R420 details emerge

DigiTimes has uncovered some interesting details on ATI's upcoming R420 graphics chip. R420 will be fabricated by TSMC using the same low-k 0.13-micron fabrication process that ATI debuted with the Radeon 9600 XT. The chip is expected to weigh in at 160 million transistors¬óclose to 50% more than R300. Cards will initially be available for AGP 8X, but move to PCI Express with the R423 later in the year.

The DigiTimes article also suggests that ATI will have its mainstream RV370 graphics chip built on a 0.11-micron manufacturing process, extending ATI's habit of experimenting with new fabrication technologies on mid-range graphics parts rather than high-end chips.

ATI is expected to launch R420 by the end of the first quarter of next year, which nicely matches NVIDIA's expected launch window for NV40. With ATI and NVIDIA's next-generation graphics chips debuting at roughly the same time, the stage will be set for a bloody clash for the desktop graphics performance crown. By the time R420 and NV40 cards are available, we may even have games like Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 to test the cards' pixel-pushing prowess.

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