TR: I agree wholeheartedly but with the X1900 XTX games like FarCry will run at well over 60fps at a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution with 4x FSAA and 8x AF. Isn’t that defeating your own logic? The card is clearly fast enough to handle anything you throw at it so why not spend more time developing these image quality features you talk about and less time squeezing out extra frames per second that the human eye cannot even see?
Here Dirk Behrens stepped in.
DB: What we are doing now is focusing on both areas. We certainly aren’t neglecting image quality to focus on frames rates. As Rick said I think image quality is an area where we also have a lead, especially with the functionality of our Catalyst Control Centre. Saying that, there is no deny that there is still a glow effect on having the fastest fps cards. The public see scores from 3DMark and the other suites but they really want to know about real world gaming performance. Win this battle, which we are doing, and it has a knock on effect for the rest of the range.
TR: People think that because you have the fastest flagship card the rest of the range will also be the fastest for its particular sector?
TR: But obviously this isn’t necessarily true and it is a thought process based on frames per second.
DB: Yes, it is a contradiction that is hard to fix but at the same time we use our flagship cards to introduce the latest image quality features so it shows customers what will soon filter down the range so it isn’t an empty marketing gimmick.
TR: I mentioned earlier that the reviews team get frustrated with the 3DMark 06 problems the nVidia cards have but ATI doesn’t get away Scott free. I’ve a couple of major complaints they want me to throw at you. Firstly why does the Catalyst Control Centre take an age to start?
RB: I knew you would mention this! We know all about it and all we can say is we’re working on it. Partly we believe it is down to .Net but everything uses that. All we can say is that when you run it on a machine with a clean install it works very fast. It is an emphasis for us to speed it up.
TR: Why, and let me phrase this delicately, do the coolers on ATI cards sound like jet planes?
RB: That was delicate?! I didn’t think we were any noisier than the coolers on nVidia cards? If the point is about our reference cards, which I know you often receive, then that is because that is exactly what they are: reference. We actually pay a lot of attention to the choice of coolers we use but particularly at the high end we are shooting for an enthusiast market which has more tolerance of high decibels. With the X1800 we think it may have been down to tone but we thought we fixed that with the X1900.
DB: I feel I need to cut in here. Ultimately it is the job of our partners to bring the coolers to cards as they see fit. Many passive solutions have been made for our products by these partners in the past so they aren’t running overly hot. We build the cards, it is their job to choose how they cool them.
TR: Fair point, you’re going to hate the next question though. Riyad wants to know when you intend to start using GDDR4 memory so the new memory controller can be used to its full potential?
AB: Riyad is never one to miss a trick, is he?
RB: Roadmaps, roadmaps, that is what everyone wants from us! All we can say is that it’s coming though. We have no products to announce that will use it in the near future. I think the reason for this is because GDDR3 went so much higher than anyone expected and it means there has been no real urgency for GDDR4. It is true though that GDDR4 will bring with it some performance improvements when used in conjunction with our memory controller.
TR: Care to give away how much?
RB: I think we can reveal around 10 or 20 per cent gains.