updated 08:35 am EDT, Mon May 14, 2007
AMD Radeon HD
AMD this morning introduced the ATI Radeon HD 2000 graphics line, its first video chipsets designed with a unified shader architecture that allows the more advanced high dynamic color range and other advanced geometry and pixel effects possible in newer OpenGL programs as well as Windows Vista's DirectX 10. Cards have as many as 320 individual stream (shader) processors for brute-force acceleration, AMD says; the new chips also have native Crossfire hardware onboard that lets them pair up in dual PCI Express slots without demanding a master card or a specialized Crossfire cable. Vendor-specific cards can include HDMI out with audio for turning a system into a media center PC.
Three performance grades on the desktop are making their debut today. The Radeon HD 2900 XT ($399) is the company's current flagship with the full 320 stream processors, 5!2MB of memory, and a 740MHz core. AMD is also shipping the mid-range Radeon HD 2600 series for mid-range owners with 120 stream units and as much as 256MB of memory; prices range from $99 for a basic, 600MHz 2600 Pro model to $199 for the fastest, 800MHz 2600 XT version. Less demanding users can alternately pick the Radeon HD 2400 with 40 stream units and cores between 525MHz (Pro) and 700MHz (XT). Its prices should fall under $99.
Notably, AMD has also introduced its entire Mobility Radeon HD series today as well. The notebook-oriented chips bring the entire visual feature set of the desktop parts but includes stronger power management even compared to the earlier Mobility Radeon X1000 series. It also uses the HD 2000 series' advanced video decoding to relieve the burden of the CPU during heavy Blu-Ray or HD DVD decoding. This lets even thin-and-light notebooks play a full next-generation movie entirely on battery power, the company claims. Chips start with the entry-level 2300 for inexpensive notebooks and step up to the 2400 at the mid-range as well as the 2600 for gamers and other performance users.
All desktop Radeon HD chipsets should be available within the next few days from AMD as well as various card manufacturers. The Mobility Radeon HD line will launch in May with the 2300 coming installed in notebooks from ASUS, HP, and similar vendors. No mention has been made of when the 2400 and 2600 will ship, though they are expected to follow later.