NEWS - Monday, June 20, 2005

ATi : 360 Most Powerful Of Next Gen

In a recent interview with German magazine Gamestar, ATi has made some of the boldest claims to date regarding the base-level power of the Xbox 360 console, for which ATi is the GPU supplier. Perhaps offering the most in-depth look at how the 360 chip operates, ATi head of developer relations Richard Huddy said, “First and foremost we have a 'unified shader architecture'. No other console or PC chip can boast this. And what, in short, it means is that the hardware is always able to run at 100% efficiency. All previous hardware has separate vertex and pixel shaders. That means that that previous hardware just had to hope that the vertices and pixels came in just about the right ratios. If you got too many pixels then the vertex engines would be idle, and if you got too many vertices then the pixel engines would starve instead. It’s not uncommon for one part of the chip to be starved of work for a large majority of the time – and that’s obviously inefficient. With a unified architecture we have hardware that automatically molds its-self to the task required and simply does whatever needs to be done. That all means that the Xbox 360 runs at 100% efficiency all the time, whereas previous hardware usually runs at somewhere between 50% and 70% efficiency. And that should means that clock for clock, the Xbox graphics chip is close to twice as efficient as previous graphics hardware.” Huddy went on to explain how memory can be accessed from these shaders: “Next on my list is the hardware support for directly accessing memory from within the shader units. This makes the Xbox graphics chip work in a much more flexible way than has ever been possible before. Now it’s relatively simple for a games developer to write code to do anything inside the graphics chip that they could do elsewhere. Accessing memory in arbitrary ways sounds like a very esoteric thing to do within a graphics chip, but actually it allows you to do some amazing things which mean that Xbox 360 games will be more like movies than you ever imagined. It’s so powerful that I’d say that this feature alone makes the Xbox 360 technically superior to any other console planned for the next five years.” Not a comment to please Nintendo, to whom ATi is the GPU supplier for the upcoming Revolution console. And moving on to the question of the Revolution, it appears from the interview that ATi sees it’s long-term (two generations at least) console partner as something of a poor relation, hinting that it will not see a chip delivered with the same level of internal expectation. “It would be very handy for ATI to share [Xbox 360 GPU] information around between its various groups – but doing so would undermine the relationships that we have with the individual console companies. It’s important to Microsoft that if they suggest or request a feature in their graphics chips for their console that this doesn't automatically mean that Nintendo gets that for free too. And of course, it applies the other way round too, Nintendo needs to be able to make their hardware design without fear that it could simply be copied by Microsoft. No console company would work with us without these rules.”

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