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ATI's physics goes on the back burner

During ATI's 2006 third quarter financial results conference call this morning, ATI CEO Dave Orton revealed to analysts that despite demonstrating physics processing earlier this year, volume availability will not be for another "9 to 12 months." Orton indicated that the technology was still undergoing testing and preparation. Interestingly,  ATI indicated earlier that its physics technology was already on the market and needed only driver updates.

DailyTech has attempted to test some physics-enabled demos on a pair of Radeon X1900 XTX boards but drivers were not ready. Interestingly, ATI demonstrated physics on its RD600 chipset at Computex earlier this year but a year from now, ATI's RD600 will more than likely be phased out. In fact, ATI said during the call that it was already developing and testing RD700, its next generation core logic.

After ATI's announcement about its own physics solution during Computex, AGEIA responded by indicating that ATI's method was crude and did not really address the core needs of physics processing. AGEIA also indicated that its own widely accepted technology was already available on store shelves. AGEIA's availability argument was somewhat called upon by ATI customers, citing that ATI too had boards already in the market. Orton's announcement today unfortunately reaffirms AGEIA's point. Many ATI customers will have to wait a while longer.

Details on ATI's R600 core -- the replacement for its X1900 family -- is expected to be available late this year or in early 2007. It is unclear whether or not ATI's physics API will continue to support the X1900 family a year out from now.

Update 06/30/2006
:  We earlier reported that "retail availability" was not to be available for 9-12 months.  Instead, Orton's exact meaning was for "volume availability," and as such DailyTech has changed the article text. Will Willis, Senior PR manager for ATI sent us the following comment about ATI's physics solution:
Dave’s reply was that we won’t see physics in volume (i.e. hundreds of thousands of cards being used for physics) and therefore a material revenue stream from physics for 9-12 months (i.e. another 3-4 quarters) as that’s when there will be some substantial volume of ATI graphics cards being used for physics purposes.

ATI GPU’s that support physics acceleration are already in retail (i.e. the X1900 and X1600 series of cards for example).  All that’s required is a driver update that enables physics processing, and more importantly, game content which we expect around the holidays.  We’re very likely to see revenue from physics before 9-12 months, but as Dave said it won’t be in volume, it will likely be early adopters.
Willis claims content for ATI physics will be available this holiday season already.  However, there is no word yet on the driver other than it is "several weeks out."

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RE: Slow And Steady Wins The Race
By daddypop on 6/30/2006 10:23:21 AM , Rating: 2
As far i can see, the majority of you guys are complaining about Physics in general. Why complain over EVERYTHING, if you dont agree with physics, here's an answer, dont but the f---ing card, dont worry what NVIDIA and ATi are doing, who cares you arent interested right, so quit all your b----ing and dont buy anything.

To use a dual core CPU to process physics is great, most games dont even run any better with dual core CPU's anyway. who needs 2 3.0 CPUs to run Half-Life 2 or F.E.A.R.??? Nobody, if you think you do then you are an idiot.

RE: Slow And Steady Wins The Race
By Xavian on 6/30/2006 5:59:24 PM , Rating: 2
true but lets not forget that dual core has other applications, i could encode and burn something to dvd with one core and play a game with another (i also have three seperate HDD's for different uses and im sure 2GB of RAM would be enough for both purposes).

Not to mention you could have one core take care of the crap running behind the game (windows and such) and have one core completely and utterly to the game. With the X2's and their seperate caches (linked by the very fast HTT links) you can easily have both cores doing completely different tasks with very little impact on either task.

Physics cards right now are useless. They add eye-candy and no more (they even slow down the games while producing that eye-candy), plus considering they can't be used for online competitive play (since people without the card will see something completely different to ones that do). In the end utilizing graphics cards as virtual physics cards is going to be the winner, they use the fastest possible interconnect (PCI-Express x16) and have much lower latency then PCI. Graphics cards themselves are pretty well built for processing graphics, all that is required is new drivers to take advatange of the GPU and a game written with the new Havok API with ATi and Nvidia support (future tentative title :P).

