ATI announces GPU-based physics acceleration plans

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — ATI used the first day of Computex to announce its strategy for GPU-based physics processing. Radeon X1000 series graphics processors will be capable of accelerating the Havok FX physics API as a part of what ATI is calling a “boundless gaming” experience. GPU-based physics acceleration is nothing new, of course; NVIDIA announced its support of Havok FX back in March. However, ATI says its approach is far superior to that of NVIDIA, in part because ATI’s implementation can support three graphics cards in a single system.

ATI had a demo system running a pair of Radeon X1900s in CrossFire with a third X1900 card dedicated solely to physics processing. This configuration was appropriately referred to as the “meat stack,” and while it produced silky frame rates in a number of demos, it’s not the only Radeon configuration that will support GPU physics. In addition to supporting three-card configs, ATI will also allow a pair of its graphics cards to split rendering and physics between them. The graphics card dedicated to physics doesn’t even need to match the other graphics card(s) in the system; for example, it’s possible to run a high-end Radeon X1900 XTX crunching graphics alongside a more affordable Radeon X1600 series card for physics. In fact, ATI had a demo system set up with a pair of Radeon X1900s in CrossFire and a Radeon X1600 XT accelerating the Havok FX physics API.

With support for three-card configurations and no need to match cards used for graphics and physics, ATI looks to have the most flexible Havok FX acceleration implementation. ATI also claims to have a significant performance advantage when it comes to GPU-based physics acceleration, citing the Radeon X1000 series’ ample shader processing power, efficient dynamic branching, and fine-grained threading. Of course, the first games to use Havok FX aren’t expected until later this year. Havok FX isn’t exactly comparable to what Ageia’s doing with hardware physics acceleration, either; Havok FX is limited to “effects physics” that don’t affect gameplay, while Ageia’s PhysX PPU has no such limitation.

Comments closed
    • Chrispy_
    • 13 years ago

    Meat stack?
    Looks more like a cash stack….

    • Jigar
    • 13 years ago

    There should be a better platform than this for Phsy… in games … and for god sake a common platform so that NVidia ATI dont make this kind of crap

    • albundy
    • 13 years ago

    Cannot even justify buying 2 cards. there is no point. pay 100 bucks for a medium card like gf 7600 that will get you full eye candy for a year and then upgrade. this is a complete waste of money as its technology will be obsolete quicker than you can pull all your hair out for paying so much. save you money for shwweeet hardware, like a decent sound card instead of onboard garbage, and for god sakes, upgrade those slow 7200rpm drives!

      • Krogoth
      • 13 years ago

      Some of those heavy-weight “slow 7200RPM” HDDs have the same if not greater STR then the Raptors. 😉

    • Tommyxx516
    • 13 years ago

    Spending over $200 for a video card was enough. Spending over $500 for a high end video card was stupid. Now spending over $1000 for 2 video cards plus a physic card is just ridiculous. Having this kind of setup would make the person want to spend at least another $500 on a new dual core cpu setup….sheesh I got far better ways to be spending my $$$ on.

    ‘Play it the way its meant to be played’ is beginning to look better on a console than it does spending the amount of $$$ on these high end pc setup.

      • Jigar
      • 13 years ago

      I totally agree with u

      • Theolendras
      • 13 years ago

      Yeah, but it might get interesting from a budget standpoint if Ati or Nvidia would enable their IGP to do some physic acceleration. Knowing that most people would probably go for their discrete chipset after buying a mobo with their integrated chipset (think about ATI/Nvidia recent announcement to boost PCI-Express transfert rate for their respective cards). Sorry I do not have the references, but I remember Ati claimed to have about 80% of the power of PhysX card clock for clock, but that it would beat it on raw power for less money. Looking at the specs of PhysX which rely on the pci bus, I think even a IGP part could be much faster way to do things. Keeping cost manageable would increase adoption rate dramatically and from a business standpoint, the platform lock-in would be appealing (but would suck for us consumer).

    • Fighterpilot
    • 13 years ago

    Wow that’s some serious graphics horsepower there.
    With Nvidia showing 7950 card(s) as well ,are we soon to be referring to our computer’s “/[

    • ChangWang
    • 13 years ago

    I’m digging this idea. Imagine if a game developer combined Havok FX and the second core of a CPU to get the number crunching power needed to do effects AND gameplay physics…

    The thing I’m not going for is the 3 card solution. While I’m sure there are some that will go for it, SLI and crossfire are gimmics to sell more cards. I feel that for 2x the cash, you should get 2x the performance (or damn close) ALL the time. Not just when a driver has a profile in it for specific titles or not.

