Price of Graphics boards

Discussion in 'Graphics and Semiconductor Industry' started by Sxotty, Jul 28, 2003.

  1. Sxotty

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    Wen Intel and AMD started their fight for performance crown prices dropped a staggering amount, like good capitalists would expect.

    What is the deal with graphics boards, new ones come out and the fight is on but there has not been a large drop in price. The 9700 pro is still relatively expensive, other boards just dissapear instead of ever getting cheap. It seems that waiting for that right time to buy is a non-issue and the right time is always now b/c tings are always expensive.
     
  2. Dave Baumann

    Dave Baumann Gamerscore Wh...
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    For a high end P4 Intel is pulling in about $180, for an R350 or NV35 the IHV's are pulling in about $18 - and these chips are more complicated than P4's. As you can see, there is plenty of room for the CPU manufacturers to move, but not a hell of a lot for the 3d manufacturers.
     
  3. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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    Video cards are like cars...

    They depreciate in value DRAMATICALLY just after being bought, I've been buying 'em used for the last couple of 3 cards and REALLY getting a lot more bang for me buck!
     
  4. Nick

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    What? In transistor count they win, but I wouldn't exactly call them more complicated. Does a GPU have unlimited stored programs? Does it have virtual addressing? Does it do out-of-order execution? Jump prediction? Task switching? Exception handling? Does it allow you to access all memory? Does it have 8-way associative caches? Does it have a trace cache? Does it have forwarding? Hyper-Threading?

    I know quite a lot about the CPU architecture, so if you're serious about GPUs being more complicated then please educate me...
     
  5. Pete

    Pete Moderate Nuisance
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    My amateur perspective: I still view the 3D market ATi and nVidia compete in as primarily a luxury market, whereas Intel's and AMD's business is really more vital. Also, ATi and nVidia are at the mercy of third parties to provide basically their whole product, from materials to manufacture, whereas Intel and AMD own their own fabs.
     
  6. Sxotty

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    So dave do you have any idea what the chips actually cost to produce?

    I am curious what percentage is the memory, board, chip, engineering costs and so forth. The reason I wonder is that obviously then one could see what costs if lowered would reduce the price considerably.
     
  7. andypski

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    Many of the things you describe don't occur in VPUs, however there are plenty of other things that do.

    It certainly accesses all the memory that is attached to it, yes. From an individual program that you would write, typically no.
    Certainly has associative caches. Whether they're 8-way or not would be private implementation details.
    Might well be running an awful lot of threads.
    Every time it processes a new pixel?

    Let's pick out some more examples -

    Does a processor have a built in memory controller? (Well, I guess Opteron does now). Dual memory interface (AGP and local)? Display hardware? Video stream processing? IDCT? Full featured BitBLT with ROPs? Line drawing? Anti-aliasing? Hierarchical depth-culling? Colour compression? Depth compression? Texture decompression? Colourspace conversion? Input and output gamma correction? Primitive assembly? High order surface tessellation? Triangle rasterisation? Texturing? Trilinear filtering? Anisotropic filtering? Clipping? Scissoring? Overlay? Alpha blending? Fogging? Stencil buffering?

    How about doing all of these simultaneously? How about doing all of these simultaneously while also running vertex and pixel shading programs on multiple vectors?

    There's plenty of complexity in a VPU. A CPU's complexity is in the program. A VPU's is in all the many things that it does simultaneously to give you a high-speed graphics display.

    A CPU can do many of the above things, but it doesn't have dedicated hardware for it, and will do it extremely slowly. It's hard work making a VPU.

    - Andy.
     
  8. WaltC

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    I think it's the size of the markets. New cpu sales amount to ~100 million a year, +. The high-end 3D-card gaming market is probably < or = 5% of that annually. In fact, I'd estimate the whole 3D gaming market (from avid gamers buying 8-10 games a year to people who buy 1-2 games a year) is no greater than 15M worldwide at any given time. So I think the higher costs of the higher-end 3D cards reflect the need to make much higher profits per unit sold in order to drive R&D and because of the comparative size of the 9700P-class 3D market compared to the general cpu market at large.

