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AMD Radeon

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AMD Radeon

Radeon /ˈrdɒn/ is a brand of graphics processing units and random-access memory produced by Advanced Micro Devices. The brand was launched in 2000 by ATI Technologies, which was acquired by AMD in 2006. Radeon is the successor to the Rage line. There are four different groups, which can be differentiated by the DirectX generation they support. More specific distinctions can also be followed, such as the HyperZ version, the number of pixel pipelines, and the memory and processor clock speeds.

Card brands

Though it did at one time, AMD does not distribute Radeon cards directly to consumers. Instead, it sells Radeon GPUs to third-party manufacturers, who build and sell the Radeon-based video cards to the OEM and retail channels. Manufacturers of the Radeon cards include Sapphire, XFX, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Biostar, Gainward, Diamond, HIS, PowerColor, Club 3D, VisionTek and Force3D.

Processor generations

Early generations were identified with a number and major/minor alphabetic prefix. Later generations were assigned code names. New or heavily redesigned architectures have a prefix of R (e.g., R300 or R600) while slight modifications are indicated by the RV prefix (e.g., RV370 or RV635).

The first derivative architecture, RV200, did not follow the scheme used by later parts.


The Radeon, first introduced in 2000, was ATI's first graphics processor to be fully DirectX 7 compliant. R100 brought with it large gains in bandwidth and fill-rate efficiency through the new HyperZ technology.

The RV200 was a die-shrink of the former R100 with some core logic tweaks for clockspeed, introduced in 2001. The only release in this generation was the Radeon 7500, which introduced little in the way of new features but offered substantial performance improvements over its predecessors.


ATI's second generation Radeon included a sophisticated pixel shader architecture. This chipset implemented Microsoft's pixel shader 1.4 specification for the first time.

Its performance relative to competitors was widely perceived as weak, and subsequent revisions of this generation were cancelled in order to focus on development of the next generation.


The R300 was the first GPU to fully support Microsoft's DirectX 9.0 technology upon its release in 2002. It incorporated fully programmable pixel and vertex shaders.

About a year later, the architecture was revised to allow for higher frequencies, more efficient memory access, and several other improvements in the R350 family. A budget line of RV350 products was based on this refreshed design with some elements disabled or removed.

Models using the new PCI Express interface were introduced in 2004. Using 110-nm and 130-nm manufacturing technologies under the X300 and X600 names, respectively, the RV370 and RV380 graphics processors were used extensively by consumer PC manufacturers.


While heavily based upon the previous generation, this line included extensions to the Shader Model 2 feature-set. Shader Model 2b, the specification ATI and Microsoft defined with this generation, offered somewhat more shader program flexibility...


ATI's DirectX 9.0c series of graphics cards, with complete Shader Model 3.0 support. Launched in October 2005, this series brought a number of enhancements including the floating point render target technology necessary for HDR rendering with anti-aliasing.


ATI's first series of ATI Radeon GPUs supporting the Direct3D 10.0 specification and the company's second graphics solution to employ unified shader technology.

Subsequent revisions tuned the design for higher performance and energy efficiency, resulting in the ATI Mobility Radeon HD series for mobile computers.


Based on the R600 architecture. Mostly a bolstered card with many more stream processors, with improvements to power consumption and GDDR5 support for the high-end RV770 and RV740(HD4770) chips. It arrived in late June 2008. The HD 4850 and HD 4870 have 800 stream processors and GDDR3 and GDDR5 memory, respectively. The 4890 was a refresh of 4870 with the same amount of stream processors yet higher clock rates due to refinements. The 4870x2 has 1600 stream processors and GDDR5 memory on an effective 512-bit memory bus with 230.4 Gbit/s video memory bandwidth available.


The series was launched on September 23, 2009. It featured a 40 nm fabrication process for the entire product line (only the HD4770 (RV740) was built on this process previously), with more stream cores and compatibility with the next major version of the DirectX API, DirectX 11, which launched on October 22, 2009 along with Microsoft Windows 7. The Rxxx/RVxxx codename scheme was scrapped entirely. The initial launched consisted of only the 5870 and 5850 models. ATI released beta drivers that introduces full OpenGL 4.0 support on the all variants of this series in March 2010.[1]

Northern Islands

This is the first series to be marketed solely under the "AMD" brand. It features a 3rd generation 40 nm design, rebalancing the existing architecture with redesigned shaders to give it better performance. It was released first on October 22, 2010, in the form of the 6850 and 6870. 3D output is enabled with HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.2 outputs.

Southern Islands

Features a new compute architecture known as "Graphics Core Next", along with the VLIW5 architecture utilized in the previous generation. The first card, the Radeon HD 7970, was released on January 9, 2012.

