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AMD targets Nvidia with dual-GPU graphics card

Claims ATI Radeon chip offers 30% to 50% more performance than Nvidia offerings

August 12, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has thrown down the gauntlet to graphics rival Nvidia Corp., unveiling a graphics card that runs two graphics chips.

AMD today unveiled the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2, which uses two units of a smaller chip -- the 4870 graphics processing unit (GPU) -- rather than one big chip. The dual-GPU technology, said AMD spokesman Matt Skinner, provides 30% to 50% more performance and uses less energy than Nvidia's GTX280 graphics card.

The performance boost comes from having two chips on board along with the improved their chip-to-chip communications technology in the card, Skinner added.

"We wanted to develop a graphics card for enthusiasts," he said. "We developed a chip targeted at performance. And then we took two of those chips and put them on one card. People have tried to build bigger chips, but the problem has been heat and cost. It's difficult for them to put two on one board because of space and power limitations."

The new graphics card is a big win for AMD, which has taken a lot of heat in the industry and on Wall Street for its 2006 acquisition of ATI Technologies. The purchase caused a big financial hit to AMD, which staggered through most of 2007. While AMD has shipped a slew of new products this year, the haze from last year lingers.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., said coming out with a fast two-GPU card is a very positive step for AMD, and could help show that the ATI acquisition was a smart move after all.

"It's good to see AMD/ATI back in the high-performance game," said Olds. "The new card looks like it will be able to deliver the goods to high-end gamers, a lucrative and desirable market. Moreover, AMD's single card -- but dual GPU -- 4870 X2 can, if early reviews are on target, outperform dual-card configurations from Nvidia."

"The payoff is that this puts [AMD] in the enviable position of having both the highest-performance video card and the less-expensive solution -- an experience they haven't enjoyed for a while," he said.

AMD's announcement comes just a week after rival Intel Corp. released a few details of its upcoming Larrabee graphics chip, which will power its first stand-alone graphics card. Larrabee marks a major strategic shift for Intel, which has traditionally relied on graphics technology from companies like Nvidia and ATI.

The good news for AMD and Nvidia, though, is that Intel isn't planning to release Larrabee for another year to 18 months. That gives Intel's rivals time to put beef up their own offerings and get out ahead in this looming graphics race.

Read more about Processors in Computerworld's Processors Topic Center.



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