    It's not really as different as it might seem, though. If I want to I can go out and buy a cpu from either Intel or AMD which costs a multiple of what my R9800P costs---not including the motherboard I might also have to buy to support those cpus. Volume and yields are a major part of the equation.
     
  9. Bambers

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    Also, a cpu is just pretty much that, a chip.

    On a graphics card you also have memory (fast and expensive stuff on high end boards) and a board to add to the cost.

    Take the cpu price and add at least the ram and possibly some of the mobo cost an now compare :)
     
  10. Nick

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    Ok it seems like there are lots of things about GPU architecture I don't understand:

    As far as I know the CPU's memory access method is a lot more complicated than a GPU's. It has to calculate addresses, look it up in the L1 cache, translate to physical address, lookup in L2 cache, generate a page interrupt when data is not in RAM, etc. As far as I know a GPU works with very limited caches, addresses are hardwired, unpaged and always physical. Overall less complicated and dedicated.
    That makes little sense to me. For example a texture cache doesn't need associativity because you only need texels close together. Or is there a unified cache for all texture units? In that case it would be logical but I expect every texture unit can have its own tiny cache. Don't know, just sounds most probable to me...
    Really? I thought a GPU just had hardwired control? Has this always been the case or only recently? I'm just wondering because else I would expect GPUs are usable for much more than rendering. If I understand correctly the GPU is just a bunch of SIMD units?
    Euh, you got me confused again. Can't that be hardwired? I mean, many GPUs have 4 pixel pipelines, not 4 pixel threads does it? I'm particularly interested in this because my software rendering project (see sig.) can't process pixels in complete parallel, and I though a GPU could.
    You answered your own question :wink: I thought a memory controller was not very complicated in design? All it has to do is generate row and colums signals from a linear address?
    Hmm, I'm getting intrigued. How is AGP handled? Does it contain control about where the data has to be stored on the card's memory or is that also directed by the GPU? Or am I completely wrong?
    You mean the RAMDAC? That's a separate chip which doesn't have to be very complicated as far as I know.
    Ok I don't really count that to the GPU, but you're right, nowadays it's also integrated on the chip. Isn't it implemented with a programmable DSP?
    Same as above? Doesn't really have anything to do with 3D rendering?
    A blit doesn't seem a complicated operation to me, and ROPs only need a basic ALU. Or I'm probably terribly wrong again...
    If I recall correctly, very little hardware has line drawing capabilities and most just draw a thin rectangle?
    Well I'm not up to date with anti-aliasing techniques, but super-sampling just requires a bigger frame buffer and color averaging (with gamma correction). The BitBLT unit could maybe help here?
    Let's see. All you need is a few comparators and calculating the addresses of the hierarchical depth buffers. Of course a lot more complicated than straightforward depth buffers but it doesn't seem like it needs a radical design change.
    Also seems like a 'plugins' that don't influence the rest of the chip much. So not too complicated.
    Really wouldn't know. Seems complicated :wink:
    Hardwired Bresenham algorithm and interpolators?
    Can also be done with dedicated units? Again this seems like a 'component' to me that hasn't changed much in 'functionality' over the years.
    I'm sure clipping also can be hardwired. Don't know anything about scissoring.
    Also seems like basic extensions of the pipelines...
    Doesn't every unit just work independently? It seems nowhere near as complicated as out-of-order execution where everything is shared and there are hundreds of exceptions. Just to mention a few: jump misprediction, register renaming, resource dependency, interrupts, monitoring, address generation interlock, locked instruction execution, blocking instructions, etc. There are no independent components that handle this.
    There surely is a lot of complexity in the microcode, but it wouldn't be complex if the hardware wasn't complex. In a GPU every unit can just work nearly independently. Control isn't influenced much by the states of other units. It just processes what comes in and passes it to the next unit. Again, I could be very wrong about this because I never learned GPU architecture at university, but that's how I see things. If I'm terribly wrong please correct me.
    Sure I never implied a GPU is 'easy', but I find it a bit unlogical to think it's more 'complicated' than a CPU. The way I see it, if you change one thing in a CPU, the whole design has to change. For a GPU it seems that certain things are completely reusable for every design and can relatively simply be extended in functionality without depending on the rest of the chip's implementation.

