Macworld - ATI Technologies Inc. today introduced its Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition, a new $499 graphics card specifically for Power Mac G5 systems. The new card occupies a single expansion slot and can provide double the performance of a Radeon 9800 card, according to ATI.
Outfitted with an dual-link DVI port and an Apple Display Connector (ADC) port, the Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition can drive a 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display and an older 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display side by side.
The Radeon X800 card is built around ATI's R420 graphics chip architecture. Manufactured using a 0.13 micron copper low-k process, the chip supports GDDR3 memory and talks to the Mac through an 8x AGP Pro interface. Using a built-in fan to cool the circuitry, the X800 has a lower profile and a considerably smaller board design than the Nvidia 6800 cards Apple Computer Inc. currently offers for the Power Mac G5. As a result, it only occupies one card slot, instead of the two slots the Nvidia alternatives occupy.
Under the hood
ATI bills the X800 as the world's fastest AGP-based Visual Processing Unit (VPU). It features 16 pixel pipelines, compared to 8 in the 9800 Pro; a 475MHz core speed, compared to 375MHz for the 9800; 1GHz memory data rate, compared to 675 for the 9800; six vertex engines, compared to the 9800's four; a 7.6 gigapixel per second pixel fill rate, compared to 3.0 for the 9800; 32GB per second memory bandwidth, compared to 22 GB per second for the 9800, and the ability to transform 712 vertices per second, compared to 340 for the 9800. All this equals about twice the overall performance of the 9800, according to ATI.
"We have this parallel-processing machine -- we can send a whole bunch of instructions simultaneously," said Stan Ossias, senior product manager at ATI. "The more pixel pipelines you have, the faster you're able to execute."
The X800 also yields support for the latest generation of pixel and vertex shading capabilities and other visual tricks supported by ATI. 3Dc, for example, is a "normal map" compression technology that yields dramatically more realistic details and textures in games. It's not yet supported by any Mac games, but ATI figures it's just a matter of time before some of them are ported.
Smartshader HD is ATI's terminology for its pixel shading technology, which gains some improvements in this release. Pixel shading is a complex technique used to render realistic lighting effects, but its dependence on low-level assembly code has stymied some developers in the past. ATI's
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