few months ago, ATI made a bold announcement that
they wanted to dominate the high-end consumer 3D
graphics card market.
Although ATI is already the largest
graphics board manufacturer in the industry, their
products have never had superior performance as
far as Gaming and 3D Graphics were
concerned. Their feature sets were very
complete, but competing products from NVidia and
3dfx consistently outperformed ATI’s products at
the time. Even
though “on paper” some of ATI’s products
seemed powerful enough to compete, in real world
testing, incompatibilities or driver inadequacies
held them back.
April 2000 was set
to be the time ATI unleashed information on the
public outlining the Radeon architecture and
No more was ATI to play a 3D “second
fiddle” to their competitors.
It was time to take over.
Our initial excitement about the Radeon was
our first editorial and recently we had an
opportunity to travel to ATI’s headquarters in
Toronto, Ontario, Canada to experience the technology first
hand and judge for ourselves, whether or not
ATI could grab the poll position in this race.
Upon arrival, we
fully anticipated to be bombarded with Radeon
"propaganda" but that anticipation
subsided immediately in our meeting.
ATI wanted to not only demonstrate their
new “killer” product but also show other
initiatives to enter and dominate other markets
like set-top boxes, integrated chipsets and the
mobile arena (where they already are a major force
with 41% notebook market share and 31% total
market share as of Q1 2000). While speaking with project leaders, we could feel their
are confident the new direction the company is
taking will have positive results.
ATI already has
design wins with companies like Sony and GI for
high-end HDTV capable set top boxes.
We viewed a compelling demonstration of
product was capable of some cool tasks.
We saw a 3D Tetris-type game being played,
a Web TV-like demonstration and perfect HDTV
output (you can see the large HDTV set to the
left, in the above pic).
To show off the power of this prototype, we
also saw what I’d describe as real-time video
In the above
picture what you’re seeing is a video signal
from a camera being mapped onto the kettle in
chipset (the S370) was also demonstrated to us.
We didn’t have any real hands on
experience to tinker with the hardware but rather
a side-by-side comparison with an Intel i810
system with the integrated i750 graphics core.
ATI’s chip is a 128-bit product, priced
to compete with the i810 and on similarly equipped
550mhz PIII’s the S370 not only consistently
outperformed Intel’s, but visual quality was
much better…the difference was like night and
sub-$1000 PC market is about to get a much-needed
shot in the arm.
An IBM ThinkPad
with integrated Rage Mobility M1 was also
This chip has excellent 2D image quality
and is capable of high quality DVD playback with
very low power consumption.
but click it for a close-up)
ATI’s goal is to
have 60% of total mobile market share within 2
chips like this and others coming down the
pipeline, it’s a distinct possibility.
We were also given
a chance to walk through this location’s
The process of making boards is very
We were allowed to take a few snapshots
along the way…
Notice the “reels”
of components and RAM.
Each roll corresponds with a specific
location (or locations) on a board and components
are “spun-off” and populated on a board as
needed. This method of handling components
is called "tape and reel" and the parts
are housed in a sort of blister pack with a tape
over it that is peeled off as components are fed
into the robot "chip-shooter".
This whole process is called "pick and
place" in the electronics manufacturing
was very cool to see in action.
I even got a chance
to "rub elbows" with Kwok
Yuen (KY) Ho, the head honcho (President and CEO)
over at ATI Headquarters.
(he asked me to
take over, I told him it would cramp my style)
hands on look at the Radeon