ATi's New Radeon - Smart Technology Meets Brute Force

ATi's Business Strategy

Before I will start focusing on Radeon, I'd like to give you some idea of what ATi is actually doing. We all know that this Canadian company is producing graphics chips as well as their own graphics cards. Those cards have nowadays become pretty famous for their industry leading support for video acceleration, such as DVD/MPEG2 and DTV/HDTV, and its long history of flat panel support. With this in mind it is not particularly difficult to understand why ATi is diversifying into the mobile computing market as well as in the set-top boxes arena . Today ATi has become the largest supplier of 3D chips for notebooks and it's pretty much sharing the market with S3 only. The set-top boxes stuff is less well known to most end users as well as distributors, because neither of the two groups would have a reason to go out and buy a set-top box. However, the pay-TV market is expanding at a very high rate and now, since digital TV is becoming more and more available, ATi can take advantage of its experience with digital video, television and high-definition TV.

Adding 3D features to a pay-TV box might be difficult for other manufacturers, but it's obviously an easy thing for a company that has been in the mainstream 3D-graphics business for almost as long as it exists. This gives cable providers the chance to add 3D games to their offerings and once a pay-TV customer is receiving digital service, he can also play 3D-games on his TV or HDTV instead of only receiving broadcastings. Once you look at this opportunity, you will understand why ATi has very high expectations in their set-top box division. So far the Canadian company is way ahead of any competition in this market.

Another new thing is the fact that ATi is moving into the platform market . After the acquisition of ArtX, ATi is now able to produce chipsets with integrated 3D, which are easily able to outperform Intel's i810 or i815 solutions. ATi's first integrated chipset for Socket370 platforms will soon be available, and the demonstrations that I have seen were clearly able to show that this new chipset is way ahead of Intel's chipsets with integrated 3D-deccelerator.

In the 3D-graphics scene ATi was never able to reach the performance crown, but at the same time the Rage-line of 3D-products was never far behind the competition. ATi's manufacturing abilities, the good pricing and wide product spectrum ensured that ATi chips are found in a huge amount of computer systems, because particularly OEMs and system integrators love to do business with ATi. Now the Canadian company is finally reaching for the recognition to be at least right up there with NVIDIA at the top of 3D-technology. The new Radeon has got more high-tech features than any other 3D-chip in the market, and we will see if NVIDIA was right when it stated that it doesn't consider 3dfx, but ATi to be their toughest competitor in the high-end 3D-arena.

RADEON - Packed With A Million And One Features

I am sure you can remember the release of NVIDIA's GeForce2 GTS chip that came with a long list of funky features. ATi decided to add even a few more and renamed the ones it shares with GeForce2. From a features standpoint, the Radeon chip is at least as advanced as the GeForce2 GTS, but it doesn't have the brute force approach of the NVIDIA chip. Instead, ATi went for a more elegant solution, which I consider as rather commendable. I would like to go through Radeon's features in the same way that a 3D scene gets rendered from the moment when the scene is computed by the host CPU until it's displayed on the screen.

A - Radeon's Charisma Engine

The ones of us who know ATi's announcements are aware of the fact that this Canadian company is never shy of creating 'kewl' new names for their feature lists. The funky 'Charisma'-engine is nothing else but Radeon's integrated transform and lighting unit, formerly called 'geometry' unit.

ATi claims that their integrated T&L is able to do 30 million triangles per second, which tops the 25 million triangles/s of GeForce2 GTS. That's not all however, as ATi was able to add a few more nice features to this unit as well. 'Vertex Skinning' is one, 'Keyframe Interpolation' is the other. Let's have a quick look at each of those features.