    The 1+1 solution is much more simple, affordable and an added bonus to anyone that already owns a X1k series card. Just pick up a X1600 or buy the next series graphics card and your done. Especially for those of us that already have 2 16x PCIe slots.

    • Zenith
    • 13 years ago

    I think I’m just going to stop reading TR comments all together.

      • jobodaho
      • 13 years ago

      Hasn’t it gotten bad lately? It’s like a whole bunch of teenagers posting around here lately. I try to avoid any discussion about Core 2 Duo/AMD or ATI/nVidia at all cost.

        • Zenith
        • 13 years ago

        It’s the OMG CONROE thing that bothers me. It was probably just a publicity stunt by Intel, and even if it wasn’t, so what?

        Just wait a while, when it releases, you can rant and rave.

      • Krogoth
      • 13 years ago

      It is because all the “kiddies” are done with the school year. They have nothing better to do then post on the front page with “OMG THIS ROX!” nonsense. 😉

        • DrDillyBar
        • 13 years ago

        Canadian Kiddies go to the end of June.

          • jobodaho
          • 13 years ago

          So expect even more come June.

    • Hattig
    • 13 years ago

    This is great for all those people that currently have X1xxx series graphics cards. It is also great for ATI.

    Next year you’re thinking of upgrading your graphics card.

    1) You can use your old one for physics, instead of the hassle of moving it to a lesser machine you never use for gaming anyway, or selling it. You will mentally assess this as ‘free physics card’. This will encourage you to upgrade and get a new graphics card.

    2) The new graphics card will be from ATI, so you can to the Havok physics effects on your old card. ATI has lock in on its old customers because who in their right mind is going to skip to the competition and lose out on free physics?

    This would explain why ATI has not said that the whole physics thing could be possible on a single GPU. Imagine an X1900 level card, 2/3rds of the pipes doing graphics, 1/3rd doing physics. It should be possible, surely? But if that was the case, then you lose out on the lock in on the old card. It isn’t in ATI’s interest to allow this.

    • Convert
    • 13 years ago

    This is still the best approach IMO. Only thing they need to do is come up with one that allows you to effect the game play as well.

    I would much rather throw in a graphics card costing the same as a PPU since they would be much easier to resell. Not to mention you can rip it out and put it in another system for the main graphics card whenever you feel like it.

    • Anonymous Gerbll
    • 13 years ago

    ATI has a website on this stuff.

    §[< http://www.aticrossfire.com<]§

    • RickyG512
    • 13 years ago

    can this work with out crossfire

    • crabjokeman
    • 13 years ago

    Translation:

    ATI and its partners have a load of X1600/X1300’s and need a gimmick to sell them (and force everyone to buy ATI chipsets).

    • LoneWolf15
    • 13 years ago

    This will be so AWESOME on my three PCIe x16-slot mainboard.

    Umm….wait.
    (sarcasm off)

    I’m an ATI Fan, but three cards that take two slots each (due to the card plus a second-slot cooling solution) is just stupidity. Not to mention the 1-1.2 kilowatt power supply one would need to run the rig. A single Radeon X1900XTX for example consumes over 250 watts of power during active gaming. Imagine three of them (ouch).

    Until physics can be done by either a physics coprocessor on the graphics card, an integrated physics coprocessor on the GPU, or as a PCIe x1 card (mainly to ensure I can move the card forward with new mainboards) that takes up only one slot, I won’t be interested. Oh, and I’m probably being picky, but I’d like it to be reasonably priced and actually have games who have a dedicated path of support for the product too.

      • Shintai
      • 13 years ago
        • LoneWolf15
        • 13 years ago

        Sorry, my bad on that one. However, even skipping that, the noise, number of slots, and what I still consider to be far more power usage than I’d want, I wouldn’t do it in this way.

        I also think (though we’ll have to wait and see) that ATI’s solution won’t be all that great for physics, by the very nature of the beast. This solution will probably offer enhancements on existing games provided the developer adds a patch, but won’t be revolutionary compared to an Ageia PhysX PPU. Then again, the PhysX currently retails for $300, and a used X1600 for far, far, less. Time will tell, but if in-game physics is truly the wave of the future, I’d rather see a solution designed from the ground up for it.

