As is the case this time of the year and although the new boards from the biggest graphics manufacturers have not yet produced their full impact on the market, information about the next board design is begining to surface.
The originally expected R400 will not be the follow-up design to the very successful R300, instead ATI's new boards will be based on a core codenamed Loki - R420.
Loki, a Norse Deity responsible for Fire and Magic, will be the first major change to the R300 core which, in the mean time, will see two new speed bumps, the R350 and R360. ATI have, traditionally, never introduced a new board which didn't offer at least a two-fold speed and performance increase, so it is natural to expect the new boards to be at least twice as fast as the 9800 PRO. The new design is expected to premiere at this years Comdex show in November but shouldn't hit store shelves before early 2004.
Now to the specs, the new core will consist of between 110 to 150 million transistors and will feature hardware support for both Pixel Shader 3.0 and Vertex Shader 3.0, offering greater flexibility to programmers. Details of the memory used by the R420 have not yet surfaced but a safe bet would be the use of GDDR2.
The big question about the new boards however, concerns their use of PCI Express. If the cards are released in Q1, 2004, as suggested, there will still be no support for PCI Express. ATI are reported to have solved that problem by offering the first manifestations of the R420 with a PCI Express to AGP bridge and waiting until Q2, 2004 for the first pure PCI Express R420 boards.
All this while nVidia are fervently working on their new design, the NV40. Stay here for details as soon as they appear.