ATI to change design paradigm with future GPUs?

— 10:20 AM on November 17, 2006

Many are eagerly anticipating ATI's upcoming R600 graphics processor, but what does the company have in store next? Beyond R600 derivatives, The Inquirer says ATI's next-next-gen R700 graphics processor will adopt a fundamentally different design paradigm. Instead of a single monolithic GPU, the R700 will supposedly be made up of a number of smaller GPUs working in unison:

Basically, if you look at the architecture of any modern GPU, R5xx/6xx or G80, it comprises pretty modular units connected by a big interconnect. Imagine if the interconnect was more distributed like say an Opteron and [HyperTransport], you could have four small chips instead of one big one.

This would have massive advantages on design time, you need to make a chip of quarter the size or less, and just place many of them on the PCB. If you want a low-end board, use one, mid-range use four, pimped out edition, 16. You get the idea, Lego.

Such a design would be cheaper to manufacture, since a smaller die area per chip could reduce the likelihood of defects. In fact, Intel already uses a similar dual-chip technique in its first quad-core processors. This more modular design approach could also conceivably help ATI release slower derivatives of its high-end products sooner, should it use the same chips across multiple product lines.
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