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ATI announces X600, graphics interface Axiom

Markham (ON) - ATI today announced its new mobile VPU X600, code-named M24. The manufacturer simultaneously launched its mobile graphics interface Axiom, which will allow users to upgrade their graphics hardware in notebooks. The company hopes that its new products can keep and extend the firm's 73 percent market share in the mobile segment.

ATI's X600 is the first PCI Express-based mobile VPU available to systems manufacturers. The architecture of the chip is based on the predecessor 9700 but has an upgraded 3D core which boosts performance. It comes with DirectX 9.0 feature set, LCD-EE technology which, according to ATI, will increase display quality a higher resolutions as well as improved power management (Powerplay 5).

The X600 is available in three configurations: A discreet version for high performance notebooks as well as chips with 64 or 128 MByte integrated memory for thin and light devices.

The X600 architecture consists of four pixel pipes and two vertex pipes as well as a 128 bit memory interface and a native PCI Express interface. The new LCD Enhancement Engine (LCD-EE) supports high resolution widescreen panels and offers higher quality resolution scaling. LRTC (LCD Response Time Compensation) does the same for video playback by compensating LCD latency. ATI said that Powerplay 5 increases power management, for example by enabling the VPU to directly control the brightness of the display.

After criticizing Nvidia's mobile graphics interface approach, ATI announced its own flexible solution. Similarly to Nividia's MXM, ATI's Axiom is positioned to allow vendors faster development of graphics hardware. Mobile users can use the interface also to upgrade their notebooks graphics cards. But the company is less aggressive in promoting it as a standard. "We have a different intent," Alexis Mather, technical marketing manager at ATI, said. "We don't want Axiom to become an industry standard. We are offering it to our customers as another solution."

According to Mather, a proposed industry standard mobile graphics interface such as MXM does not take into account that notebook builders face strong competition. "MXM is hard defined and reduces choice. Axiom allows builders to cut a corner from the board to enable custom designs, MXM does not," Mather said. "ATI is providing a reference design, firms are at liberty to change it."

In ATI's view, the fairly young high-end notebook graphics market is all about performance. "Vendors, ODM's and OEM's want to see a higher level of performance. It is a way to differentiate them from competitors," Mather explained. Although system builders usually try to find a balance between low cost, performance and power saving features, it is speed which has become the single most important factor: "Ultimately, they are willing to pay a higher price, if they get the fastest chip." However, power management is catching up in importance, according to Mather. "In each case, our customers have to set their priorities. If we were neglecting power issues, they certainly would be upset with us."

ATI expects first notebooks with X600 graphics and the Axiom interface to appear with Intel's announcement of Grantsdale, which is due later this summer.