    I'm not sure of this, but I think a modern CPU, compared to a GPU with only one pipeline, has more 'functional' transistors. I mean leaving the caches and such aside. I'm sure a GPU can do thousands of operations per clock, but a CPU has hundreds of micro-instructions 'in flight'. But a main difference is that each of these micro-instructions can change the control of the whole pipeline. A GPU works much more 'linear' and computed results don't influence the execution of other parts of the chip directly.

    Thanks :oops:
     
  11. OpenGL guy

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    A lot of what you said about CPUs applies to GPUs as well. Except that what you said about "hardwired addresses". Huh? Nothing's hardwired in that way because addresses can change (textures/backbuffers/Z buffers can be in local or AGP at any available address within the address space).
    Associativity has little to do with locality and everything to do with multiple data sources.
    Even a single pixel pipeline could be multi-threaded. Imagine that you're doing 8 layer multitexturing. A single pixel will take a long time because you have to access 8 textures. If you waited for each texture before going to the next you would waste a lot of texture cache performance. Another way to do it is to have the pixel get the first texture, then work on the next pixel while the first is waiting for the next texture, and so on. You can expand this to pixel shaders too...
    Separate chip? We've had integrated RAMDACs for years.
    You seem to be under the impression that "hardwired" equals "simple" when that's not always the case.
    How many pixels do you think a GPU has a flight at any given moment? And functional transitors? How many ALUs does a P4 have? How many does an R300 have?
     
  12. RussSchultz

    RussSchultz Professional Malcontent
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    How many pixels ARE in flight at once?
     
  13. Dave Baumann

    Dave Baumann Gamerscore Wh...
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    You might want to read this for at least one implementation of memory addressing and as threading within a graphics processor.
     
  14. PSarge

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    Hundreds
     
  15. Nick

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    Sorry for taking this completey off-topic but I'm kindof intrigued...
    What I meant is that you have dedicated hardware for computing adresses, at virtually no cost. While on a Pentium 4 they have to be computed separately. But that was my idea of it before reading your answer. So a GPU also requires extra cycles for setting up, computing and incrementing addresses? It's still not virtual addresses, but very close...
    If data is very local and you only have one data source you don't need associativety, right? That was my idea of how a texture cache works, with every texture unit it's own cache. But apparently a unified cache is used?
    That second technique is what I referred to as pipelining. But I see that having 8 texturing stages isn't economical. So I see what you mean by treads. But are those threads on micro-instruction level (i.e. they are hard-coded control signals, in term controlled by certain variables like number of texture layers), or real instruction level threads like on a CPU?
    Oh, had a TNT2 for too long... :wink: But still it isn't really a complicated component, right? I mean in a CPU you have little that could be separated from the rest...
    No, of course not, but with a Pentium 4 nearly nothing is dedicated and therefore needs complicated control. But operations like bilinear filtering, does a GPU have specialized 'hardwired' units for that or does it also use fully programmable add and mul units?
    I know a lot about x86 programming and its architecture, but I really wouldn't know how a GPU works. Does it have instrutions like 'compute texel offset from u and v coordinates' (a very common operation) or is that micro-coded or is that hardwired? In my software renderer it's implemented with SIMD instructions, which in term are micro-coded. Is it similar on a GPU or does it have dedicated silicon for this operation, hardwired to the rest of the pipeline. I always thought the latter was the case, but can we really call it an ALU then? I must be way off here...

