New corporate guidance sets AMD's big launch date; RV670 specifications fail to leave much to the imagination

AMD's current launch date for its next-generation desktop processor, Phenom, its next-generation desktop chipset, RD790, and its next-generation graphics processor, RV670, is tenatively set for November 19, 2007.

The story of Phenom and RD790 is all but a done deal.  Phenom's big brother, server-based Barcelona, met mediocre fanfare while RD790 production boards have surfaced here and there for almost a year.

Radeon HD 3800, previously codenamed RV670, was a little bit more of a mystery, at least until this weekend.  AMD publicly announced RV670 would entail a process node shrink of Radeon HD 2900 (R600) -- a move from 80nm to 55nm.

AMD guidance leaked to media last week also elaborated on the company's DirectX 10.1 superiority.  Typically, media leaks that occur just before competition launches (in this case NVIDIA's GeForce 8800 GT) detail incredible performance gains -- the push for next-generation DirectX support did not fit the status quo for a GPU launch.

Another leak came this weekend when a serendipitous visit to the Diamond Multimedia website revealed exact details of three new Radeons: one low-end SKU, a high-end GDDR3 SKU and a high-end GDDR4 SKU. Google Cache details all three offerings.

The lower-end Radeon HD 3850 will only feature 256MB of onboard GDDR3 running at 825 MHz, and a core frequency of at least 660 MHz.

Higher-end Radeon HD 3870 will feature GDDR4 instead of GDDR3 while using the same RV670 core found on HD 3850.  This GDDR4 memory is clocked at 1.2 GHz, and the core frequency is bumped to 775 MHz.  The GDDR3 version of HD 3870 will feature the same core frequency as the GDDR4 card, but comes standard with lower frequency GDDR3 instead of GDDR4 to target a better price point.

The red flag is that Radeon HD 3850 touts exactly the same features found on the 80nm Radeon HD 2900 design with the exception of reduced GDDR3 memory.  HD 3850 will reduce the thermal envelope when compared to the previous generation, but performance should be nearly identical to Radeon HD 2900.

Radeon HD 3870, on the other hand, is an ambitious bump from the older generation.  The 775 MHz core frequency represents up to a 100 MHz increase, while the memory receives a 400 MHz gift over R600's GDDR4 implementation.

A memo circulated from ATI design teams to third-party vendors indicated that vendors will have the ability to set memory and core clock frequencies independently, so each vendor's card will perform at slightly different frequencies.

Other noteable features of RV670 include Quad Crossfire support and AMD's Triple Play physics support.

Radeon HD 2900 XT caused a ruckus when it was learned that the card did not include a Universal Video Decoder, as advertised.  Third party Radeon manufacturers could not confirm or deny that this decoder is in place for RV670, though the argument for R600 was that it's processing power is capable enough to not need an HD accelerator via hardware.  This may easily be the case for RV670 as well.

Pricing on RV670 has not been confirmed. However, given that Radeon HD 3850 is essentially Radeon HD 2900 in a single-slot design, it's easy to expect AMD will price those cards similarly to R600 cards available today.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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