ATI Technologies takes a page from Intel's SpeedStep playbook with its announcement yesterday of a high-end mobile graphics chip for laptops that offers high-end 3D performance on AC power and scaled-back, low-power graphics when using a battery.
The ATI Mobility Radeon graphics processor is available to notebook vendors now, and notebooks with the configuration should appear later this year, says Reuven Soraya, director of marketing for the mobile business unit. It's the first mobile product based on ATI's successful Radeon desktop graphics products and features ATI's best notebook graphics to date, he says.
Those graphic capabilities include fast 32-bit colour rendering and support of three-way multitexturing for realistic-looking graphics in games and other multimedia programs, says Darren McPhee, product marketing manager. Notebook design restraints mean the company can't port every feature from the desktop Radeon chip, but it brought along everything that was feasible, he says.
Leader of the notebook graphics market, ATI makes its announcement on the heels of rival Nvidia’s launch of its powerful GeForce2 Go mobile graphics product last week. The first notebook to use the NVidia product is the Toshiba Satellite 2805-S402.
In addition to offering much-improved 3D graphics for laptops, ATI addresses power issues, McPhee says. The most intense 3D graphics require plenty of juice for the graphics processor. But when battery life is more important than realistic 3D graphics, it makes sense to be able to throttle back the chip's voltage and frequency, McPhee says.
Intel introduced last year a similar-sounding processor technology it calls SpeedStep. With SpeedStep, a notebook runs at maximum speed when on AC power and slows down when on battery to stretch run times. For example, the current 850MHz Mobile Pentium III slows to 700MHz in battery-optimized mode.
ATI is offering four variations of its Radeon Mobility product, with units geared toward each segment of the portable market, McPhee says. Two products use integrated DDR memory (8MB and 16MB), ideal for subnotebooks. Two others, geared toward desktop replacement notebooks, use external video memory (64MB SDRAM or 64MB DDR).
Product power requirements vary, but each Mobility Radeon chip runs at up to 200MHz on full power, and throttles down to 66MHz in low-power mode, McPhee says. So, for example, in an ultra-portable notebook with 8MB of internal DDR memory, the Mobility Radeon consumes about two watts of power using AC power and creating intense 3D graphics, he says.
Using a battery and creating simple 2D graphics the chip's power consumption drops to less than half a watt, he says. Even at the slower power and speed, the Mobility Radeon produces better graphics than most of today's notebook graphic products, he says.
The Mobility Radeon uses Appian's Hydravision to support multiple monitor support. Depending on the number of available ports on the notebook, the Mobility Radeon can support up to three displays.