Why ATI Delayed The R600
ATI fans have been waiting for the R600 for ages. It's been delayed for so long, it's in danger of going the way of Duke Nukem Forever. Now that ATI has pushed it back to a Q2 launch, one really wonders what's really going on.
To be honest, ATI has never had a reputation of being cosy with tech websites like ours. Maybe we are just too small for them to waste time on. Even the ATI Radeon X1950 GT that we touched on recently was actually a sample from elsewhere.
But we have been making some progress on that front recently. While that hasn't gotten us any ATI review samples, it gave us a chance to ask ATI about the R600. After some surreptitious questions over the last few weeks, we pieced together this fascinating tale of strategy in the GPU-CPU business.
It starts with the admission that the R600 had been ready for some time now. In fact, the earlier news reports were accurate - ATI could have been ready for a massive CeBIT launch, but that launch was axed by AMD. Why? Read on and find out.
Excellon & RenderX
AMD has something bigger up their sleeves, namely a new series of processors based on Socket F. Dubbed the AMD Excellon, these dual-core processors are AMD's first test of the feasibility of their Fusion programme.
As the Fusion programme implies, it will come with an integrated graphics core which is a subset of the R600 VPU. This graphics core will share system memory with the CPU, but ATI claims it will be faster than the NVIDIA's new GeForce 8600 GTS, thanks to the inclusion of 16MB of really fast on-die memory.
If you want or need something faster, AMD will offer you two options. You can either slot in a second Excellon processor for a total of four processor cores and two graphics cores, or you can choose to install an ATI RenderX chip in the second Socket F. The RenderX is actually two R600 dies in a single chip. This gives you something like a 5-6X increase in graphics processing capability.
The RenderX chip is apparently the reason for the delayed release of the R600. AMD wanted more R600 dies diverted to the production of the RenderX. The theory is that once they get you hooked on the Excellon, you are more likely to buy the RenderX than a GeForce 8800 GTX as the RenderX chip would certainly cost less than a complete graphics card.
When the new processors are launched, AMD will offer a $100-$250 rebate for customers who trade in their current processors for a new Excellon while ATI will also offer a similar rebate scheme for the RenderX chips. The amount of rebate will, of course, depend on the processor or graphics card model you trade in.
While supplies of the new Excellon and RenderX processors will be worldwide and more than enough to meet even the massive demand expected, the rebate programme will proceed on a slower pace. It has actually started as part of a pre-order programme that begun a few weeks ago, albeit limited to certain AMD-ATI staff members and partners.
If you are interested in pre-ordering your Excellon and/or RenderX processors, as well as pre-processing your rebate; you can actually do so at a limited access ATI.AMD.com section. However, access is limited, so we cannot just post the link here. You will have to do a little dance to get there, I'm afraid.
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