ATI Radeon Experience - HotHardware

ATI Radeon Experience

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The ATI Radeon Experience
ATI's new 3D Graphics powerhouse may just be the new King of The Hill

By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
7/17/00

A few months ago, ATI made a bold announcement that they wanted to dominate the high-end consumer 3D graphics card market.  Although ATI is already the largest graphics board manufacturer in the industry, their products have never had superior performance as far as Gaming and 3D Graphics were concerned.  Their feature sets were very complete, but competing products from NVidia and 3dfx consistently outperformed ATI?s products at the time.  Even though ?on paper? some of ATI?s products seemed powerful enough to compete, in real world testing, incompatibilities or driver inadequacies held them back.

April 2000 was set to be the time ATI unleashed information on the public outlining the Radeon architecture and feature set.  No more was ATI to play a 3D ?second fiddle? to their competitors.  It was time to take over.  Our initial excitement about the Radeon was evident in our first editorial and recently we had an opportunity to travel to ATI?s headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to experience the technology first hand and judge for ourselves, whether  or not ATI could grab the poll position in this race.

Upon arrival, we fully anticipated to be bombarded with Radeon "propaganda" but that anticipation subsided immediately in our meeting.  ATI wanted to not only demonstrate their new ?killer? product but also show other initiatives to enter and dominate other markets like set-top boxes, integrated chipsets and the mobile arena (where they already are a major force with 41% notebook market share and 31% total market share as of Q1 2000).  While speaking with project leaders, we could feel their excitement.  They are confident the new direction the company is taking will have positive results.

ATI already has design wins with companies like Sony and GI for high-end HDTV capable set top boxes.  We viewed a compelling demonstration of this prototype?

This product was capable of some cool tasks.  We saw a 3D Tetris-type game being played, a Web TV-like demonstration and perfect HDTV output (you can see the large HDTV set to the left, in the above pic).  To show off the power of this prototype, we also saw what I?d describe as real-time video texture mapping.

 

In the above picture what you?re seeing is a video signal from a camera being mapped onto the kettle in real-time.

ATI?s integrated chipset (the S370) was also demonstrated to us.  We didn?t have any real hands on experience to tinker with the hardware but rather a side-by-side comparison with an Intel i810 system with the integrated i750 graphics core.  ATI?s chip is a 128-bit product, priced to compete with the i810 and on similarly equipped 550mhz PIII?s the S370 not only consistently outperformed Intel?s, but visual quality was much better?the difference was like night and day.  The sub-$1000 PC market is about to get a much-needed shot in the arm.

An IBM ThinkPad with integrated Rage Mobility M1 was also demonstrated.  This chip has excellent 2D image quality and is capable of high quality DVD playback with very low power consumption.


(slightly blurry but click it for a close-up)

ATI?s goal is to have 60% of total mobile market share within 2 years.  With chips like this and others coming down the pipeline, it?s a distinct possibility.

We were also given a chance to walk through this location?s manufacturing plant.  The process of making boards is very interesting.  We were allowed to take a few snapshots along the way?

         

         

           

Notice the ?reels? of components and RAM.   Each roll corresponds with a specific location (or locations) on a board and components are ?spun-off? and populated on a board as needed.  This method of handling components is called "tape and reel" and the parts are housed in a sort of blister pack with a tape over it that is peeled off as components are fed into the robot "chip-shooter".  This whole process is called "pick and place" in the electronics manufacturing business.  It was very cool to see in action.

I even got a chance to "rub elbows" with Kwok Yuen (KY) Ho, the head honcho (President and CEO) over at ATI Headquarters.


(he asked me to take over, I told him it would cramp my style) 

A hands on look at the Radeon

 

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