Graphics chip makers are on a never-ending quest for improved performance, with increasingly intricate graphics processing unit chip designs that already transcend the complexity of the CPUs used in Macs and PCs, and ever-faster board architectures. ATI Technologies Inc. has taken the next step in that endeavor with the implementation of DDR-2 — newer, faster memory — on some new graphics card test designs.
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DDR-2 is second-generation double data rate (DDR) dynamic RAM — memory chips that work even faster than the DDR RAM used in today’s graphics cards (and, increasingly, computers too). ATI said it’s the first to demonstrate a “visual processing unit” (or VPU) using DDR-2.
The company has also announced a variation of DDR-2 to be used in mobile graphics and midrange desktop graphics systems called DDR-2M. DDR-2M has been optimized for lower power consumption, reduced heat dissipation and simplified board design. ATI collaborated with Elpida Memory Inc. to develop DDR-2M.
Although DDR has been around since 1998, it’s only now filtering down into Power Mac G4 motherboard designs — it’s been around on graphics cards, which demand even higher performance levels than many computers are capable of, for a while now. DDR 2 and DDR-2M both utilize the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council’s (JEDEC) DDR-2 specification. ATI said that DDR-2 serves as the foundation for a new DRAM spec for graphics called GDDR3 that is due out next year. Some analysts anticipate that DDR-2 will soon replace DDR as the preferred memory type for graphics cards.
For the short term, however, this announcement doesn’t have any immediate influence on ATI’s product plans — no cards have yet debuted that take advantage of DDR-2 memory.
ATI is still inching toward releases of Mac retail versions of its Radeon 9000 and Radeon 9700 graphics technology. The 9000 Mac Edition, a mainstream AGP-based graphics card designed for low cost and higher performance than ATI’s entry-level 7000 board, should be released imminently. The Mac version of the 9700 is a premium card aimed at graphics pros and hardcore gamers. It’s expected near the beginning of 2003, and offers cutting-edge features and performance.