Volcanic Islands

The Radeon Rx 200 line is based on AMD's GCN 2.0 and is scheduled for release in late 2013.[2]

Technology Overview

Some generations vary from their predecessors predominantly due to architectural improvements, while others were adapted primarily to new manufacturing processes with fewer functional changes. The table below summarizes the technologies supported in hardware in each Radeon generation. A detailed comparison of hardware specifications is also available.

Chip series Manufacturing process Graphics APIs support Models
DirectX OpenGL Mantle
R100 180 nm DirectX 7.0 OpenGL 1.3 No Original "ATI Radeon", as well as Radeon DDR, 7000, VE, and LE models.
RV200 150 nm The only release was the Radeon 7500.
R200 DirectX 8.1 OpenGL 1.4 Radeon 8500, 9000, 9200 and 9250.
R300/R350 DirectX 9.0 OpenGL 2.0 Radeon 9500–9800, and X1050.
RV370/RV380 110 nm
130 nm
Radeon X300, X550, X600.
R420 130 nm DirectX 9.0b Radeon X700–X850.
R520 90 nm
80 nm
DirectX 9.0c Radeon X1300–X1950.
R600 65 nm DirectX 10.0 OpenGL 3.3 Radeon HD 2000 series.
RV635/RV620 55 nm DirectX 10.0 Radeon HD 3450-3650, Radeon Mobility HD 2000 and 3000 series.
RV670 DirectX 10.1 Radeon HD 3690-3870.
R700 DirectX 10.1 Radeon HD 4000 series
Evergreen 40 nm DirectX 11.0 OpenGL 4.3 Radeon HD 5000 series
Northern Islands Yes Radeon HD 6000 series, and IGP 7000 series
Southern Islands 40 nm
28 nm
DirectX 11.0
DirectX 11.1
Bulk of Radeon HD 7000 series[3]
Sea Islands 28 nm Radeon HD 8000 series, and HD 7790[4]
Volcanic Islands 28 nm DirectX 11.2 OpenGL 4.3 Radeon Rx 200 series.
Pirates Islands 20 nm Unknown Radeon Rx 300 series.



Currently, AMD identifies each chipset---and thus each video card---by generation, market segment, and performance. The first number is the generation number (e.g. 5000) and indicates the chipset used by the video card. The second number indicates the performance category or market segment. Currently, a 7970 would be a high-end card, whereas a 7570 would be a budget card. The third digit is the relative quality within a series; for example, a 5850 is less powerful than a 5870. Typically, a card of a higher series will have more processing power than a card in a lower series, even if the relative quality is better (e.g., a 5770 will be outperformed by a 5850).

A higher number indicates greater performance within that generation. As high-performance chipsets from a previous generation typically outperform budget parts from the newer generation, this guideline does not generalize across generations. Originally, suffixes were used to designate relative quality within a generation.

Product category Model number
range (steps of 10)1
Price range
Memory Example products
Type Width (bit) Size (MiB)
900–990 >$300 GDDR5 256 or 384 2,048
2 x 2,048 (CrossFire)
HD 6950/6970
HD 6990
HD 7870XT/7950/7970
HD 7990
Performance/Mid-range 700-890 $150–299 GDDR5 128 or 256 1,024 or 2,048 HD 6750/6770
HD 6790/6850/6870
HD 7750/7770
HD 7850/7870
Mainstream/Value 500-690 <$150 DDR3,
128 512 or 1,024 HD 6570/6670
Mainstream Fusion SoC 400–690 N/A UMA,
side-port memory
UMA, side-port supported 128, UMA
(OS dependent)
HD 6450
Llano IGP:
HD 6550D/6530D
Low-power Fusion SoC 000–390 N/A UMA UMA, 64, UMA
(OS dependent)
Ontario/Zacate IGP:
HD 6320D/6310D/6290D/6250D


After ATI's first DirectX 9-class GPU, the company followed a naming scheme that related each product to a market segment. The release of AMD Accelerated Processing Unit SoC products in late 2010 revised the naming conventions to the current system. There were two previous systems. The original naming system used both model numbers and alphabetic suffixes to identify parts. The system was later changed to a purely numeric naming system that was less specific than the current method.

