While the world waits for Fermi, AMD continues to target the entry-level with sub-$100 DirectX 11-capable videocards. The newest entrant to this market segment is the just-announced ATI Radeon HD 5570 low-profile graphics card.
"AMD recognizes that small form factor PCs are becoming more popular and low profile graphics upgrade options have been limited to date," said Matt Skynner, vice president and general manager, AMD Graphics Division. "Customers purchasing small form factor PCs are looking for improved performance while gaming, watching HD video, or working with the latest productivity applications. The ATI Radeon HD 5570 graphics card delivers all of this at a price that won't break the bank."
Specs include a 40nm GPU clocked at 650MHz, 1GB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 900MHz, a 128-bit memory bus, and 400 stream processors. And in addition to DX11, the HD 5570 supports Eyefinity and full 1080p HD playback. Finally, AMD rates the TDP at 45W.
Look for this one to sell somewhere between $75 to $80.
The GPU might be hailed as the new heir to the computing throne, but a stroll through any big-box PC retailer doesn’t bear that out—very few PCs under $900 even have discrete graphics cards. Instead, in the vast majority of machines for sale, the lowly, spat-upon integrated graphics rule the roost.
According to John Karabian, a product manager with No. 2 PC maker Acer, for the average consumer, it’s still just about the big three: CPU, RAM, and hard drive: “They know a 3.2GHz Core i7 is going to be slower than a 3.33GHz Core i7, 4GB is better than 2GB, and 1TB is better than 500GB.” The graphics card, Karabian said, is just something most consumers don’t think about, and if they do, it’s in a negative way. “The perception, it seems, in the marketplace, is that discrete graphics are only for gamers,” said Karabian.
Randy Copeland, president of Velocity Micro, agreed that the average consumer couldn’t care less about graphics in today’s market. Although Velocity Micro’s PCs are above the mainstream $900 PC, and all include graphics cards, he said it is difficult to market the benefits of the GPU to consumers.
“They don’t get the value of that graphics card unless there is a blue shirt there walking them through it,” Copeland said. “You don’t have a whole lot of space to sell someone a computer. It’s limited to the four or five bullet points [on the price tag], and that’s your sales pitch.”
"I think it is a big opportunity. We have two strategies at Nvidia: One is to put graphics everywhere, the other one is to [find more ways to] integrate discrete chips into the box," Haas said. "I think there is definitely a place for [external graphics cards for notebooks,] no question. We continue to look at whether this is a GPU [docking station] or external devices."
So what exactly is Nvidia planning for the notebook segment? We don't know, and Haas wasn't willing to divulge what exactly her company might be cooking up. But she did say that the price of graphics adapters is something that would need to be addressed.
"I think, the issue that has to be solved for something like that is the right price-point that hits the right segment. There is definitely a lot of interest in it and [this is] something we are keeping our eye on to be able to offer something there," Hass added.
AMD over the weekend released a new Catalyst 10.1 hotfix intended to alleviate the "gray screen and vertical line corruptions that may randomly appear during normal usage when using an ATI Radeon HD 5800 series graphics card."
In the last couple of weeks, some users have flocked to AMD's user forums to complain about gray screens, crashes, hangups, and other quirks associated with their swank new 5800 series videocards, although a few users also mentioned AMD's HD 4xxx series.
When we first reported the problem, ATI got in touch with us and said it was aware of the issue, noting that "initial tests indicate that a driver hotfix resolves" the problem and that it would be made available shortly.
You can download the hotfix, which is available for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and XP Media Center, right here.
AMD has had enough of sitting on the sidelines, at least when it comes to GPUs in the mainstream server market. So come 2012, the No. 2 chip maker says it plans to put a bigger focus on integrating graphics processor cores into this market segment.
The idea of combining graphics processors and CPUs in servers is one that's going to catch on in a big way, believes Gina Longoria, director of the product management and workstation division at AMD. According to Longoria, the company could end up providing CPUs and GPUs together in a server to run highly parallel applications.
"As GPU becomes more relevant, that's a better way of getting performance than [CPU] cores," Longoria said.
Even with this recognition and goal to push CPU-GPU use in mainstream servers, at least one analyst thinks AMD could be doing more.
"I'm glad they are addressing the market, but perhaps they should push ahead and develop the market more," said Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. " Olds went on to point out how Nvidia aggressively pushes its software and hardware for heterogenous computing, while AMD has so far been content to remain more of a spectator.
ATI today released its entry-level Radeon HD 5450 videocard, proving you don't need to spend anywhere near $100 (let alone several hundred) to buy into DirectX 11.
