When AMD announced its latest graphics technology recently, produced by the former ATI and now known as the Graphics Products Group, it did so as a full family. Radeon HD 2900 XT wasn't the only product to break cover that day, as we reported, but it was the only product to enjoy (almost) immediate appearance in PC component channels, be they retail or otherwise. The rest of the family, based around AMD RV610 and AMD RV630, were announced but unavailable, the company informing press and potential customers alike that there'd be some waiting to be done before the others went on sale.
As press, we were allowed to talk about the chips and products and pricing, but performance data was embargoed, and with the products absent for testing anyway until very recently, performance discussion has been future-looking, rather than something that exists in the present and could be backed up by emperical evidence.
With AMD providing samples to Beyond3D barely a day ago (late on Sunday 24th June) at the time of writing, and with a pair of drivers on offer depending on whether we were interested in performance or stability (yeah, we double you tee effed as well), we've had to pick our testing battles carefully. So what you'll see here is an introductory look at best, using the two provided SKUs, with some architecture chatter on both chips, and a sincere focus on that favourite of the new family's features, UVD.
The universified video decoder (see what we did there?) hardware block is the compelling feature sell for RV630 and RV610, as they aim squarely for media center PCs and notebook solutions planet-wide. Yeah, yeah, we realise it's a brand new DX10 hardware accelerator too and that they'll play the odd game or two (hundred), but when you have a sampling policy that's about as efficient as our follow-on non-architecture piece production, what can you do?
You can't test a half dozen games at a half dozen resolutions with IQ modifiers thrown in to the mix, that's for sure. At least not yet, anyway. We continue to beat and torture the benchmarking monkeys in the Hardware Testing Dungeon, and when the HTD spits out the goodies, we'll share. Until then our focus is on video decoding quality and performance with the hardware and current driver.
Explaining that driver dilemma a bit more, AMD have provided what they themselves label as 'initial' and 'performance' drivers, both of them more box fresh in terms of version number than the recent Cat 7.6 public release, but with the performance offering supposedly what will more closely represent what'll make it in to a future Cat release. Whether that's 7.7 or something else, AMD decline to comment for the time being.
Their official advice is to fall back to the 'initial' driver, whatever that maps to in terms of a public driver you'll all be able to play with, if the performance driver does something wrong. Not ideal.
Back to the goodness at hand, RV610 and RV630 share the same basic architecture we outlined in our R600 arch coverage, but they're built using a more friendly process node (all round, be that economically or environmentally) and they scale back from the excess of the big daddy of the family, performance wise, while squeezing in UVD as the sexy technology draw that daddy doesn't have in his arsenal.
Onwards we forge.