Radeon 256 Preview 4/24/2000
By, Marco ?BigWop?
is upon us and with the new season, usually comes
the new product announcements from the major
graphics hardware players.
So far, 3dfx and nVidia (sort of) have given
us a taste of what?s in store for us in the coming
months. The largest player of all, ATI
has been relatively silent. Until Now?
been under NDA for a little while about the Radeon
256, and let me tell you, it?s been tough to keep
this one quiet.
ATI has generally been ahead of the curve in
terms of feature implementation. They were the first
company to have a 64MB card in the retail channel
and have had the best DVD hardware assistance short
of a dedicated decoder card.
This time around, they have taken a much
bolder step forward and will be offering one of the
most, if not THE most feature packed product in the
ATI has always been a contender in the feature
department, performance has been an issue.
Historically, chips like the Rage Pro were
very capable but implementation and driver
enhancements hampered performance and this caused
many hardcore gamers and early adopters to pass them
had that in mind when this statement jumped out at
256 drivers are optimized for maximum performance
with specific microprocessor instruction sets
and Itanium, as well as AMD?s 3Dnow!?.
ATI obviously is looking to the future by
already announcing Itanium support with the
Radeon 256. ATI hopes to completely obliterate
this mindset and wear the much-coveted crown as the
"King of 3D".
Radeon 256 should be a very powerful product.
It will be the first product ATI unveils that
implements their new Charisma Engine (ATI?s
geometry engine?basically advanced hardware
T&L), Pixel Tapestry (rendering engine), Video
Immersion (video engine) and HyperZ (compression
techniques to ?improve? effective memory
a much more detailed overview of the Charisma Engine
and Pixel Tapestry, click
here for the original announcement.
is some interesting info quoted directly from the
ATI information we received?
Radeon Specifications / Features
Gigatexels - It's all that...
image for full view
image for full viewing
new chip supports the following features:
advanced graphics chip ever designed, featuring
30 million transistors, in an .18 micron
technology, giving it a higher transistor count
than CPUs such as the Pentium III and Athlon.
chip targeted at 200+MHz. Core Clock
chip to support up to 128MB of double-data rate
(DDR) memory at 200MHz.
Core Architecture Supporting ATI's "MAXX"
Multiple ASIC Technology
via 4X Super Sampling
Charisma Engine which incorporates a 30 million
triangle per second geometry engine as well as
radical new 3D character animation techniques.
chip break through of the Gigatexel barrier with
an awesome 1.5 Gigatexel per second rendering
with hardware support for 3D shadows.
with all DX7 bump mapping effects (emboss, dot
product 3 and EMBM).
with advanced DX8 pixel shader effects.
with 3D texture support for new volumetric
PC graphics chip to include an on-chip hardware
quality video filters capable of operating at
full HDTV resolutions.
HDTV decoder which eliminates the requirement
for separate HDTV decoder
cards which add cost and reduce picture
HDTV display interface for new HDTV
transport stream interface to connect directly
to HDTV tuner boards.
DVD Playback support
pending adaptive de-interlacing algorithms which
result in unparalleled video quality for
interlaced TV and HDTV video streams.
are some VERY interesting points that caught my eye;
there are also some others that really impressed me. Here are some of the points that I was particularly intrigued
by, I?m sure some of you will also be impressed
when you read this. The
Radeon 256 also
includes support for ATI?s patented MAXX multi-ASIC
technology, enabling twin Radeon 256 chips on a
single graphics card.
A dual chip Radeon 256 board should be an
EXTREMELY powerful product, a definite performance
and feature leader "on paper?.
chip also has 2 pixel pipelines featuring 3 texture
units per pixel rendering pipeline. You read that
correctly, 3 texture units.
A chip capable of rendering 3 textures per
pass, will offer stronger performance in games that
use multi-texturing and also give some more advanced
features for ?free?.
To give you an idea of what I mean, look at
this chart supplied by ATI:
Click Image to Enlarge
SDRAM is not new to us but support for 128mb of
200mhz DDR SDRAM with "HyperZ" is.
200mhz DDR SDRAM is capable of 6.4gb/sec bandwidth.
The addition of HyperZ, a "lossless"
data compression algorithm, affords the Radeon the
capability of accessing 8gb/sec of effective memory
limited memory bandwidth, even the most powerful
graphics chip will not be able to reach it?s
maximum theoretical performance. ATI?s
implementation of 200mhz DDR Memory and their new
HyperZ technology, certainly takes a step in the
right direction to alleviate this bottleneck.
Radeon 256 also supports virtually every form of
bump mapping. Emboss,
Dot Product 3, EMBM, Spherical,
Dual-Paraboloid, Cubic Environment mapping and
Projective Texturing, are all supported.
Since the R6 is so "feature
complete" in this area, just about any
game supporting some form of bump mapping will be
wish we had more information on how these next
features are executed, so I can?t go into any real
detail. However, the Radeon 256 is also
capable of motion blur and depth of field effects,
as well as full scene Anti-Aliasing.
If the performance hit is not huge and all
our favorite games are playable with these features
enabled, trying to decide between a V5 or a Geforce
2 is moot. Why not get a card capable of all
the features of these 2 cards combined?
Although it is far too early to make any sort
of decision, ON PAPER, ATI really seems to shine.
the Adaptive De-Interlacing technology also seems
Any users that play DVD?s on their system
will no doubt recognize these 2 techniques:
screen shots aren?t too pretty. However, check out
what the Radeon?s Adaptive De-Interlacing looks
picture says a thousand words, the difference and
improvement in quality is obvious. Keep in mind that
these are compressed JPGs. The uncompressed
images are of even better quality.
conclusion, although it is WAY TOO EARLY (I need to
stress that point) to say that the ATI Radeon 256
will be the next big thing, it does seem that ATI is
headed in the right direction.
If the software support is there and the
driver performance exploits the potential of the
hardware, there will be a new choice in the high-end
video card market.
They should begin shipping sometime in late
June or July to OEMs and in the retail channel in
August. Considering the product's very complete
feature set, high performance (hopefully) and
excellent picture quality, the Radeon 256 seems to
be a no compromise solution.
ATI is now poised to take over a large
segment of the hardcore market. For competition?s
sake, let?s hope the Radeon 256 is as capable in
the real world as it seems to be on paper.