AMD's engineers recount the RV770's development

— 3:54 PM on December 3, 2008

Whether you favor AMD or Nvidia, you have to admit AMD executed brilliantly with its Radeon HD 4800-series graphics processors. The Radeon HD 4870 and 4850 forced Nvidia to cut prices aggressively, and they remain excellent performers at their price points today.

To learn a little more about how AMD designed the RV770 GPU that powers these cards, Anandtech's Anand Lal Shimpi took a trip over to Santa Clara and spoke with engineers from AMD's graphics division (the former ATI). Those folks revealed a surprising number of details, including some history about why ATI started and subsequently stopped targeting the very high end of the graphics market with large, monolithic GPUs.

Anand also covers some of the hurdles the RV770 design team ran into when they started designing the chip in 2005. Back then, many inside ATI questioned the notion of focusing on a small, low-power GPU, and the GDDR5 memory specification that was so vital to the RV770's performance wasn't even complete yet.

AMD's GPU engineers also spoke to Anand about Larrabee, Intel's future discrete graphics processor. Much like Nvidia, AMD sees Larrabee as the kind of GPU a microprocessor designer would build—not an outlandish point of view, considering Larrabee will use x86-based processing cores. According to Anand's piece, AMD expects to beat Larrabee handily on the performance front but have a disadvantage from a programmability standpoint.

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