GeCube talk dual RV100, Gemini, R600 and more in exclusive chat with HEXUS
Once or twice during shows like Computex, you get the chance to sit down with a guy or a gal who has real influence over the direction of a company that's creating genuinely interesting products. Larry Yeo, GeCube's General Manager, is one such guy.
I had the chance to meet with Larry yesterday and chat about the graphics business, GeCube's relationship with ATI, new and upcoming products and more. Here's the juicy tidbits.
What Larry was keen to point out is that while they're happy rolling out the default SKUs passed down by ATI, they also like to do something a bit different, be it with cooling (GeCube's Uniwise heatpipe coolers for example) or completely different SKUs they invent on their own, that ATI have nothing to do with.
ATI's current product range only serves certain markets, and while GeCube's sales are set to top 2 million units in 2006, all going well and up from 1.2 million in '05, Larry wants to branch out a bit and serve the emerging and configuration-conscious markets like India and China, who are less receptive to a high-end Crossfire configuration than most.
Larry is a war-worn veteran of the graphics business, coming from PowerColor (as General Manager) to form Gigabyte's graphics business, which was then spun off into Infotek, of which GeCube is the consumer facing presence. That seems to give him insight into what works best for the markets he's after, be it the enthusiast or otherwise.
He first showed me a board that pairs two Radeon 7000 processors (D3D7, PCI bus and circa 2001) and a VIA USB controller, all connected to the system via a custom PCI bridge. Each RV100 GPU then serves two digital display outputs via standard HDMI connectors (the latest digital interface that carries video and audio). However those HDMI connectors have been bastardised so that the audio pins carry USB instead, via the VIA.
That's right, four digital display outputs and four USB connections, via reassigned modern HDMI. Combined with software GeCube are developing in-house and you have a single card for a low cost PC that facilitates multi-user access to the OS for four users. Custom cables connect to the HDMI ports and provide DVI and USB for keyboard and mouse.
Targetted first at the data-entry market in India, GeCube have single customers in that country ordering north of 15,000 pieces at a time, to serve their companies and lower PC use costs. That's outside-the-box example number one.
Next we talked about bringing the Radeon X1000-series to PCI (yes, good ol' 32-bit, 33MHz PCI 2.2, now known as PCI Conventional or PCIc), via a variant of Rialto that GeCube developed in-house. Larry sees significant demand for a board carrying a modern GPU, for use with current CATALYST display drivers, that simply exists to add two more display outputs to a PC.
ATI have no workable reference design for that, but GeCube are doing it anyway. Sub $100 with RV505/RV515 at the helm, GeCube are having a go to help serve a market that wants high-quality 2D output, and lots of it.
Example number three is the recently reworked Gemini board, sporting two XT-spec RV530 GPUs teamed to create single-board Crossfire. A single-slot cooler keeps it all happy, GeCube more than happy to provide something an extra step above what's out there for Crossfire right now, Larry bullish about its prospects and proud of his engineers' efforts in making it happen.
Coming to market at the end of July, Larry looks forward to an RV560 or RV570 version as soon as silicon hits him from ATI at the end of this month.
As for R600, he's tasked Jeff Fu with an innovative cooling solution for a high-end GPU he describes as "very very hot", and they're both convinced the market will be very happy with what's coming. From what I've seen, as Jeff finalises some placement issues, it'll be worth waiting for when it arrives decently before Christmas.
A quick but interesting chat with a graphics AIB chief that's happy to rock and roll with the usual bits and pieces, but has the balls to give something different a go from time to time. If only some of the others were as brave, trying different non-reference products and innovating with board cooling to give the customer something worth a squirt.