          • Anonymous Gerbll
          • 13 years ago

          Let’s see now.

          ATI / Nvidia / Havok vs. Ageia

          I think the former solution will be implemented into more games sooner. This game is all about support.

    • flip-mode
    • 13 years ago

    This is better than Agea IMO. Got two systems at home? Wanna do a quick gaming session? Shut one down, grab the x1600 out of it and get some physics accel. Put card back when done, let wife have her machine back.

    This is far more attractive than a physics only card. This takes dual 16x pcie slots farther from gimmick IMO.

      • Ardrid
      • 13 years ago

      That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. If 2 PCIe X16 slots is a gimmick, what do you call this solution, which uses 3 PCIe X16 slots?

        • flip-mode
        • 13 years ago

        Please notice my particular example only implied the use of two cards. The use of SLI or Crossfire is still a gimmick in my mind. Purchasing one high-end card makes much more sense. Even for the buy one now then another later, it makes more sense to me to buy one now, ebay and upgrade later. But what I think and what others do, well, you know. From my perspective GPU physics is less gimmicky than SLI / Crossfire.

          • Vhalidictes
          • 13 years ago

          Flip-Mode, there’s nothing “gimmicky” about SLI/Crossfire.

          It’s quite simple: Before, there really wasn’t way to throw “more money” at a rendering problem. Yes, you could buy the latest and greatest card and hope for the best, but that was the only option.

          Dual-Card rendering means that I can buy two of the “almost best” cards (7900GT/X1900 XT in today’s terms), and get tomorrow’s video card performance today.

          It’s great to have that option. I can see that it’s not a mainstream solution, but it’s not a gimmick. In fact, last I checked, two lesser cards outperform the “new greatest ones” at almost the same price: two 7900GT’s ($550) is a lot more performance than a 7800GTX ($470) would give for a $80. premium.

          Not for everyone, but not bad. While I know it’s a dumb idea to attempt to run Oblivion at the 1600×1200 native resolution of my monitor, at least it’s possible due to SLI/Crossfire…

            • zgirl
            • 13 years ago

            Well not entirely true. Newegg has the BFG 7800GTX for $369 while BFG’s 7900GT is $309 x2 = $618

            That is a bit more then an $80 price difference.

            However I do agree it isn’t a total gimick. I do like the idea of being able to add extra rendering power. What with larger CRTs and LCDs and massive resolutions to push. It just might not be practical for most.

            Thought ‘this’ solutions seems way too impractical (I mean come on a 3 slot PCIe board?). And I still think with dual core CPUs this whole physics thing seems like could be handled buy that second core.

    • Ardrid
    • 13 years ago

    This whole “more is better” attitude really irks me. I can’t justify buying 2 video cards right now, so why in the hell would I get 3 or “4”? I don’t even want to think of how much juice that system would draw, especially with the rumored 130-300W DX10 GPUs around the corner.

    I’m really hoping Ageia gets that killer app so this whole mess can just end. Give me a system with a CPU, GPU, and PPU that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and actually provides additional interactivity and I’ll be happy. Otherwise, leave the physics to the CPU, something that should be more than capable with dual-core processors finally entering the mainstream.

    • cappa84
    • 13 years ago

    This is getting stupid.

    They tease ya with this kind of shit, and then they make it unaffordable except to those that are “well-off”.

    • Beomagi
    • 13 years ago

    #2 – ditto
    It’s currently twiddling it’s thumbs in most games anyway.

    • Shintai
    • 13 years ago

    Well atleast we can use some passive cooled X1600 cards or some equal nVidia cards. And we still have to see Aegia do interactive physics that cant already be done at CPU without problems.

    But *brrrrr*…mean that we all will end up with 2 GFX card one way or the other.

      • blastdoor
      • 13 years ago

      Those performance claims, if true, are pretty interesting.

      Of course, the giant caveat on the FX approach is that it’s only eye candy that doesn’t affect gameplay.

      I’d rather have 20 objects on the screen that I can actually interact with than 5000 objects that have no impact on gameplay. It’s like the difference between cut-scenes and actual gameplay — sure, pretty cutscenes are nice, but I’m not going to pay for the privilege.

