The RV770 graphics processor changed AMD's fortunes in the graphics processor industry and put it back in the race for supremacy over the larger rival NVIDIA. The introduction of RV770-based products had a huge impact on the mid-range and high-end graphics card markets, which took NVIDIA by surprise. Jen-Hsun Huang, the CEO of NVIDIA has been quoted saying that they had underestimated their competitor’s latest GPU, referring to RV770. While the Radeon HD 4870 graphics accelerator provided direct competition to the 192 shader-laden GeForce GTX 260, the subsequent introduction of a 216 shader variant saw it lose ground, leaving doubling of memory size to carve out the newer SKU, the Radeon HD 4870 1GB. Performance benchmarks of this card from all over the media have been mixed, but show that AMD isn’t giving up this chance for gaining technological supremacy. In Q4 2008, NVIDIA is expected to release three new graphics cards: GeForce GTX 270 and GeForce GTX 290. The cards are based on NVIDIA’s G200 refresh, the G200b, which incorporates a new manufacturing technology to facilitate higher clock-speeds, stepping up performance. This looks to threaten the market position of AMD’s RV770, since it’s already established that G200 when overclocked to its stable limits, achieves more performance than RV770 pushed to its limits. This leaves AMD with some worries, since it cannot afford to lose the wonderful market-position its cash-cow, the RV770 is currently in, to an NVIDIA product that outperforms it by a significant margin, in its price-domain. The company’s next generation graphics processor would be the RV870, which still has some time left before it could be rushed in, since its introduction is tied to the constraints of foundry companies such as TSMC, and the availability of the required manufacturing process (40nm silicon lithography) by them. While TSMC takes its time working on that, there’s a fair bit of time left, for RV770 to face NVIDIA, which given the circumstances, looks a lost battle. Is AMD going to do something about its flagship GPU? Will AMD make an effort to maintain its competitiveness before the next round of the battle for technological supremacy begins? The answer is tilting in favour of yes. AMD would be giving the RV770 a refresh, with the introduction of a new graphics processor, which could come out before RV870. This graphics processor is to be codenamed RV790 while the possible new SKU name is kept under the wraps for now. AMD would be looking to maintain the same exact manufacturing process of the RV770 and all its machinery, but it would be making changes to certain parts of the GPU that genuinely facilitate it to run at higher clock-speeds, unleashing the best efficiency level of all its 10 ALU clusters. Déjà-vu? AMD has already attempted to achieve something similar, with its big plans on the Super-RV770 GPU, where the objective was the same: to achieve higher clock speeds, but the approach wasn’t right. All they did back then, was to put batches of RV770 through binning, pick the best performing parts, and use it on premium SKUs with improved cooling. The attempt evidently wasn’t very successful: no AMD partner was able to sell graphics cards that ran stable out of the box, in clock-speeds they set out to achieve: excess of 950 MHz. This time around, the objective remains the same: to make the machinery of RV770 operate at very high clock-speeds, to bring out the best performance-efficiency of those 800 stream processors, but the approach would be different: to reengineer parts of the GPU to facilitate higher clock speeds. This aims to bring in a boost to the shader compute power (SCP) of the GPU, and push its performance. What gains are slated to be brought about? Significant and sufficient. Significant, with the increase of reference clock-speeds beyond those of what the current RV770 can reach with overclocking, and sufficient for making it competitive with G200b based products. With this, AMD looks to keep its momentum as it puts up a great competition with NVIDIA, yielding great products from both camps, at great prices, all in all propelling the fastest growing segment in the PC hardware industry, graphics processors. This is going to be a Merry Xmas [shopping season] for graphics cards buyers.