AMD Radeon HD 2900XT Preview
It's late, but it's finally here. This morning AMD will be formally announcing their long-awaited Radeon HD 2000 series, or perhaps better known as the ATI R600 GPU. The AMD Radeon HD 2000 series features DirectX 10.0 (well, for those that use Microsoft products), Avivo HD, a programmable tessellation unit, CrossFire support, and much more. This morning we have our technology preview of ATI/AMD's next generation GPUs along with what's in store for Linux and the R600 series support.
The parts being launched today by Advanced Micro Devices include the HD 2900XT, HD 2600XT, HD 2600PRO, HD 2400XT, and the low-end HD 2400PRO. Soft launching today are also the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2000 series, which consists of mobile units in the 2300, 2400, and 2600 classes. On the AMD HD 2900XT are 320 stream processors along with 512MB of GDDR3 512-bit memory. While the HD 2400 and HD 2600 series use a 65nm TSMC process, the HD 2900XT currently is built on 80nm technology. The AMD HD 2950XT and HD 2950XTX should be out later this year and in a 65nm variety. There is native CrossFire support on all R600 components thus there is no longer the need for a "Master Card" or external dongle.
The ATI Radeon HD 2000 series also adds CFAA support, or Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing. However, don't expect Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing coming to the fglrx Linux drivers anytime soon. Likewise, the Radeon HD 2000 series also support full HDCP with audio. For interfacing with HDMI components, Advanced Micro Devices will ship a DVI to HDMI dongle, which will support video along with 5.1 channel surround sound audio -- another area not to look for immediate support from the fglrx binary display driver.
The R600 GPU for the HD 2900XT is clocked at 750MHz while the GDDR3 memory is running at 1650MHz. Powering the hungry HD 2900XT is a 6-pin PCI Express connector along with one 8-pin connector, which is backwards compatible with a 6-pin PCI-E interface. When it comes to power consumption, the high-end AMD HD 2900 series can pull in excess of 200 Watts while the HD 2600 series will pull about a quarter of that and the HD 2400 series will only draw about 30 Watts.
The AMD R600 series was originally scheduled for launch towards the end of last year, however, engineering problems had led to this multi-month delay. Phoronix had seen an earlier revision of the R600 in hand, which was especially interesting. However, these multiple delays have allowed additional time for the Catalyst development teams to fine-tune the R600 driver support. Since January we have been reporting that ATI/AMD has in fact been working on Radeon HD 2000 (or at the time, the Radeon X2000 series) product support. We seen the PCI ID entries initially in the 8.33 beta display driver and since then we know AMD has been working further on R600 generation support. Official support wasn't appended last month in the fglrx 8.36.5 driver and it will not arrive this month in fglrx 8.37 either. We do anticipate, however, that this support for the HD 2400, HD 2600, and HD 2900 in Linux will arrive shortly.
AMD hasn't officially told us when the R600 Linux support will arrive, but having already seen the 8.37 driver we know that it will not come this month. However, as HD 2000 series Linux support has been in development for at least six months now, we would expect the support to come very soon. We would hope and expect that the official R600 product support will come next month or in July (by fglrx version 8.40). When this support does finally arrive, do not expect to see Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing or MultiGPU / CrossFire support -- though there may be some video playback improvements.
It is also worth pointing out that a new rewritten AMD Catalyst Linux driver for OpenGL is under development and ATI has admitted its problems along with stating recently they would be seriously working on improving their Linux position. We will also be sharing The Truth About AMD's Development Cycle in an upcoming article. Things this year for ATI/AMD should be extremely interesting -- perhaps even more so than last year with all of the driver improvements (ATI A Year in Review 2006). Last month with the 8.36.5 driver introduction we also seen the introduction of two new X.Org modules: esut.a and glesx.so
For those that are new to the Linux scene, ATI had received much scrutiny in late 2005 and early 2006 for its lack of Radeon X1000 (R500) product support. It had taken the ATI Linux team about six months after the X1000 launch to deliver supportive fglrx drivers to the public. More information on the X1000 Linux launch can be found in our Radeon X1800 Linux Preview. The support had arrived in April of 2006, but in January of 2006 Phoronix had reported that the support would arrive in the spring (which it had).
Pricing of the AMD Radeon HD 2000 series components will be extremely competitive starting out at $99 for the HD 2400 series and going up to $400 USD for the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT. The AMD HD 2900 series is designed to compete directly against the NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS and 8800GTX while the HD 2400 should be good competition for NVIDIA's GeForce 8500 series. The hardware that makes up the Radeon HD 2000 series is extremely captivating, but due to the lack of a public Linux display driver that supports the R600, we will not be sharing any benchmarks with you today. However, things for the AMD fglrx driver should start heating up shortly so stay tuned for all of the latest (and exclusive) information. You may be interested in checking out our other Linux graphics hardware and driver articles along with the latest rumors and information on the Phoronix Forums.
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