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AMD Graphics: Doubling Down On DX11

CES 2010, Day 1: AMD CPUs, DX11 Goes Mobile, Fermi Spotted
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AMD currently has the three most powerful graphics cards on the market, plus several highly-competitive offerings in its mid-range lineup; all are DirectX 11-capable. Now, the company is upping the ante against arch-rival Nvidia with its announcement of mobile DirectX 11 GPUs. Let’s take a quick look at the speeds and feeds.


Mobility Radeon HD 5800-Series
Mobility Radeon HD 5700-Series
Mobility Radeon HD 5400-Series
Transistor Count
1.04 billion
626 million
242 million
Stream Processors
800
400
80
Video Memory
1GB GDDR5/3 (or DDR3)
512MB / 1GB GDDR5/3 (or DDR3)
256MB/512MB/1GB GDDR5/3 (or DDR3/2)


The overall thermal envelopes and actual clock rates will vary, depending on model number. In other words, a Mobility Radeon HD 5870 will have the same base feature set as a Mobility Radeon HD 5850, but with different core and memory clocks.

The first two things you might notice are the shader units and transistor counts. As with earlier AMD mobile GPUs (and Nvidia's lineup as well), AMD’s product numbering scheme leaves something to be desired. The company feels that the “5800” moniker means it’s the fastest in its class. So, the fact that a Mobility Radeon HD 5870 will have half the shader units of a desktop-class Radeon HD 5870 isn’t relevant, according to the company's marketing department. I’ve personally heard different from users who are confused by the product numbering scheme, expecting similar feature sets for similar product numbers (Ed.: and the rest of us here at Tom's Hardware are also fairly frustrated with both vendors' mobile naming). A good rule of thumb: “Mobility” means “desktop minus one.” So, the feature set of the Mobility Radeon 5870 is roughly on par with the desktop Radeon HD 5770.

Product numbering aside, it’s likely that AMD’s GPUs will mop the floor with current Nvidia offerings. The company has already roared back in market share, surpassing 50% in the discrete GPU segment over the past few months. Its DirectX 11 lineup will likely widen the lead. In fact, AMD and Nvidia are practically neighbors on the show floor; AMD has the bigger booth.

AMD's representatives talked up a lot of other graphics-oriented topics, including some upcoming developments in desktop GPUs, new driver features, and the future of CrossFire. But they weren’t quite ready to go public yet on those items.

AMD And 3D

I noted in our CES 2010, Day 0 coverage that 3D video is being pushed hard by most of the HDTV manufacturers. On the gaming side, Nvidia has been pushing its GeForce 3D Vision stereoscopic product, based on LCD shutter glasses, for some time now.

“3D” in this context means stereoscopic 3D, which should not be confused with 3D graphics, which are typically output to 2D displays. All 3D stereoscopic solutions require users to wear some form of glasses, whether they're LCD shutters or polarized shades.

AMD is diving into the 3D trend feet-first by supporting existing middleware vendors rather than trying to promote any single standard. It’s very likely that any HDTV 3D stereoscopic technology will not use shutter glasses, but avoiding a bet on a technology winner in content encoding at this point is probably a good idea. AMD will be having demos of 3D on large panel displays on the CES show floor.

Chris: You might remember last year that ATI was talking about this same phenomenon and working with a company called iZ3D. It's worth noting that, in the last year, we haven't heard anything from either company with regard to forward progress in stereoscopic gaming. Maybe this year will be different!

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