The Radeon 4800 series also includes 7.1 channel-via-HDMI support and color output also got a “significant” boost, our sources said. We were unable to confirm HDMI 1.3 support, but we would not be surprised if that in fact is the case. The Unified Video Decoder is now in generation 2 and is called "UVD2".

Every aspect of the GPU is monitored by PowerPlay, since ATI will be very aggressive on the power side: The boards have been designed with power in mind and the 4850/4870 won’t require 8+6-pin combinations (exception: The dual-GPU 4870 X2). Power supply requirements call for a 450 watt unit for a single card and a 550 watt version for two cards. Given the fact that ATI has to state this for PoS power supplies, CrossFire should do just fine with a top notch 400 watt power supply.

Let’s talk about pricing. AMD decided to remain aggressive in an effort to win back market share. Pricing is actually set to a point where Nvidia is unlikely to be able to compete (that is at least what somebody is hoping for). Pricing guidelines are not finalized at this time, but according to several sources, the Radeon 4850 will succeed the 3850 512MB and should cost about $189-$219 at launch. Our sources indicated that 4870 GDDR5 cards will cost between $249 and $279, but somehow we feel that AMD might aim go for $199 and $249 at launch.

Given the current market, these prices could stir up the market and create quite a circus. Radeon cards could be getting lots of design wins for the back-to-school market, but our sources warned us that ATI is a bit late to the party. Qualifying of systems takes time, and tens of thousands of machines take time to be manufactured and shipped to North America. For Europe, things are more lenient, since nobody works in August and schools/universities start in September or October.

All in all, ATI will have one helluwa June and July. All eyes are now on Nvidia: Will Nvidia create a decent competitor for the sub-$300 range (55nm G92 is being prepared), or will AMD/ATI will gain market share?

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  • 1 Hide
    xx12amanxx , May 15, 2008 12:23 AM
    AWW i thought it was coming out this month..lol Oh well i can wait a month or soo. ATI these card's better be good!
  • 1 Hide
    Sunfighterlc , May 15, 2008 12:49 AM
    Seems ATI is trying for the bang for the buck shoppers vs going all out to try to take a performance crown. Maybe a good idea.
  • 1 Hide
    scooterlibby , May 15, 2008 1:29 AM
    "According To AMD’s current introduction schedule, the Radeon 4800 series will launch in week 25, which puts the day of the introduction somewhere between June 15 and June 22. What is significant about this time frame is that ATI will trail Nvidia and their new high-end chip GT200."

    I am confused. I thought, at the earliest, the GT200 would be coming out in July. If the 4800 series launches in June, and the high end 9900 in July, how would teh 4800 trail the GT200?
  • 1 Hide
    xtkxhom3r , May 15, 2008 2:27 AM
    well i hope these cards are good cus im going to b getting one at launch
  • 1 Hide
    mf_fm , May 15, 2008 2:29 AM
    i been supporting graphzilla (Nvidia) for a while, after ATi's 98xx series, now i believe it is time for a change.

    Change is what we need, since i bought 2x 7900GTX run in SLi back couple years, i kind of regret my decision. whooping out close to USD$1k, and it didn't really give me the vibe i wanted or intended to make. (at lease i can't play Crysis Max of everything)

    plus it hurts every time when you start thinking of building a new system.

    from now on, i will just keep it simply, 1 single 4870 priced @ USD$199~250, thats a WOW!! then i can buy a brand new design the following year or upgrade.

    i will never pay any cards priced over USD$300, NOT A DIME MORE.

    trust me people, i am not alone down on this road, and i warn you, NO NEED, theres no such a game need that bullsh!t setting but "Crysis", thats why no one plays it.
  • 2 Hide
    terror112 , May 15, 2008 2:34 AM
    Nooooooooo......... I am sick of waiting for a successor to my 8800GTS320. I've been waiting for over a year and no card has yet been able to justify an upgrade. Cant wait any longer!!!
  • -6 Hide
    korsen , May 15, 2008 3:47 AM
    The GPU market is already a circus. Sure, Nvidia can't compete pricewise, but ONCE AGAIN, ATI is late to the party even after AMD had to shed some of it's top brass. As far as we're concerned, if Nvidia beats ATI in performance, we don't care what the card costs - Nvidia will win again. Sure you might be able to buy two ATI cards for the price, and maybe a bit more performance of the high end Nvidia card, but I guarantee you, for the 3rd generation in a row, ATI will look incredible on paper and will get slaughtered by real-world data.
    the 2900's were failures - the 3800's were failures - and now the 4800's will be failures as well because nvidia jacked up it's stream processors. An 8800GTX annihilates almost all of it's direct competitions which include crossfire setups - double it's stream processors and you're looking at a Quad-crossfire killer.

    AMD merging with ATI must've mixed up the dumbest of all possible people into positions of power, and all the bookies at AMD eventually go, "WERE BLEEDING CASH! THROW EVERYTHING WE'VE GOT ON THE MARKET!!!"

    It's called TESTING AMD. DO SOME.