Then again, if you're serious about DirectX 11, you'll probably want to shell out for a meatier graphics card, but for what it's worth, the $60 HD 5450 has it on the spec sheet. Other features include Eyefinity multi-display support, a 512MB frame buffer on a 64-bit memory bus, 80 stream processors, 650MHz GPU (reference), 800MHz memory clockspeed (reference), and other low-power odds and ends.
The low-profile design further cements the HD 5450 as an HTPC-oriented videocard, as does the HDMI 1.3a and Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio support.
Make no mistake, Fermi will be faster than anything Nvidia currently has on the market, and to drive that point home, the GPU maker will go with a higher number scheme to kick off its new architecture. How do we know that? Twitter, of course!
"Fun Fact of the Week: GeForce GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 470 will be the names of the first two GPUs shipped based on our new GF100 chip!," Nvidia tweeted yesterday.
It's just too bad that Twitter doesn't allow more than 140 characters per post, because if it did, maybe Nvidia would have thrown anxious upgraders a bone or two by revealing specs or a launch date. Perhaps a better venue for those sort of details is CeBIT, which kicks off exactly four weeks from today.
AMD this week released the first of twelve scheduled Catalyst launches this year, the first of which brings the driver suite up to version 10.1.
The new driver package offers a pinch of performance improvements, including up to a 3 percent boost in Left for Dead 2 on ATI Radeon HD 5700 and 5800 series videocards, as well as boosts Crysis framerates by up to 3 percent on ATI Radeon HD 5700 cards and up to 4 percent on 5800 hardware.
There are a bunch of bug fixes, many of them Windows 7 specific, and all of which you can read in the release notes (PDF). But the big news for Linux fans is the introduction of production support for Ubuntu 9.10, otherwise known as Karmic Koala. Available for both x86 and x86_64 distros, the latest Catalyst package resolves a bunch of open-source issues, including:
X.Org no longer crashes on an Ubuntu 9.10 system, if multiple Xinerama-enabled X.org server generations are executed.
Switching between virtual desktops no longer breaks the OS.
Single mode is now shown properly in the "Display Manager Properties" tab of the ATI Catalyst Control Center, instead of multiple modes, if the "big desktop" mode is enabled
The system no longer crashes if an HDMI monitor is hot-plugged, or if the users toggle between HDMI and LCD.
Fixed an issue on Ret Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 32-bit systems, when the "Detect Displays" button was selected in ATI Catalyst Control Center, and an HDMI display was hot-plugged.
ATI's Linux driver supports Red Hat Enterprise, Novel SUSE Enterprise, openSUSE, and Ubuntu.
Having trouble overclocking your Nvidia-based graphics card? If so, you may want to give the company's just-released GeForce 196.34 beta drivers a whirl. According to Nvidia, the latest releas fixes a bug with v196.21 that prohibited GPU overclocking, so you should be good to go.
Other than the overclocking fix, the beta driver doesn't appear to bring anything else new to the table, or at least Nvidia hasn't listed any other improvements. But for those of you who decided to skip the previous driver update (196.21) because of the overclocking bug, other new features relevant to both packages include:
SLI and multi-GPU support for "many top new gaming titles," including Avatar Demo, Dirt 2, Mass Effect 2, and others.
Upgrades PhysX System Software to version 9.09.1112.
A ton of bug fixes.
Users without U.S. English operating systems can select their language and download the International driver from here.
The beta driver works with GeForce 6, 7, 8, 9, 100, and 200-series desktop GPUs, as well as Nvidia's Ion graphics.
When you think of graphics, Intel probably isn't the first company that comes to mind, but believe it or not, the CPU maker's graphics market share is higher than both AMD and Nvidia combined. How can that be? It all boils down to integrated graphics, a sector where Intel rules the roost, unlike the discrete graphics market where Nvidia and AMD rule the GPU kingdom.
According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), Intel increased its overall graphics market share in Q4 2009 to 55.2 percent, up from 53.6 percent one quarter prior and 47.7 percent in the same quarter one year ago. JPR attributes the rise to "Atom sales for netbooks, as well as strong growth in the desktop segment."
Both AMD and Nvidia also increased their market share from one quarter ago, with AMD inching forward from 19.9 percent to 20.1 percent, and Nvidia jumping a percentage point from 24.3 percent to 25.3 percent.
The graphics market as a whole grew year-to-year by 14 percent, which is the largest jump since 2006, and 2003 before that. In 2010, JPR reckons the graphics market will perform even better to the tune of 27.9 percent, before tapering off in 2011 to a 10.3 percent growth rate, which would be the lowest since 2004.