How the Xbox 360 affects PC gamers

"48 pipelines is simply bonkers."

The graphics system uses the R500 GPU from ATI. Whilst all sorts of information has been flying round, here's what we know. R500 is an Xbox-only chip. R520, ATI's next PC part, is nothing like it. It won't be until R600 - possibly this time next year, or even early 2007 - that we see the Xbox-esque features on the PC. The GPU itself uses a unified shader architecture. That is, unlike PC graphics boards - which use a pixel shader pipeline and vertex shader pipeline - just one pipeline is used for both, which will, it is said, lead to more efficient programming and better performance. This is the one aspect of the Xbox 360 that has been debated already. Nvidia have gone on record as saying that they think a unified shader architecture is a bad idea, whilst ATI have gone on record as saying they think it's the way forward for PC graphics. Unfortunately for Nvidia, it's really Microsoft, with the DirectX specification (soon to be renamed Windows Graphics Foundation, when Longhorn finallly turns up) that writes the rules. Whilst WGF will support separate pixel and vertex pipelines, there can be little doubt that the coding will favour a unified architecture, and consequently, ATI.

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