    See, I bet you if AMD doubled it's stream processors, and tripled everything else (excluding clock speeds) it would cost more for them to make but they'd have Nvidia clamoring to hand out all the "Heads vs Asses" manuals. We all know AMD needs to find their own manuals right now...
  • 6 Hide
    wrazor , May 15, 2008 4:21 AM
    Korsen please stop taking Nvidia's side ffs. You say 3800s were failure?? What is your defination for failure then. The price range and consumer target of these cards applauded the 3800s and were very well recieved. Ofcourse almost 6 months later only 9600gt came from the green ones to compete vs the 3800s.I am not saying that the 4800s are gauranteed to be godly, but if they are 50% better than the 3800s, they justify being the next generation cards.........unlike nvidia.I dont care who makes the top card......because really its sub-300$ market that matters to me and most ppl apart from 5% ppl who want the best.
  • 3 Hide
    The_Blood_Raven , May 15, 2008 4:56 AM
    I'm in a position that if ATI's high-end card can get close to or even higher than Nvidia's high-end then Ill go for it, the problem is that, that is unlikely. I am one of those "5%" that are willing to spend a lot on graphics, call me crazy but I only limit myself to $1000 for an upgrade from my 7600 GT, lol. The problem is that Nforce boards are junk and I would absolutely love to scrap mine for an X38, but ATI is going to cover their asses as best they can and go for the price/performance market, problem being that Nvidia has proven time and time again that they can produce the top of the line card, then a month later produce a card that out performs ATI's for less. It is not that Nvidia is superior, it is that Nvidia has larger funds at the moment. ATI is going to bury themselves unless they can hold the top of the line performance crown for awhile, even if it costs a lot. So produce the 4850, 4870, and 4870 X2 then come out with something else that will destroy the 9900 top of the line, regardless of price, and see how quickly it all changes to "ATI is on top again!"
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2008 7:19 AM
    Graphic market share percentage

    [Intel >>> Nvidia > ATI]

    And Intel shows us the GREATEST graphic performance, right??? LOL
  • 2 Hide
    randomizer , May 15, 2008 7:57 AM
    I expect these cards will be a total price gouge in Australia for, say, 8 months. Probably looking at $325-$375 for the 4870, the X2 being around $500-$550.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2008 12:17 PM
    The truth is that neither ATI nor NVIDIA tried really hard to make top performance cards: since the 2900XT we haven't seen power hungry beasts custom tailored for massive overclocking, and that card is still the king of 3dMark after volt mods and watercooling. The move to smaller manufactory technology made cards cooler,smaller and cheaper, but do not gave us consumers faster cards, and DirectX 10(.1), Vista and sub $400 24" LCDs increased the demands in the mean time.

    What we "need": cheap single cards for casual gaming (up to 1920x1200- NO Crisys!!) and a new G92/RV670 chip mounted on a power hungry/watercooled board. i imagine what the 3870 could reach if the chip was mounted on the 2900XT power circuit!
    The move to multi-GPU solutions is suboptimal: the cards dont scale well on all games and they cant reach high overclocks, thanks to the cheap capacitors and MOSFETs used. Until today the best solution is still get a 2900PRO, voltmod and watercool the hell out of it: 16000+ 3dMarks06 WITHOUT driver issues related to SLI/crossfire.
  • 1 Hide
    spaztic7 , May 15, 2008 12:35 PM
    When it comes to true DX10 (which is DX10.1), ATi has no competition. Assassins Creed showed everyone how powerful the 3800 line is when it comes to DX10.1. Nvidia dropped the ball with that one. Nvidia has failed to produce a true DX10.1 card. They are still fumbling around with their hybrid DX10 design. When it comes to color representation, ATi has it. When it comes to picture quality (although very, VERY close) ATi seems to just squeak out ahead. When it comes to FPS (frames per second), Nvidia comes out on top. Then you have your prices, where ATi wins.

    If the 4870(x2) is significantly better than my BFG 8800 GTX OC2, then I will be getting one. I have been waiting a long time to dump my card, and am hoping that it will be this summer that I will be able to pick up a better card, for less monies.

    DAMMIT, you better not be blowing smoke up are ars’ again!
  • 1 Hide
    amdfangirl , May 15, 2008 12:38 PM
    randomizerI expect these cards will be a total price gouge in Australia for, say, 8 months. Probably looking at $325-$375 for the 4870, the X2 being around $500-$550.


    But even the humble 8800GT costs $500 in Sydney! I'd hate to see it when it releases...
  • 1 Hide
    draxssab , May 15, 2008 12:56 PM
    I really want to see what a Graphic card with integrated physics can do! I really believe that Nvidia could not beat the "performance for the money" value of 4800 Cards, even if I'll not be surprised to see the powerfullest card on Nvidia side, but at ridiculously high price, like they love doing it. If a 4870 can really offer performance in the range of a 3870 X2, and at half of the price, they better stop producing them right now!
    I'm already thinking of what could be done by a QuadXfire system of 4870X2 lol
  • 1 Hide
    ap90033 , May 15, 2008 1:20 PM
    Crap just bought a 9800GTX, wonder how it will compare to the 4800 single card?
  • 1 Hide
    SpinachEater , May 15, 2008 2:23 PM
    I was hoping to see ATI come out of the gates like a raging bull and get their card out before NV. That would have made a strong statement on their comeback. I think this will hurt sales. I have a system ready to go and have been waiting for R700...if NV has theirs out first, I will have time to consider a GT200 instead. I think ATI biffed on this one. They needed an aggressive launch.
  • 1 Hide
    kashiwa_0423 , May 15, 2008 3:32 PM
    ap90033Crap just bought a 9800GTX, wonder how it will compare to the 4800 single card?

    9800GTX is just an overclocked 8800GTS 512mb
  • -2 Hide
    royalcrown , May 15, 2008 4:03 PM
    If ATI can beat my 8800gts by half for around 240..I'd consider it. I think they are waiting cause they don't want Nvidia stomping them AND dropping their price to match ATI.
  • -2 Hide
    rozar , May 15, 2008 4:51 PM
    Nothing new here. AMD ALWAYS!! says they will release something and then never make the date with quantity. By the time their produce reaches the masses it is no longer valid most of the time. Whats funny is all the Barcelona crap they were spewing. How it was faster than Intels current (and about to be replaced) 65mn products. But when it came to market it was flawed and in very short supply and Intel kicked the crap out of it.

    AMD = all talk and no walk.
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