GeForce 9800GTX has been quite common in the news lately, but there hasn’t been much talk about the card that is suppose to battle the new NVIDIA flagship. We expect the 9800 card to arrive in Q1, but the only ATI card people are talking about is the R680. This card is still slated for a first real appearance this month (although was on display during the ATI press event before the RV670 launch) and should be available in stores later this quarter. The next high-end card from ATI is the R700, which has been taped out and while whole cards are still few, the design seems to be coming along nicely.
The R680 is very much a first test for ATI. The card is kind of a stepping stone on to an even more complex design with the R700. R680 sports two cores on the same PCB. R700 will also have up to two dies per card, but with two cores in each die, bringing the total up to four cores per card. Each die has a single memory interface, which means the cores share the memory buffer.
You might have read elsewhere that the R700 would be delayed until 2009, which was a matter of a gross misinterpretation and simply not true. The slide in question was talking about the gaming platform, Leo, which the R700 will be a apart of, not the GPU itself. R700 is still slated for launch later this year.
The 55nm process used with R700 is a key component for ATI (read AMD). The finer process will (hopefully) lead to higher yields and better margins, meaning bigger income. Something AMD can’t get enough of right now. ATI has been fast to adapt new manufacturing processes in the past, but it has probably never been as important as with the R700.