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AMD teams with Intel chum on 40nm GPU shrink

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AMD has announced two new graphics processors designed to provide DirectX 10.1 gaming and HD-video capability in low-power packages for laptops.

The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4830 and 4860 are the company's - and the world's - first processors manufactured on a 40nm process. And they're built in the fabs of TSMC, the Taiwanese foundry giant that just this week entered into a partnership with AMD's arch rival, Intel.

Don't expect the Intel-TSMC partnership to adversely affect the AMD-TSMC relationship, though - at least that's what TSMC's president and CEO, Rick Tsai, claimed at a meeting with reporters on Monday.

These new 40nm GPUs represent the fifth time AMD and TSMC have taken the lead in process shrinkage, the previous four being 90nm, 80nm, 65nm, and 55nm.

In a statement, Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager of AMD Graphics Products Group, crowed about AMD's firsts: "We were first with DirectX 10.1 support, first to design graphics cards supporting GDDR5 memory technology, first with WHQL certified drivers for Windows Vista, first to launch a unified shader architecture, and for the fifth consecutive time, first to launch GPUs based on a new process node."

The 4830 and 4860 are both designed to be highly energy efficient. Aside from their small, power-saving size, they employ the ATI PowerPlay, which uses hardware and software components to dynamically configure the GPUs for reduced power consumption.

Bergman gave a simple reason for the power efficiency of the new GPUs: "People now decidedly prefer mobile PCs," he said.

The new GPUs each have 826 million transistors that support 640 stream-processing units coupled to a 128-bit memory interface. The 4830 supports GDDR3/DDR3 memory, while the 4860 supports GDDR5. The 4830's graphics engine can be clocked from 450MHz to 600MHz, while the 4860 is designed for 650MHz operation.

Both support ATI's Avivo HD video processing with hardware-based Unified Video Decoding (UVD) and can upscale SD video or DVDs to 2560-by-1600 pixels - if your display can handle it, of course.

According to AMD, the new GPUs will be initially available in "quality notebooks from leading notebook manufacturer ASUS." The first such notebooks should arrive in the second quarter of this year. ®

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