However i must end this post because i have begun to wander (someways back) and i might end up on some completely different subject.

RE: Slow And Steady Wins The Race
By saratoga on 6/30/2006 8:34:54 PM , Rating: 2
true but lets not forget that dual core has other applications, i could encode and burn something to dvd with one core and play a game with another (i also have three seperate HDD's for different uses and im sure 2GB of RAM would be enough for both purposes).

You could already do this provided you had one CPU that was fast enough. Adding 2 cores doesn't change the equation at all. You could have 2 cores devoted to the game, and then let an encoder share them with the game, or you could have the game not be multithreaded. Either way you can still do both at once, so its not like most people are going to care.

Not to mention you could have one core take care of the crap running behind the game (windows and such) and have one core completely and utterly to the game.

Theres no performance advantage to doing this though (since you can't really dedicate any core entirely to one thing on a PMT OS like Windows, Linux or MacOS), so I don't see why anyone would. If there was a performance advantage, the X2 crush the equivilent 64 or single core FX. But they're essentially identical.

I agree with your remarks about GPUs. If you look at the stuff MS, Ati and Nvidia are talking about for the next 5 years, GPUs start to look a lot like PPUs for many applications. Not quite as good a solution, but probably 80% of the way there, and dual and quad core are likely to pick up the remaining slack.

By MacGuffin on 7/2/2006 11:16:37 AM , Rating: 2
Dude, nobody is here is complaining about the advancement of technology. Everybody WANTS great new technology to come out AND offer a consistent and long-term solution for all parties involved - consumers and developers as well.

Look at high-end audio: DVD-A/SACD both offered remarkably better technology for both consumers (increased fidelity and extras) and labels (better DRM). All they had to do was up the production of more albums and CD would have been on its way out today. But nobody liked the idea of two formats: CD still reigns supreme and the RIAA is still crying hoarse. Those who spent big bucks on upgrading their sound-systems now feel burned over the lack of new discs to play on their setups.

BluRay/HD-DVD is going the same route, some say.

Physics in 3D gaming might die and be a has-been if there is no uniform way to implement it. What a lot of people agree with, is a $300 expansion card for some sparks/explosion effects as in GRAW isn't going to justify their hard-earned money. I wasn't aware that Ageia has promised to support any new standard-APIs if they become available - this is a good step. People just want to be able to enjoy their games with the price/performance hardware of their choice: ATi, nVidia, Ageia or a multi-core Intel/AMD CPU. But it shouldn't mean they are locked out of features themselves.

A PPU should make things faster and deliver higher frame-rates...a general-purpose multi-core CPU should still be able to handle it but at a relative performance hit. Just the way it works in the single/dual GPU world. Currently, PhysX doesn't exactly offload tasks from the CPU to take your FPS from 25 to just calculates some superflous effects.

I understand that HLSL/SM 3.0 instructions that can be executed on GPUs offer higher performance advantages over CPUs for physics processing. Let's just say I was wishfully hoping that mutli-core would be the way of the future...maybe I am wrong. So I know a PPU will be inevitable in the future.

The main point is consumers DON'T want to be locked out of a major chunk of games that may/will not support the hardware they have. Why should I have to make a compromise whether I want Ageia for Unreal 3 or HavokFX for Source-powered games (or whatever) or DirectPhysics for Alan Wake/Halo 3 or whatever?

Unfortunately, since PhysX is already here...ATi/nVidia will want to capture a bit of the market - good that ATi is backing down. Otherwise, this usually means rushed-to-the-market products that have short shelf-lives and buggy support. The idea is out there...the developments will arrive...and like you said, if I don't like it, I don't HAVE to buy the f---ing card. That's not the point: the point is, I WANT to buy a f---ing card BUT when it is done right.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher
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