      [I’m not saying I’d buy an Ageia card, though — I’m saying I’d rather have whatever physics is possible with a dual-core CPU]

        • continuum
        • 13 years ago

        Agreed. Another $100 or $200 to buy something that does physics eye candy only would buy another GB or two of memory, or go towards a faster CPU or video card…

        All of which in turn can help with more than just eye candy. Hmmm.

    • mph_Ragnarok
    • 13 years ago

    THIS IS SO F*CKING GAAAYYYYY !!!!
    WHY WOULD I WANNA SPEND 500 BUX ON A F*CKING VIDEO CARD WHEN I CAN GET A BETTER CARD FOR 300 ( ageia) AND WITH HIGHER POWER DRAW AND STUPID ASSSS THIRD x16 SLOT ?????? GEEZ AND ITS NOT EVEN GAME PLAY !!!!

      • Jigar
      • 13 years ago

      Cam down …. ATI is just telling u dont throw ur Old video card (offcourse X1000+ series) u can use it as a third card for phs….

        • Jawbreaker
        • 13 years ago

        How is having three gfx cards “gay”? Using childish and tired insults like “gay == stupid” here at TR makes you look like you have the IQ and EQ of a 5 year old

          • mph_Ragnarok
          • 13 years ago

          Speak for yourself n00b, 5 posts? try 583.

            • Shintai
            • 13 years ago

            Having alot of posts doesn´t make it right. Else everyone with 4000 posts could act like morons without being questioned. Also it only shows forum posts, not post you make as comments for articles if im not mistaken.

            • zgirl
            • 13 years ago

            Just beacuse he is new here doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a point.

            And pulling out the post count crap helps validate that point.

            • mph_Ragnarok
            • 13 years ago

            You aren’t getting my point. He doesn’t need to tell me that TR doesn’t appreciate my immature comment. I know that. But I think this three card idea pictured is just stupid. So I decided to go for my ALL CAPS comment.

            • Shintai
            • 13 years ago

            But you actually missed the point then with the 500 vs 300$ card.

            Since its a (price of x1600) vs aegia and even here the x1600 is faster than the aegia.

            But anyway, using words as ass, fucking, stupid and gay doesn

            • mph_Ragnarok
            • 13 years ago

            Yea,,, for effects, not gameplay.
            And where does it say that the x1600 is faster than a purpose built ppu ?

            • rxc6
            • 13 years ago

            Read the article at the Inquirer. I think he got the info from there
            §[< http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=32208<]§

            • mph_Ragnarok
            • 13 years ago

            I thought the TR regarded all Inq articles as garbage…. That site isn’t just all rumors ? and hype ?

            • mph_Ragnarok
            • 13 years ago

            Yea, I just read that article.
            Its hardly a comparison. No games run across both HAVOK and AGEIA.
            No games run across both NV and ATI.
            Not very worthwhile stats in that case.

            • zgirl
            • 13 years ago

            No I got your point, you don’t like it. Neither do I. But most civilized posters will use a </sarcasm> or </rant> so that everyone knows that their over the top rant shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

            And while I am not overtly PC myself there are certain comments I refrain from since there may be others who find it offensive.

            • Anonymous Gerbll
            • 13 years ago

            nevermind… #41 and 42 covered it

      • Proesterchen
      • 13 years ago

      The best thing about this proposal is that an X1800XT 512MB is currently going for €230 here, on-par with an AGEIA 256MB, and should provide some serious physics power.

      If this turns out better than AGEIA performance- and support-wise, I might just try it instead of selling my current X1800XT down the road.

        • Jigar
        • 13 years ago

        The other best idea is if u already have a ATI card … lets say 1300 XT or whatever …. dont sell em if it becomes very slow for graphics….. u can use it for Phys.. … sounds more logical to me.. what do u say buddies

    • Jigar
    • 13 years ago

    Then what will that other core in that Dam Dual core processor will do… Is it design to sit ideal and feel happy about it….

      • zgirl
      • 13 years ago

      Um…I do believe #2 was thinking to use one core for the main application and thread the Physics part to the second idle core. Seemed rather self explanatory to me.

    • emkubed
    • 13 years ago

    What a wasteful, brute force method. Call me in a year when something that is actually going to stick comes to market (and several games support the acceleration).

    • zqw
    • 13 years ago

    /[

      • Logan[TeamX]
      • 13 years ago

      And while the PhysX PPU has no technical limitations in near sight for calcuation potential, it was dragged kicking and screaming back to 1998 by being saddled with a PCI connector. Great card, but an asshat connection idea. It’s already proven that the PhysX is horribly bottlenecked by the PCI bus.