    But I still don't get a few things. If GPUs are nearly as versatile as a CPU, then why don't we have raytracing implemented on a Geforce, or at least ps 3.0 support? Do the driver developers have access to the finest control like micro-instructions or is it much more high-level? And on the other side, why the hell are CPUs so slow then and use so many transistors if they have a lot less execution units? I mean look at the die of a Pentium 4: A big portion of it is floating-point execution units, but they only do a few operations per clock, while a modern GPU has dozens of floating-point units on roughly the same die space? If this is really caused by the 'outdated' x86 architecture then how comes the competition doesn't have much faster CPUs?
     
  16. andypski

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    I'll try to cut this down a bit as it's rather long otherwise.

    Certainly memory accesses in VPUs may go through a less complex path. That wasn't what you asked about originally, though. ;)

    Don't you need associativity? Consider the multitexturing case - You can be accessing up to 16 different textures in a PS2.0 part - those textures can come from locations that immediately thrash each other in a direct-mapped cache. You won't get much benefit from caching if every texel you read evicts the ones you have...

    Is each pipeline necessarily running only one pixel thread? For example - how would I keep my execution units busy in a 4 pipeline architecture if the execution units have a latency of, say, 5 clocks and instructions are co-dependent in a single dependency chain?

    It's not just physical memory control. Arbitration of requests between different clients must be managed efficiently to keep the system operating effectively, also ensuring that there are no deadlock cases or examples where high-priority clients can completely starve low-priority ones.

    A VPU can be trying to do a lot of memory operations every cycle. Think depth-fetch, colour-fetch, vertex-fetch, texture-fetch, colour-write, z-write, 2D blit, command fetch...

    My understanding is that AGP requests go through the GART translation on the host, however a memory interface optimised entirely for local memory will be poor with AGP memory because of the very long latencies involved.

    So? It's all extra. All not included in a typical CPU. All of this stuff has to go on every VPU. Some of it is changed extensively from generation to generation, some parts less so.

    Many things sound simple - branch prediction sounds simple - you have a table of known branch locations and the current results of prediction. As you take/don't take the branch you alter your expectations of what happens the next time you see that branch.

    I'm sure that Intel would tell me that there's a little more to it than that though. ;)

    Multi-sampling requires more. Jittered sparse grid multisampling requires more still. Gamma-corrected sparse grid multisampling with colour and depth compression requires more still. All of this has to be invented, architected, designed, implemented, verified, performance optimised...

    I guarantee that it was a radical design change when it was first implemented. Just like instruction or data caching on CPUs were major design changes when they first appeared.

    The depth buffer interacts with the pixel shader, doesn't it? After all the pixel shader can generate Z values. Does the Z check happen pre or post shading? There's more complex control involved than you seem to think.

    You could say that instruction scheduling is a plugin that doesn't affect the rest of the chip much, it just makes it run more efficiently by choosing a better order to execute an instruction stream.

    In reality that's a complete fallacy. One section of a design almost always affects others, often in terms of the amount of performance they must provide if nothing else. I may decide to split a single pipe design into a dual pipe one. Then I might call the pipes U and V, and make V less capable than U because my analysis shows that to get a good speedup on most common applications I only need to have a subset of instructions execute in V to frequently get a dual issue. Is this a small change? No, because with my increased performance I now have to redesign my entire back-end interface to deal with up to twice the amount of data being generated each cycle. I have to redesign my entire front end to avoid starving the execution pipes.

    Nothing is truly separate. Everything is connected.

    eg. Mightn't the addition of stencil completely change how my depth unit has to work?

    I think you'll find that every element of VPUs changes at least as much between generations as their CPU equivalents. The basic functions of these units are well understood, but this doesn't prevent there being innovation and redesign in each generation.

