It has become apparent that ATI will be releasing a refresh to their X800 line of graphics processors. It’s codenamed R480, and is said to be PCI-Express only for the time being. The R480 will replace the X800 XT and X800 XT Platinum Edition as ATI’s flagship graphics processor. It will come in two flavours at two different clock speeds, much like the difference between the X800 XT and X800 XT Platinum Edition - we place our bets on it being known as the X900 series. It will be based on their 110nm fabrication process that we have seen used, with varying success on the X700 series. We understand that the X700’s fabrication process has undergone a re-spin, so it is likely that we will see speeds in excess of the X800 XT Platinum Edition’s 520MHz core. The new fabrication process does not feature low-K; but with the reduction in size, we can expect to see clock speeds in excess of 520MHz. This is simply because it would have to run faster than the X800 XT Platinum Edition, which is ATI’s currently unavailable flagship product. It’s also likely that ATI will opt for faster memory than the current 1120MHz X800 XT Platinum Edition’s speeds, but one has to question the cost implications for running with even faster memory. There are currently 1400MHz memory chips available at the moment, but we don’t know what sort of volume there is. You can find out about these speedy chips from Samsung over here. There is currently no X800 PRO on PCI-Express, but the gap is likely to be filled with the R430 core. We suspect that this chip will have a similar clock speed to the X800 XT PCI-Express, which is based on the R423 core at 130nm. It would come as a surprise to us if this chip weren’t based around the same 110nm fabrication process used on the R480. This chip will be designed to compete and take market share from NVIDIA’s very successful GeForce 6800GT. As for AGP users, we’re not too sure when there will be replacements for the R420-based X800 XT Platinum Edition, X800 XT and X800 PRO graphics boards, but we’re under the impression that they won’t appear this side of the New Year. It’s likely that ATI will bridge back from PCI-Express to AGP in Q1 2005 with a bridge chip similar to what NVIDIA bridged from AGP to PCI-Express with. This caused a huge uproar between the two graphics companies, so it’s interesting to see that ATI are following in NVIDIA’s footsteps by implementing a bridge chip to allow them to bridge from one interface to the other. We do feel that bridging back from PCI-Express to AGP makes the most sense, as there’s garaunteed to be no problems with lack of bandwidth from the bridged interface. This is when we are likely to see R480, and maybe R430, bridged back to AGP for us die-hard AGP lovers.