TR: On the subject of memory we recently saw the release of the world’s first graphics card with a gig of memory. That was for workstations, when are gamers going to get theirs?
RB: Yes that was the FireGL. Again it is coming, it’s inevitable. Right now there is a cost issue and a memory costing issue. Currently we would have to situate it in dual banks and that slows the card down, but I’m sure it won’t be far away.
TR: At the start of the interview you said ATI always has its biggest emphasis on future development. What are the main challenges you face over the next 12 to 18 months?
RB: Without a doubt the largest issue on the horizon is DX10 and Windows Vista.
TR: I’m sure you spotted recently that Bungee said it will only be releasing its PC port of Halo 2 on Vista. This really bugs me because it forces users to upgrade systems that are often running perfectly well and there is no worse time to install a new OS than just after release. ‘Hacker’s Christmas’ I like to call it.
AB: I read that!
RB: I can understand what you are saying but I think we will see a fast consumer uptake of Vista. We are currently testing a lot of our DX9 development cards on Vista and we’ve found it to be pretty good. In fact, our developers use it as their base OS now.
DB: Vista’s demands for graphics performance also have a knock on for us. To get the full effect of the operating system many people will need to upgrade. It can be frustrating for the people out there but we have to be ready around then to make sure we have a lot of appealing cards available. We actually have our third release drivers available for Vista builds already and we are working really hard with Microsoft on this. Microsoft officially states it is pro ATI for Vista because our drivers are more stable and the development is further ahead.
TR: Finally – and I think you’ve earned this – is there any message you want to get across about the current product lines?
RB: I think the evolution of Crossfire is important to stress. It is now becoming a really affordable chipset and we think it has real benefits for budget users. When it first arrived enthusiasts were the ones most excited as they wanted to put together the two fastest cards they could, but the platform has evolved and with widespread compatibility across the range we are actually seeing some of the best performance gains on the lower cards. For instance if you are on a budget you can buy an X1300 or an X1600 then save up some money and a few months down the line add in a second card to see, in some cases, a 100 per cent performance boost. It means not having to throw away your old graphics card and allows incremental review. You’ll see big things from Crossfire this year.
A big thanks to Rick Bergman, Dirk Behrens and Andrzej Banja for their time. 2006 looks set to be another interesting year in the graphics card market but, then again, I think we can say that every year…