ATI's Position on Upgradeable Modules in Mobile Graphics

Welcome back HotHardware fans!  Today's announcement by NVIDIA regarding their new MXM (Mobile PCI eXpress Module) initiative has generated quite a bit of interest.  So much interest that we were able to get a statement from ATi on the topic.  Here's a direct "cut-and-paste" from the correspondence...


•"Industry Standard Module" - while the concept is great, this is not what is being proposed. An industry standard module would be created through the creation of a working group comprised of OEMs, ODMs, graphics vendors, etc - an industry standard comes through collaboration - that is not what has been done here (ATI and others were never consulted), so it shouldn't be referred to as such in our opinion. Also, by offering the same module design to every customer, it forces them to "design around" the module, rather than start with the total design concept and go from there. The end result is that the vendor loses some of the competitive advantage they may receive through innovative system design.

•In Performance notebooks, ATI has been working with leading OEMs and ODMs on module-based designs for many years, and more recently worked with customers such as Voodoo PC, Alienware and Dell on designs that already offer module upgrades to their customers. The idea of a "generic" module would really only fit into this category as this is the main market eager for the bleeding edge technology, and the size of these types of notebooks lends more to the design restrictions modules bring with them.

•In Thin & Light notebooks, upgradability has also existed, but in other forms - in this space it is all about form factor, power and cost. This is where having an effective part with integrated memory is important. We have multiple generations of pin-compatible parts with integrated memory (called "CSP" technology) that can be found in the majority of T&L designs today. While these are "chip-down", the fact that there are multiple generations of pin-compatibility allows the OEM to constantly refresh to the latest graphics without a major motherboard spin - the end result is that even T&L designs can turn out the latest mobile graphics technology as soon as it is available.

•In full size Mainstream and Value notebooks, we've long promoted our "FLEXFIT", which is the creation of one motherboard design that can accommodate both an integrated and discrete solution and allows the OEM/ODM to populate the board as they see fit, depending on what market segment they wish to go after. This advantage comes from maintaining a pin-compatible requirement for multiple generations of our products. The industry's leading OEM (like Toshiba and HP, for example) and ODM designers have been able to offer their customers a range of mobile graphics for quite some time using this strategy.

•In the coming weeks we'll be announcing a new mobile specification for PCI Express graphics that will address the needs of multiple market segments, and will offer customers both robustness and reliability so that they can implement an upgradeable model to offer to the end-user, but not sacrifice any competitive advantages. This has been in the works since the very early days of developing our mobile PCI Express strategy. As we move closer to the mobile PCI Express launch, ATI has a lot of design momentum with OEMs and ODMs for our mobile products, and a lot of exciting new designs are coming very soon. While announcing a new technology creates excitement in the marketplace, we always prefer to approach in a more pragmatic fashion - basically, launch a new technology when you have products available to support it.


As you can see, ATi isn't completely sold on MXM (big surprise, huh?), but the ATi representative we spoke with did said they will have no problems supporting MXM modules designed and manufactured by any Taiwanese ODMs that use ATi GPUs.  Time will tell whether or not MXM takes off, but no matter what happens, the fact that notebooks will be much easier to upgrade in the future is a good thing for consumers...