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ATI's Multiple ASIC Technology: How It Works (Page 2/4)

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

The Hidden Truth

Here are the official specifications for the Rage Fury MAXX board:

-Twin (2) ATI RAGE 128 PRO graphics engines
-Dual (2) Triangle Setup Engines
-Dual (2) Texture Caches
-500 M/Pixels per second total fill rate
-4GB/sec memory bandwidth
-2 x 32MB Banks of dedicated memory, totaling 64MB
-32-bit true color 3D acceleration (16.7 million colors) up to 1920x1200
-2D graphics up to 1920x1200@32bpp
-Full OpenGL ICD, Direct3D and DirectX acceleration
-Hardware DVD for full-frame rate, full-screen DVD
-AGP 4X (AGP 2X compatible)
-Bilinear/Trilinear Filtering
-Line & Edge Anti-Aliasing
-Texture Compositing
-Texture Decompression
-Specular Lighting
-Perspective Correct Texture Mapping
-Z-buffering and Double-buffering
-Bump mapping (emboss)
-Fog effects, texture lighting, video textures, reflections, shadows, -spotlights, LOD biasing and texture morphing

ATI knew this time they had to grab the gaming community with an iron grip. With Aurora, they have focused on two things:

1. AGP4X support.
Currently, there aren't many applications that use AGP4X capabilities, and apps that do take advantage of AGP4X is still months away. But like everyone knows, preparing for the future is key to staying away from obsolescence in this industry.

2. Visual quality with raw speed.
ATI also had to keep in mind visual quality. However, knowing that high visuals may take a toll on speed, ATI had to come up with something that could dish out visual nirvana at blistering speeds.

To be able to do extreme visuals as well as delivering it at superior speeds, ATI went and did what any gamer would want them to do.

First off, they would have to deliver popular features. 32-bit color support was a definite must for the Aurora, as well as hardware support for bump mapping (emboss), anisotropic filtering, and DirectX 7.0's implementation of S3's texture compression API - DXTC.

Though these things were considered likely to be the three most popular feature sets this year, not many games actually feature DXTC. ATI guaranteed that Aurora will not need optimized drivers to deliver the goods.

ATI planned ahead and decided this: If you purchase a card, be it a GeForce 256 or an Aurora based card, a year from now it'll probably be considered entry level and something else will be cutting edge. Therefore, they made sure that when Aurora is in your hands, all of its features will be usable there and then - right out of the shrink wrap. If a card's features are usable in your existing library as soon as you buy it, you will be enjoying the card right away, instead of waiting for games and patches to be released that will take advantage of it - alas T&L.

Impressive as it is, GeForce's native transform and lighting feature won't be of much use to you when you get it because few games actually use it. And when software that makes use of it starts to roll out, will GeForce still be in your machine? Only time will tell.

With Voodoo5, 3dfx has decided to exclude T&L due to the lack of software support and say it's an unnecessary waste of silicon and time.

So, ATI's good to go on visual splendors, but how do they plan to deliver the goods?
By slapping multiple ASICs together, that's how.

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