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AMD ships Stream chip and coding kit

'Close to Metal' more Bon Jovi than Iron Maiden?

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AMD today attempted to liven up the world of scientific and engineering computing, launching its first Stream-branded GPU - a graphics chip designed to crunch non-graphical data - and a "thin hardware interface" to go with it dubbed 'Close to Metal' - a sort of Bon Jovi of the chip world.

Dubbed the AMD Stream Processor, the unit's a PCI Express add-in card containing 1GB of GDDR 3. AMD didn't say what GPU underpins Stream, but ATI's website suggests it's a Radeon X1900 or X1950. Certainly it has 48 pixel shaders and is clocked at 600MHz. The memory runs at 650MHz. Whatever GPU is on the card, the product costs around $2,600. It dissipates 165W, we understand.

Close to Metal (CTM) essentially provides coders with the APIs they'll need to access the Stream chip's pixel and vertex shaders to do run multiple, not necessarily graphics-centric calculations in parallel, along with more than two dozen commands to control the GPU.

AMD reckons CTM will deliver an eightfold performance gain over code that attempts to perform the same task using clever pixel and vertex shader programs written using 3D graphics APIs like OpenGL and DirectX.

CTM and the Stream chip are part of AMD's Torrenza programme - an open foundation for firms to connect co-processing hardware to the chip maker's CPUs.

Registered developers can download AMD's Stream- and CTM-related documentation for free at its ATI website. ®

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