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ATI's Multiple ASIC Technology: How It Works (Page 1/4)

Posted: April 11, 2000
Written by: Tuan "Solace" Nguyen


What companies do you think of when you hear "3D graphics"? Do 3dfx, and nVidia pop into your mind? What about after that? What about S3 and Matrox? Where does ATI fit in? I'm sure ATI was near the end of your mental list of performance oriented 3D graphics.

Despite its large presence in the OEM market, ATI never did establish itself as the choice for gamers. Its 3D graphics were hum-ho and while sporting all the features you expected, those features did not perform. It would seem that ATI was caught off guard by the onslaught of high level 3D graphic cards that new companies like 3dfx and nVidia (small timers compared to ATI) were bringing forward. March, 1999 - ATI Technologies hints to the computer community about their next generation card. ATI's men in black hinted of a wonder behind their doors but that's all they said before they waved their flashing probe at us.

Today, more than a year later, the ATI Rage Fury MAXX -- based on Aurora technology, has been in store shelves for some time. And it's good news too, but not quite good enough. ATI has definitely jumped back on the wagon in terms of acceptable performance per given resolution. In terms of architectural innovation, ATI hasn't done much to achieve this but has relied on combinations of existing technologies to deliver their big bang. The Rage Fury MAXX is not based on a totally new chipset architecture however, but is based on existing Rage 128 Pro technology. Before you get all disappointed about ATI's decision, keep in mind that Aurora may indeed have the potential to outperform even nVidia's GeForce 256.

Remember way back when 3dfx introduced its Voodoo2 with the ability to connect another Voodoo2 (Voodoo1 also had this capability in Quantum3D's Obsidian line) for double the performance? This technology is what made the Voodoo2 line so popular among gamers. Firstly, it had already offered the fastest performance in its time, and including the ability to bring along another Voodoo2 saved gamers from obsolescence. Slapping in another Voodoo2 card gave a powerful shot in terms of performance and investment life.

The main reason why the Rage Fury MAXX is interesting is because of the technologies that it incorporates. It relies on that basic principle 3dfx once used to raise the bar on performance and product life. Why not slam together a few chips, let them work together and push out mondo fill rates? This is exactly what ATI did, but it is neither Scan Line Interleaving (SLI) nor is it Parallel Graphics Architecture (PGA). It's a technology developed in-house by ATI, and it shows great promise for future products. But first we'll get down to what makes the Rage Fury MAXX tick.

Show me the specs!

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