AMD has today announced the ATI Radeon HD 3400 and 3600 series graphics processors, which are the budget-minded siblings to the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870. The graphics cards currently now shipping in these series are the HD 3450, HD 3470, and HD 3650. When the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870 were introduced, there wasn't same-day Linux support but it had arrived both in open and closed-source forms relatively quickly, but is that the same story for these lower-end solutions? Will the DisplayPort interface on these graphics cards be supported under Linux? In this article, we have answers to these questions.
The new Radeon HD 3400/3600 graphics cards introduce support for DisplayPort, which for those out of the loop is a display standard developed by VESA that is royalty and license free. DisplayPort is a direct competitor to the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (ATI HDMI Linux Status). The GPUs in the Radeon HD 3400/3600 series are built using a TSMC 55nm process, feature built-in HDMI audio, and utilize a PCI Express 2.0 interface. The Radeon HD 3400 and 3600 are coupled with the same UVD (Unified Video Decoder) found in the other R600 GPUs, which unfortunately cripples the open-source video possibilities.
With the first of the DisplayPort-capable graphics cards now on the market, it raises the issue of Linux support for DisplayPort. Starting with the ATI fglrx driver, Catalyst 8.01 for Linux does start to (not so noticeably) contain some DisplayPort work, but in the coming driver releases it should become apparent. On the open-source side, Luc Verhaegen, a RadeonHD developer, had said back in November that there should be immediate open-source support with the Novell developers obtaining pre-production hardware. However, there are no signs that this DisplayPort support will come to the RadeonHD driver immediately (or soon) for the RadeonHD 3400/3600 series.
AMD's open-source Linux representative, John Bridgman, had today commented on the Phoronix Forums that the open-source support for these new graphics cards will be a two-stage process. Initially these graphics cards will be supported by the RadeonHD driver using the conventional DVI and HDMI interfaces, while later the DisplayPort capabilities will be introduced. John Bridgman had gone on to add that the DisplayPort changes are quite large. Realistically, for end-users this shouldn't be much of a problem since there are only three (all low-end) graphics cards currently supporting DisplayPort, and this media interface does require a DisplayPort-enabled monitor. In the mean time, just be sure to take any DisplayPort monitors off your shopping list.
In the RadeonHD IRC channel, Luc Verhaegen had commented that today the RadeonHD developers received mode-setting documentation for these new graphics processors. These new graphics processors have the codename of RV620 and RV635, and Luc had mentioned that their design is quite different from the RV630, which is the GPU found in the Radeon HD 2600 series. Meanwhile, he had confirmed that with this launch they had this new hardware since early December, which is a great move to see with open-source developers having access to the hardware nearly two months prior to its availability.
On another topic, the Radeon HD 3400 series isn't limited to the conventional CrossFire technology, which isn't even supported under Linux, but does introduce a new multi-GPU technology called Hybrid Graphics. Hybrid Graphics Technology is similar to CrossFire, but instead of splitting the GPU load across two discrete PCI Express graphics cards, ATI's Hybrid will share the 3D rendering operations between a single discrete graphics card and an IGP on the motherboard (such as the RS780G). The status of AMD's Hybrid Graphics Technology under Linux isn't officially known, but as there is no standard CrossFire support from their binary Linux driver, don't expect any Hybrid action anytime soon. For the foreseeable future, we don't expect to see any kind of open-source CrossFire support.
The Radeon HD 3400 graphics cards are priced between $49~65 USD while the Radeon HD 3600 series is $79~99 USD. We should have our hands on these new Radeon HD 3400/3600 graphics cards soon so that we are able to share the Linux performance results and start poking around with the RadeonHD driver.