    No. Every unit works together in a complex execution stream that has to be appropriately balanced for each new design to eliminate bottlenecks and get the highest efficiency of execution. How much buffering do I need? How many pixels and vertices do I have in flight? How many Z calculations do I do each clock? How many pixels do I work on? How wide are my data paths? How do I keep performance up when doing indirected texture accesses?

    Yes - this is all very complex, and there is no doubt that it makes modern CPU design a very complex thing.

    I expect that at least as much stuff is redesigned between each VPU generation as between each CPU generation.

    If you leave the caches aside most of the transistors from a modern CPU are gone ;) (That may be a joke, but it has more than an element of truth about it)

    Your point is taken. Certain elements of CPU design are much more complex in terms of overall internal control than VPUs. I don't think that you're right about a CPU having more 'functional' transistors though.

    How many transistors does a P4 have? Around 55 million? How much of that is cache?

    How many transistors does a Radeon 9700 have? Around 100 Million. how much of that is cache?
     
  17. Dio

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    I think the point is this. Both sides of the argument seem to be 'Your difficult bits are simple, while my difficult bits are difficult'. It's a reasonably pointless argument. Both CPU's and VPU's are very complicated.

    But to throw in my 5p: as far as I can see, the 'architectural' aspects of the CPU aren't particularly complex. The data paths are generally simpler. There's less communication, and communication requires protocols and synchronisation, and that's difficult.

    Where the CPU is vastly more complex than the VPU is when it comes to proved correctness (particularly around the complex edges of the x86 ISA - look at the number of Intel and AMD errata involving things like interrupt-during-TSS), and the extensive design engineering required to achieve clock rates more than five times what a VPU achieves. Both those are huge, difficult jobs - but probably relatively cheap in terms of silicon area.

    Coming back to the original point of this thread: as someone who has seen a heatsinkless R300, and a heatsinkless Athlon XP, I know which is smaller. It ain't the Athlon.
     
  18. Dave H

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    Blah Blah Blah.

    A ground-up implementation of a world-class high-performance CPU (concept, design, simulation, layout, debugging, fabbing, and testing) would take several times (WAG roughly 5x) the engineer man-hours as for a world-class high-performance GPU. Of course neither is designed from scratch each time around, but the ratio for the iterative design process they do undergo would be about the same.

    CPUs are more complex than GPUs.
     
  19. Nick

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    I'll try to cut it down too :) I'm beginning to realize that I'm greatly underestimating modern VPU design, and I was still thinking that roughly the same architecture as a TNT2 is still used. :oops:

    Oh, sorry if that wasn't clear, but it's indeed what I meant. VPU memory access is a lot more direct. To add a bit to the picture: a CPU also has to respect read/write protection and privelages.

    My error. I thought every sampler had its own cache...

    I read things like "card X has N pixel pipelines and thus generates N pixels per clock". So I still don't get it: what exactly are these pipelines? Does having four pipelines just means you have four independent execution units of every type? :oops:

    So, first come first serve doesn't work? I think I get it... if the front end desperately needs data to keep the pipeline full, it gets prioritized.

    I think that's my biggest problem. I completely can't keep the different generations apart.


    Yummy, now I -definitely- want to become a driver developer when I graduate. :wink:

    How about this: move all pixel shader instructions involved in the calculation of 'oDepth' to the begin of the shader. As soon as 'mov oDpeth, ...' is executed you compare it to the z-buffer... no? That's how I migth optimize it with my emulator. But in hardware things will probably go different...

    Thanks, that really opened my eyes! :shock:

    I'm just starting to realize how 'simple' my software renderer is. :oops: Nothing is really computed in parallel and I don't have to worry about load balancing.

    Roughly half of a Pentium is cache... so lets say 25 million functional transistors. A Radeon 9700's cache is probably negligible, but it has 8 pipelines so it only has a complexity of 12.5 million transistors? :lol:

    Got to sleep now... Thanks for all the answers!
     
  20. Dave H

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    Me too.
     
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