The chart below shows the original naming scheme:

Product category Card name
(* denotes wildcard)
Typical product suffixes Price range (USD) Memory Outputs Example products
Type Width (bit) Size (MiB)
XTX, XT, XT PE, XL, Pro, GTO, GT, >$100 GDDR3,
256, or
256, 512, or 1,024 Dual DVI with
HDMI (HD 2000 dongle)
9800, X800, X1950, HD 2900
Mainstream *7**
XT, XL, Pro, SE, GTO, GT, HD $50–100 DDR2,
128 128, 256, 512, or 1,024 D-sub,DVI/
Dual DVI with
HDMI (HD 2000 dongle)
7500, X700, X1600, HD 2600
Budget/value *4**
SE, HM <$50 DDR2,
64 64, or 128
(HM: 768, or 1,024)
D-sub, DVI with
HDMI (HD 2000 dongle)
X300, X1050,
X1400, HD 2400
  • ^1 Stream processors only applicable to Radeon HD 2000 series video cards.

ATI had re-branded its products midway through 2001, intending the 7xxx series to indicate DirectX 7.0 capabilities, 8xxx for DirectX 8.0, and so on. However in 2002, when naming the Radeon 9000/9200 which only had DirectX 8.0 rendering features, ATI advertised them as "DirectX 9.0 compatible" while the truly DirectX 9.0-spec Radeon 9700 was "DirectX 9.0 compliant".

Since the release of the Radeon HD 3000 series products, previous PRO, XT, GT, and XTX suffixes were eliminated. Products are now differentiated within each market segment by changing the last two digits of the product model number (for instance, the HD 3870 model attains higher performance than HD 3850).[7] Similar changes to the integrated graphics processor (IGP) naming occurred as well; for the previously launched AMD M690T chipset with side-port memory, the IGP is named Radeon X1270, while for the AMD 690G chipset, the IGP is named Radeon X1250, and the IGP in the AMD 690V chipset is clocked lower with reduced functionality, thus being named Radeon X1200.

A summary of ATI's retired numbering scheme is below:

Product category Model number
range (steps of 10)1
Price range
Memory Outputs Example products
Type Width (bit) Size (MiB)
800–990 >$300 GDDR3,
256 256, 512, or 1,024 2 DVI,
HDMI, DP (dongle)
HD 3850/3870
HD 4830/4850/4870/4890
HD 5830/5850/5870/5970
Mainstream 600–790 $150–250 DDR2,
128 128, 256, 512, or 1,024 D-sub, DVI HD 3650
HD 4650/4670
HD 5670/5750/5770
DVI, 2 DP,
HDMI (dongle)
Budget/value 330–590 <$150 DDR2,
64 64, or 128
(HM: 768, or 1,024)
D-sub, DVI,
HDMI, DP (dongle)
HD 3450/3470
HD 5450/5550/5570
Integrated graphics
000–300 N/A UMA,
side-port memory
UMA, 16 (side-port) 64, UMA
(OS dependent)
D-sub, DVI,
Component (YCbCr)
HD 3200/HD 3100/2100
  • ^1 The last two digits denotes variant, similar to the previous suffixes, which 70 is in essence the XT variant while 50 is actually the Pro variant.[8]
  • ^2 Stream processors only applicable to Direct3D 10-class video components and above (Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000/5000 series).



Main article: AMD Catalyst

The ATI Radeon graphics driver package for Windows operating system is called AMD Catalyst.

There are unofficial modifications available such as Omega drivers and DNA drivers. These drivers typically consist of mixtures of various driver file versions with some registry variables altered and are advertised as offering superior performance or image quality. They are, of course, unsupported, and as such, are not guaranteed to function correctly. Some of them also provide modified system files for hardware enthusiasts to run specific graphics cards outside of their specifications.


There are currently two drivers available: the open source Radeon driver, written mostly by the community based on specs published by AMD, and proprietary driver, written by AMD. As of 2013, the opensource driver has some limitations in OpenGL3.3+, OpenCL and may still be work in progress for some newer platforms. The driver recently recieved dynamic reclocking support (Kernel 3.12) and its performance is comparable to that of Catalyst. The OpenGL feature set is matching with 3.3+. [9][10]

For further information on Open Source drivers, see below.

Main article: fglrx

Initially, ATI did not produce Radeon drivers for Linux, instead giving hardware specifications and documentation to Direct Rendering Infrastructure (DRI) developers under various non-disclosure agreements.

In mid-2004, however, ATI started to support Linux (XFree86, X.Org), hiring a new Linux driver team to produce fglrx. Their new proprietary Linux drivers, instead of being a port of the Windows Catalyst drivers, were based on the Linux drivers for the FireGL (the FireGL drivers worked with Radeons before, but didn't officially support them), a card geared towards graphics producers, not gamers; though the display drivers part is now based on the same sources as the ones from Windows Catalyst since version 4.x in late 2004. The proprietary Linux drivers could support R200 (Radeon 8500-9200, 9250) chips.[11] For a better display driver, the drivers from a distribution's official repositories are recommended.

