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  ATI’s R520 architecture, the new king of the hill? 
  Sep 16, 2005, 09:30am EDT 


By: Sander Sassen

Well ATI sure kept us waiting, but it will finally be introduced this month, the R520 architecture, the successor to the X800 family of graphics cards and a contender for the 3D graphics throne. But why wait for that introduction when you can have a sneak peek today? Normally we would’ve adhered to ATI’s NDA and published results the moment it expired. However this time around ATI decided to just not bother with us, nor brief us under NDA, as they made it very clear that we did not make the cut, as we have written some articles about CrossFire, R520 and ATI’s financial situation that were apparently not appreciated. Hence we’ve not been briefed by ATI, nor did we sign an NDA, or have been invited to the launch event, so basically they decided to cut us off.

Unfortunately for ATI we have other sources to get detailed information from, for example the board partners that will be manufacturing and selling the majority of these new graphics cards. Obviously because we’re not bound by any NDA or other agreement with ATI we’ve worked hard to get you some benchmark results prior to the launch which is scheduled for the end of this month. To ATI we’d like to comment that it is a two-way street really, we’d like to be briefed about your products and have early access to them, if that requirement is met we will have no issues with signing and adhering to NDAs. By cutting us off however we’ve just been given a new incentive to work harder to break the news when we get a chance, in our usual no holds barred fashion.

So what does the R520 architecture bring to the table exactly? For starters it is not the 32-pipeline architecture it has been rumored to be, it is half that, offering just 16-pipelines, which is less than NVIDIA’s G70 architecture that has 24. The R520 architecture will be introduced as the X1800 series, featuring the top-of-the-line Radeon X1800 XT with a 600MHz core clock and 700MHz memory clock, yielding an effective 1400MHz memory clock speed. The 600MHz clockspeed combined with 16-pipelines for the graphics processor will give it a lower fillrate than the GeForce 7800GTX though, although the 7800GTX’ graphics processor runs at just 430MHz. With 512MB GDDR3 memory connected by a 256-bit wide memory bus the X1800 XT boasts more memory than the 7800GTX, but as shown before with 512MB version of the GeForce 6800 Ultra this will usually not help performance much, if at all.

The Radeon X1800 XT will ship with a $599 price tag, which is $100 to $150 more than what GeForce 7800GTX graphics cards are currently sold at, not exactly cheap. Other models in the Radeon X1800 series include the X1800 XL clocked at 550MHz core clock and 625MHz memory clock respectively at $499, the X1800 Pro at 500MHz with 256MB of memory running at 500MHz with a $449 price tag and to close the ranks ATI will offer a X1800 LE at 450MHz/450MHz for $349 with just 12-pipelines and 256MB of memory. With the help of a board partner we’ve been able to run the same set of benchmarks we’ve previously run on NVIDIA’s GeForce 7800GT and GTX, although we could only submit our benchmark scripts and testing configuration to them. The numbers you see reflected in the next few pages are therefore provided AS IS, as we have no way to verify them as we don’t physically have a board, they are accurate as far as we can see and in line what we’ve been expecting. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what the R520 architecture is capable of.

1. Introduction
2. Half Life 2
3. Doom III
4. FarCry
5. Splinter Cell
6. Conclusion

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