ATI’s Offering

Today the ATI X800 series of cards is released, but NVIDIA also had a surprise for us as well: an ‘Ultra Extreme’ and a ‘GT’ edition of their NV40 cards released only weeks ago.

The reference cards based upon the X800 architecture in this review feature a full 16 pipelines for the RADEON Platiunum Edition and 12 pipelines for the RADEON X800 Pro. Each model is also equipped with six Vertex Shader pipelines. For this architecture, ATI has accompanied this raw power with some intricate features such as 3Dc compression technology, Smartshader HD, and Videoshader HD.

3Dc Compression

ATI’s new compression technology is a method of reducing the performance and memory hit when using normal maps. As the next crop of games begin to arrive, we see that nearly all developers are beginning to use normal maps extensively. Given how much memory these normal maps require, compression is a necessity instead of an option. In the past, developers have relied upon DXTC compression to make memory usage more manageable. Unfortunately, the use of this compression method results in image degredation. In an effort to maximize compression of normal maps with no appreciable loss in image quality, ATI has developed 3Dc compression.

ATI X800 XT and NV40 'Extreme' Graphics Released - Graphics Cards 58

Referencing the image above, we see that the 3Dc compression results in a much more accurate image than the typical DXTC method. Because 3Dc is hardware accelerated, this higher quality compression method comes with a negligible performance hit. This relives the burden on memory bandwidth and allows developers to utilize higher resolution normal maps with mroe detail.

Smartshader HD

In this case, ATI has taken a flexible shader architecture and blended it with a few new features and a whole new compiler. The result is the ability to now support shaders up to 1536 instructions or 512 instructions each for vector, scalar, and texture. In addition,the addition of a facing register has been accompanied by an increase in the number of temporary registers from 12 to 32.

VideoShader HD

The RADEON X800 architecture comes complete with a RAGE Theater chipset for additional functionality. The RAGE Theater chip allows the system to have complete PVR and HDTV capability with native support for nearly all forms of decoding and encoding. A listing of the functionality for this chipset can be seen below:

  • High quality video processing and acceleration
  • Real-time user programmable video effects
  • Video post processing and filtering
  • MPEG 1, 2, 4 encode and decode acceleration
  • FULLSTREAM video deblocking
  • WMV9 decode acceleration
  • High quality resolution scaling
  • Adaptive per pixel deinterlacing
  • Motion compensation
  • Noise removal filtering
  • Display rotation
  • 3:2 Pulldown
  • Gamma Control

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