    • Shinare
    • 13 years ago

    Effects only physics holds no interest in me what-so-ever. Most video cards can come close enough now to “effects physics” with shaders. I want full-on interactivity.

    • castlevanity
    • 13 years ago

    resolving physics (collisions, gravity, particle,etc) is just resolving math equations. I dont see why all the hype about software calculations of physics done by the video card when one of the cores of a cpu can do the same job (after all its software based…cough… havoc fx…)

      • IntelMole
      • 13 years ago

      That’s kinda like saying “Why can’t I do maths as fast as a pocket calculator?”

      A) Because a calculator is a more special purpose, dedicated hardware machine for doing one or two things very, very well. Your brain is a much more general purpose control and decision making (both boolean and “other”) system, whose “circuits” have been co-opted to do maths.

      How many floating point units does a processor have, and how many instructions per second can it manage? Whatever the figure is, the truth is that graphics cards can do it much, much quicker.

      All this talk of “but I’ve got x cores hanging around, why can’t they do it?” seems to be ignoring this simple little fact, IMHO.
      -Mole

    • poulpy
    • 13 years ago

    Many people are throwing rocks at Ageia’s PPU, and I thought that we could get along (and get a quicker/wider adoption) with GPU doing Physics, but if it can only do “effects physics” it’s very limited.. :-/

    Don’t really see the point of the 3 cards scheme either, I mean if I have to buy another card to do physics only (not even mentioning *real* physics compared to effects only) why would I buy a Radeon X1600 and not a dedicated PPU card ?!

      • Corrado
      • 13 years ago

      You can buy a $100 X1600 instead of a $250 PhysX card. Thats the point. And the X1600 is FASTER.

        • poulpy
        • 13 years ago

        Err what kind of X1600 you get for $100 ? Lowend ? Do you really think it has more raw power than the PhysX ?

        And again that would be to do “crap” Physics if I read correctly.
        Partial physics only sucks IMHO, I want the whole game to be ruled and influenced by it.

            • poulpy
            • 13 years ago

            Interesting reading but it doesn’t adress any of the points we were discussing :
            – performance between $100 X1600 and PhysX card
            – lack of “real” or “full” physics with GPUs (at least with this Havok API on those GPUs)

            • Corrado
            • 13 years ago

            it says right in the article the x1600 was 2x faster than the Ageia PPU

            “They also went on to show the X1600XT as 2x faster than Ageia, and the X1900XTX being 9x faster.”

      • SGWB
      • 13 years ago

      I think Ageia is just barking up the wrong tree.

      The Phys-x chip appears capable of accellerating a huge number of simulations and applications. But game studios will never use it to it’s full potential, ie. game play affecting physics. It will be way too difficult to troubleshoot game-play issues in a fully dynamic, physics accelerated environment. Plus, they would have to fix the game-play twice, once for customers with a Phys-X and once for those without. No, graphics-only physics accelleration will be the norm for quite a while. It might be different if Sony or Microsoft bundles the Phys-X in their future game consoles

      The PCI bus appears to be bottlenecking performance. Ageia probably chose PCI to reach a broader market, but the people who can afford an extra 300 bucks probably already have PCI-E capable motherboards.

      No, Ageia should have built and marketed this for science and engineering simulations. They way Agia talks about it, one of these has the power of a small processor farm. If every engineer could have the power of their own processor farm for an extra $1000 or so per station, Ageia would sell these things like hot cakes. Heck, install a pair of these in each node of a processor farm and you would get the power of a repectable supercomputer. Of course, that depends on if they really do work as well as Ageia claims.

    • castlevanity
    • 13 years ago

    why not letting the cpu do its job instead of pushing the physics to the video card? im sure a good dual core cpu can do the same job.

      • Wajo
      • 13 years ago

      Mmm graphic cards are usually very fast at doing some specific calculations (fp math) even faster than cpu’s

    • Bob Maenhout
    • 13 years ago

    OMFG OMFG OMFG, I want it lol… But my soundcard? Where to fit that? But this is really some nice work IMO. Maybe this PPU wont give any drawbacks…

      • dukerjames
      • 13 years ago

      NO worry, GPU based 3d sound accelerator is NEXT!

        • Nullvoid
        • 13 years ago

        all we need is creative to design soundcards that can replace your cpu and things will be about as messed up as they can get.

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