AMD Launches the ATI 4600 Series Mobile GPU

Oops! It looks like someone at Asus might have gotten an itchy trigger finger and pushed the button on sending out the press release for the ASUS N81Vp and N51Tp notebooks a couple of days early. The press release came out on Wednesday, January 7th, and it exclaimed, "ASUS Introduces World’s First Notebook Solutions with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4600 Series GPU." All true and great for Asus, but the only problem is that AMD (ATI's parent company) had embargoed the information about the new ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4000 Series until one minute after midnight, Eastern Time, Friday, January 9th (not coincidentally the exact date and time this news post was published). Well, the embargo has finally lifted and we're now free to tell you (we're nice that way) about the new ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4000 Series of GPUs for notebooks.

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At the low-end of the family are the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4300 and 4500 Series GPUs. The 4300 is a low-power version of the 4500. They are meant to be used in thin-and-light as well as mainstream notebooks. They both have 242 million transistors, 80 Stream processors, and support a 64-bit-wide memory bus with DDR2, DDR3, and GDDR3 memory support. AMD claims that both the 4300 and 4500 Series have a maximum memory bandwidth of 12.8Gbps and 108GFlops compute power.

Next in line is the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4600 Series GPU. AMD considers this its new "performance"-class mobile GPU. It has 320 Stream processors and is made up of 514 million transistors. Like the 4300/4500, the 4600 Series also supports DDR2, DDR3, and GDDR3; but unlike the 4300/4500's 64-bit-wide memory bus, the 4600 Series has a 128-bit-wide memory bus. AMD states that the 4600 Series has a maximum memory bandwidth of 25.6Gbps and a compute power of 432GFlops.

AMD's new mobile GPU flagship is the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4800 Series GPU. Expect to see the 4800 Series in "enthusiast"-level notebooks such as gaming laptops and high-end desktop replacements. The 4800 has a whopping 956 million transistors--that's almost 1 billion transistors. The 4800 has 800 Stream processors and supports a 256-bit-wide memory bus with both GDDR3 and GDDR5 memory support. AMD claims that the 4800 Series has a maximum memory bandwidth of 89.6Gbps and a compute power of 880GFlops.

The entire 4000 Series includes DirectX 10.1 support. It is also capable of sending audio over DisplayPort connections, and even streaming 7.1-channel HD Audio through HDMI connections. The 4000 Series is also capable of "hardware-accelerated dual-stream playback," which means that you can actualy display HD-based picture-in-picture content. The 4000 Series also includes "ATI PowerXpress & Switchable Graphics with Instant Dynamic Switching"--what this does is automatically switch from a low-power, integrated GPU to a discrete GPU and back depending on the demands of the system, in order to conserve battery power when the notebook doesn't need the extra performance of the discrete GPU.

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Perhaps of most interest to gamers is that the 4600 and 4800 Series can be implemented in notebooks using CrossFireX. AMD claims that you could see as much as a 1.8-times performance increase between a single 4600 Series GPU and two 4600 Series GPUs with CrossFireX in dual mode.

Of course, ATI isn't the only GPU manufacturer to announce new mobile GPUs. Just yesterday, Nvidia announced its new GeForce 100M Series Mobile GPUs, which include the GeForce G105M, GeForce G110M, and GeForce GT 130M. Nvidia is positioning the G105M and the G110M as GPUs for "mainstream consumer" notebooks--Nvidia says that the G105M is replacing the GeForce 9200M GE, and the G110M is replacing the GeForce 9300M GS. The new GT 130M is being positioned for "creative consumer" and "gamer" notebooks, and is replacing the GeForce 9600M GT. Nvidia has yet to replace its "gaming enthusiast"-level GeForce 9700 and 9800 Series mobile GPUs with newer GPU models.

In terms of pitting the new ATI mobile GPUs against the new Nvidia GPUs, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4300/4500 Series would align closest to the Nvidia GeForce G105M/G110M Series, and the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4600 Series would most closely align with the GeForce GT 130M. There is no new mobile GPU from Nvidia that would compare against the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4800 Series--that comparison would therefore need to be against the existing GeForce 9700/9800 Series.