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ATI Pokes Fun at the PS3 GPU

Nvidia and ATI

The European Developers Relations Manager for ATI, Richard Huddy, recently referred to the PS3 GPU as “unrefined” – which isn’t surprising considering that NVIDIA beat out ATI as Sony’s GPU supplier.

In fact, both companies have been forced to share the console market – ATI has the XBox 360 and the Revolution, while NVIDIA has control of the coveted PS3.

So is ATI a little bitter perhaps? It would seem so. The bitter rivalries among major tech companies are getting uglier every day . It has only been a few weeks since Nerd Approved reported on similar situations between Intel and AMD (See Intel’s opinion on the $100 laptop and the AMD vs Intel Dual Core Challenge.)

Click on “more” to read a full exerpt from the interview in Edge Magazine:

How do you think your work on the 360 measures up to PS3?

I take a fairly robust view on this. The Xbox 360 GPU is designed to be a console GPU – that’s what we set out to produce when we started the collaboration with Microsoft; let’s build a really powerful, really flexible kind of general purpose GPU which doesn’t have performance cliffs where if you do certain things suddenly the performance crashes down by a factor of two or something like that; let’s have things pretty predictable and easy to work with, and let’s generate about the best performance that we can- so we went for things like the unified shaders and so on. The PS3 has been designed in a quite different way because of the way the process worked. We sat down with Microsoft and said: ‘This is what we think we can build’, and they said: ‘Yes, but what about…?’ And they started picking holes in our design, so we came up with a collaborative design. They didn’t put a spec in front of us and say: ‘How much for this?’ That definitely wasn’t the dialogue – in fact that would make it more of a monologue; it would be kind of bidding on prices and so on. Instead what we have is a very collaborative design.

With the PS3 my understanding of what happened is that they had three different internal hardware solutions – at one point, for example, as I understand it there was a proposal to use multiple Cell processors just to handle the graphics. And towards the end of the process, as the story goes, they took a look at the three internal tenders and decided than none of them would actually do; none of them would deliver the kind of performance and quality that games programmers could use and would make for a good cost-effective console, so they had to go out and shop around. And one of the places they shopped was Nvidia, and what Nvidia did was say: ‘Well, you’ve got this relatively short timeframe, you’ve got roughly this kind of budget, I’ll tell you what we’ll do: we’ll do you a good price on what is essentially the 7800GTX’. So that’s a PC chip, and if you look at the architecture of the two consoles you can see we’ve done bizarre things that they haven’t. We’ve built ten megabytes of dedicated ED RAM which knows how to antialias and so on, because that’s a specific way of addressing a console’s problem. It’s bizarre in a PC sense but a special skill for a console builder. Whereas the PS3 has 256 meg of system memory and 256 meg of graphics memory it communicates through what is effectively a PCI express bus. It uses GDDR3 fast memory, it’s essentially a PC graphics design bolted on to a Cell processor and 256 meg of fast system memory…

You make it sound so unrefined!

[Laughs.] Well, yeah, but the tragedy is that it is unrefined. There’s a lot brute force in there – I’d be the last person to admit it, but the truth is that the 7800GTX is a pretty powerful piece of hardware, but it’s not very elegant, it hasn’t got the kind of: ‘Well, how do we design this to be the best possible console we can build for this money?’ Instead it’s been put together at the end of quite a complicated process. We have two very different design processes. If Microsoft had come to us and said: ‘All right, what are we going to do about this graphics chip, then? Let’s sign the contract and let’s go’, but then we’d got two thirds through and they’d said: ‘Look, you guys aren’t going to deliver – now what are you going to do?’ and then walked away from us, they would have ended up with a design very much like the PS3 in some essential characteristics – it would have had to use bought-in components. And our GPUs instead are custom-designed components, and that’s one of the fundamental reasons why I think Xbox 360 technology is likely to outperform PlayStation 3 technology by a pretty healthy margin in the long run.

So how about this one: can those E3 PS3 demos be achieved on Xbox 360?

Well, why not take another combative line here? I think it’s more likely that they can be realised on an Xbox 360 than they can be on a PS3. Those things are movies generated using whatever DCC software the houses had in mind. The Epic demo was running on a PC, and it was done using an early 7800 in SLI mode, so that was a high-end PC demo, but the movies were generated as movies and dressed up as: ‘This is what you can expect from a PS3’, but that’s probably overstating what the PS3 can do a little bit. Indeed, it’s well beyond what we expect the PS3 to be able to do. So I guess we’ll just have to see what happens…”


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