AMD previews first DX11 GPU, Nvidia focuses on mobile

AMD has many challenges, but lately its ATI graphics business has been on a roll. Now the company is trying to capitalize on the momentum. At Computex, AMD demonstrated the first GPU to support DirectX 11, Microsoft’s next-generation graphics API (AMD’s DX11 press release).
Microsoft first demonstrated DX11 at PDC2008 and WinHEC2008 late last year, and the API Windows Vista and Windows 7 could be release as early as July. AMD’s new GPU will support major DX11 features such as tessellation, a technique for improving the quality of games, and the compute shader, which is Microsoft’s approach to using the GPU to accelerate applications in much the same manner as Nvidia’s CUDA and AMD’s Stream.

Though they didn’t give any details, AMD said graphics cards based on the new GPU will be available by the end of 2009. This is significant because Nvidia isn’t expected to have DX11-compatible GPUs until well into 2010.

That’s not to say that Nvidia hasn’t been busy at the show. Its Ion platform, which combines Intel’s Atom with a more powerful GeForce 9400M GPU received a Best of Computex award. I recently wrote a post on the Lenovo IdeaPad S12, which is the first major netbook to use Ion. At the show, Nvidia announced 20 additions products that will use it including nettops, all-in-one desktops, notebooks and motherboards (Nvidia Ion press release). Acer, Asus and MSI all plan to release nettops based on Ion, according to Nvidia, but the continued lack of notebooks or netbooks from major OEMs on this list is conspicuous. Similarly, Nvidia continues to demonstrate prototype mobile devices based on its Tegra chipset here at Computex, but far as I can tell, there’s no news on major design wins.

Nvidia did announce that it was working with Adobe–as part of Adobe’s Open Screen Project–to support GPU acceleration of video and graphics in the Flash Player on mobile devices that use Nvidia GPUs including Tegra. This could be a nice advantage for Tegra-based devices, but it may take some time to implement. Finally, back in the U.S. at the E3 gaming show, Nvidia and Alienware announced a 17-inch gaming laptop, the M17x, with three GPUs: two GeForce GTX 280M high-end GPUs and a GeForce 9400M. The SLI configuration supports a hybrid mode–9400M only–to save battery life when not gaming.

BY John Morris

John Morris is a former executive editor at CNET Networks and senior editor at PC Magazine. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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