ATI showcases 512 MByte X850 graphics card

Dallas (TX) - ATI chose the Texas Gaming Festival LAN party to put the industry's first graphics card with 512 MByte memory into the spotlight. The modified X850 XT is a prototype using dual-rank design. Commercial models with half a gig memory are likely to follow later this year.

The official announcement of the "world's first 512 MByte gaming card" came last Thursday after rumors about the card already had spread on discussion boards across the Internet. The X850 XT will debut late Saturday at the at the Texas Gaming Festival LAN party in Dallas, Texas. So far, the card is just a developer model, but ATI stated there are plans to implement 512 MByte of GDDR3 onto future cards.

The speeds are the same as offered by the 256 MByte X850XT at 520 MHz for the engine and 540 MHz for the memory. According to ATI product marketing engineer Jimmy Dinh, the memory architecture however was not as trivial as it may sound: "How do you get 512 MB onto a board? Many said 'just slap on more memory modules onto the board.' But it is not that simple." Instead, the company needed to move from a single- to a dual-rank memory structure.

With a single rank design, the first rank of eight modules is directly connected to the GPU. With a dual rank, the second rank is connected to the first rank. There are increased latencies inherent as the second rank is piggy-backing off of the first. According to Dinh, ATI was able to tweak the memory controllers to provide first-rank interconnect speeds also to the second rank. "If we could not get that to work, then we would not be here today," he said.

ATI also flew in three of the world's best overclockers to push the envelope on the cards as well as their systems. Eric Kronies (OPPainter), Charles Wirth (Fugger) and Sami Makinen (Macci), will be looking to beat all of the current benchmarking records. After showing off their skills with Cascade cooling, liquid nitrogen, and many other forms of cooling methods, they will also be participating in a discussion forum to answer any questions raised by the enthusiasts in attendance.

Stay tuned here with Tom's Hardware for more developments from Dallas.