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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: The facts speak for themselves
By phenom32 on 6/30/2006 11:31:14 AM , Rating: 2
The ATI solution IS dedicated, the 3rd card is used PURELY for physics. And physics itself is just a bunch of calculations, so the computation power of the PPU will be the deterimining factor of physics acceleration. With parrallel processing available on the red hardware, it'll be an effective solution.

As for game support, it's all about who's API game developer will choose. UT2K7 has chosen the AGEIA API, other titles has chosen Havok's API (which NVIDIA/ATI supports), and there are still independent API that Crysis will use. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to Crysis more than UT2K7. Going the AGEIA way wouldn't work in the game making the $300 card useless. At least with the ATI way, users will only be using their "old" x1k cards or spending $100-150 on a X1600Pro or XT as the physics card.

If future games end up to be like the performance of GRAW, (yes performance has been increased now), that only means end-users will be depended on AGEIA to come out with new drivers and patches for every new game out there.

The way I see it, it's going to be a battle of API support, whoever has the widest support will win. Between AGEIA, ATI, and NVIDIA, whoever can support the most API will make them most widely adaopted. At Computex, ATI has told the press they are looking to support more than just the Havok API. AGEIA on the other hand is just planning to support their own. It'll be a battle for a year or two until MS comes out with a standard DirectPhysics.

RE: The facts speak for themselves
By stmok on 7/1/2006 3:54:41 AM , Rating: 4
No it is NOT.

The three cards (in ATI's solution), are still video cards. What the driver does, is assign one of them for physics. That's all. It is NOT a REAL physics card.

You can have two video cards and using the same physics capable driver, to "load balance" the calculations between physics and 3D/video calculations on both cards.

Either way, its not a full blown dedicated physics solution.

Having a video card that is assigned for physics is not as optimal as having a card that is designed from the ground up to do physics. Its like getting a programmable high speed processor ($20k) for 3D work instead of buying a GPU based solution. Yes, it can do the work, but its not gonna be optimal for the assigned purpose.

ATI/Nvidia's solutions are cost effective (to some extent) and are quicker to get to the market. But they DO NOT cover all physics features like the AEGIA solution. Go compare what the AEGIA solution can do, and what the ATI/Nvidia solutions can do, and you'll see its quite different in the types of physics they offer. This is what MANY people don't get. Just because they say it does physics, doesn't mean its all the same physics. (Rigid body, liquid flow, etc)...Go read an article done by ArsTechnica and you'll see that even the Havoc approach does NOT bring the same level of stuff as AEGIA's solution.

Its a quicker way to get there, but its not necessarily the best way.

That's the point I'm trying to make. Having a pseudo-physics solution is NOT the same as having a REAL physics solution.

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