The AMD "PingPong" demo highlights the use of DirectX 10.1's new global illumination engine  (Source: AMD)
ATI Radeon HD 3800 bets big on next-generation DirectX

On the eve of NVIDIA's GeForce 8800 GT launch, a memo to technology journalists was sent out containing details for AMD's upcoming RV670 graphics processor, officially dubbed the ATI Radeon HD 3800.

Yet rather than attacking the processing power or thermal envelope of NVIDIA's new 65nm GPU, the AMD document focuses on DirectX 10.1 support.  AMD details many of these effects of this new abstraction layer, including even more anti-aliasing patterns and a new global illumination engine -- all of which are supported by the RV670 graphics processor.

RV670, slated to launch next month simultaneously with AMD's upcoming Phenom desktop processor, is still very hush-hush even so close to launch time.  AMD corporate roadmaps previously indicated that RV670 is, for the most part, an optical shrink of the lackluster 80nm R600 graphics processor.

AMD's newest document fleshes out RV670 as "The new ATI Radeon HD 3800 series of GPUs are the first to be designed for DirectX 10.1, as well as other cutting edge technologies, including PCI Express 2.0, Unified Video Decoder (UVD), hardware accelerated tessellation, and power efficient 55nm transistor design."

A copy of the DirectX 10.1 whitepaper is still available at PCPerspective.

NVIDIA declined to launch a next-generation graphics processor in 2007, instead opting for the 65nm optical shrink of the G80 architecture -- dubbed G92.  While G92 features fewer unified shaders than the GeForce 8800 GTX or GeForce 8800 Ultra, the majority of the architecture remains wholly intact. 

However, what is clear is that NVIDIA and AMD will both benefit from the reduced process node.  Smaller nodes mean lower leakage and thermal envelopes -- and in turn quieter and more robust cooling and packaging. 

Banking on DirectX 10.1 selling the Radeon HD 3800 is certainly not without its criticism.  DirectX 10, while clearly the future of game development, has received slow adoption from the developer community even with hardware availability in its second year now.  BioShock, Crysis, Hellgate: London and Unreal Tournament 3 are the only big-ticket titles in 2007 that utilize DirectX 10 support. 

DirectX 10.1 is expected to launch with the Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and is backwards compatible with the existing DirectX 10 layer.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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