The frequency of driver updates increased in late 2004, releasing Linux drivers every two months, half as often as their Windows counterparts. Then since late 2005 this has been increased to monthly releases, inline with the Windows Catalyst releases.

In 2008, ATI changed its release cycles and driver versions; now referred to as Catalyst ., the driver package still includes an internal 8.xx.x driver revision, but it is now monthly, sharing a common code base with the Windows driver (starting with internal release 8.43). In 2009, the Catalyst driver officially dropped support for R500 and older chips, the FOSS driver being deemed stable and complete enough. The last driver release supporting older architectures is Catalyst 9.3.


AmigaOS 4 supports R100, R200, R520, R700, "Evergreen" and "Northern Islands" Radeon cards.[12] The RadeonHD AmigaOS 4 driver has been developed by Hans de Ruiter[13] and exclusively funded by and licensed to A-EON Technology Ltd. Support for RadeonHD 7xxx "Southern Islands" was added in October 2012.


FreeBSD systems have the same open-source support for Radeon hardware as Linux, including 2D and 3D acceleration for Radeon R100, R200, and R300-series chipsets. The R300 support, as with Linux, remained experimental due to being reverse-engineered from ATI's proprietary drivers, but with the release of official documentation by AMD (following its buyout of ATI), all Radeon families up to R700 have at least 2D support in the FOSS drivers, with basic video acceleration and power management, and up to R500, have at least 'basic' (up to OpenGL 1.5 feature set, GLSL is still a work in progress) 3D acceleration. On R600/700, 3D is still very much experimental, and Evergreen support has barely started due to lack of documentation.

ATI does not support its proprietary fglrx driver on FreeBSD, it has been partly ported by a third party as of January 2007. This is in contrast to its main rival, NVIDIA, which has periodically released its proprietary driver for FreeBSD since November 2002 (64-bit beta driver available as of December 3, 2009). In the meantime, the release is similar to Linux.


MidnightBSD supports 2D and 3D acceleration for Radeon R100, R200, and R300 chipsets. This support is similar to FreeBSD and Linux.


ATI previously offered driver updates for their retail and integrated Macintosh video cards and chipsets. However, ever since ATI's acquisition by AMD, ATI no longer supplies or supports drivers for Mac OS Classic nor Mac OS X. Mac OS X drivers can be downloaded from Apple's support website, while Mac OS Classic drivers can be obtained from 3rd party websites that host the older drivers for users to download. ATI used to provide a preference panel for use in Mac OS X called ATI Displays which can be used both with retail and OEM versions of its cards. Though it gives more control over advanced features of the graphics chipset, ATI Displays has limited functionality compared to their Catalyst for Windows product.

ATI stopped support for Mac OS 9 after the Radeon R200 cards, making the last officially supported card the Radeon 9250. The Radeon R100 cards up to the Radeon 7200 can still be used with even older Mac OS versions such as System 7, although not all features are taken advantage of by the older operating system.[14]

Haiku / BeOS

ATI does not provide proprietary drivers for BeOS or Haiku. Historically ATI provided hardware and technical documentation to the Haiku Project to produce drivers with full 2D and video in/out support on older Radeon chipsets (up to R500). A new Radeon HD driver was developed with the unofficial and indirect guidance of AMD open source engineers and currently exists in recent Haiku versions. The new Radeon HD driver supports native mode setting on R600 through Southern Islands GPU's.[15]


MorphOS supports 2D and 3D acceleration for Radeon R100, R200 and R300 chipsets.[16]

FOSS drivers

Open source drivers for Linux have existed since the first R100 chips, and as of 2013 they are the only available for pre-R600 chips. While some functions are still missing (UVD video decoder/OpenGL 3.2) they are evolving fastly.

The supported functions of the different video card generations is described on the


The brand was previously known as "ATI Radeon" until August 2010, when it was renamed to increase AMD's brand awareness on a global scale.[18] Products up to and including the HD 5000 series are branded as ATI Radeon, while the HD 6000 series and beyond use the new AMD Radeon branding.[19]

Memory module

On August 2011, AMD expanded the Radeon name to include random access memory modules under the AMD Memory line. The initial releases included 3 types of 2GiB DDR3 SDRAM modules: Entertainment (1333 MHz, CL9 9-9), UltraPro Gaming (1600 MHz, CL11 11-11) and Enterprise (specs to be determined).[20]

See also


External links

  • AMD Homepage
  • X.Org driver for ATI/AMD Radeon
  • DRI Wiki: ATI Radeon
  • Rage3D: Support community for ATI hardware and drivers. News and discussion.

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