As we all know by now, the card is codenamed R420 and nicknamed Loki inside ATI.
Loki R420 is a 0.13µ (micron) part developed on low-k by TSMC as Digitimes implies and we want to add that ATI learned much about the 0.13µ process by developing its 0.13µ RV350 and the RV360 cores commercially known as Radeon 9600PRO and Radeon 9600XT. The XT version is actually the first ATI low k chip.
You may remember that Nvidia said in its recent conference call that low k is dangerous. It sure is if your competitors are skilled with it. When the time comes for R423 in Q3 next year, we'll see versions for PCI Express.
I am not aware that 160 million is the accurate number of transistors in the R420, because last time I checked there were around 150 million transistors as a reference number. But a more important disagreement is about the type of memory that the R420 will use.
Even though the chip will be able to support GDDR3 it's simply too risky and too early to implement this memory. Even if the memory is ready I doubt that you can get quantities of it this soon. Just remember Nvidia when it rushed at DDR 2 late 2002/early 2003 and you have the whole picture.
It was too expensive, too hot and too risky to implement it, so unless ATI wants to gamble, this is definitely not an option, we think.
DDR II is actually a very stable memory that Nvidia uses in its mainstream FX 5700 Ultra cards meaning that you can get loads of it even if you want to use DDR II clocked at 900MHz. ATI has already used DDR II on Radeon 9800 PRO 256 MB DDR II edition where this memory was not the coolest that we have seen, so it has the experience here.
Knowing ATI's way of thinking, we expect to see GDDR3 first on mainstream cards and then on high end since that's what has happened twice before, where R9600 PRO was the first ATI 0.13µ chip and the R9600XT was the first 0.13µ and low K.
As for memory interface no change there. It will be a 256 bit memory controller since we learned it's too expensive to implement the 512 bit one, the next logical step in this marchitecture.
As for frequencies, it's simply too early to even guess. If you force me to speculate, I'd say it will be around 500MHz, possibly with 1000MHz memory.
The launch date for the chip and cards based on it is the largest computer trade show in the world that takes place from the 18th till 24th of March.
My guess would be that the new Radeon will be introduced in the first two days of the show since that's how it goes. Anyway there will be many ATI partners happy to show those cards on the first day, we are certain.
Some of these things might actually change but its quite certain that Cebit is the place for R420. The only trouble is that Cebit is too noisy, as everyone wants to announce it's new marchitecture too. Imagine if Nvidia's NV40 and R420 get launched at the same time, which event would the different hacks go to? That would be a funny thing to see.
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