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Radeon Graphics
AMD Radeon logo
Release date 2000
Models Radeon 7000 Series
Fabrication process and transistors 30M 180 nm (R100)
  • 60M 150nm (R200)
  • 117M 150nm (R360)
  • 120M 110nm (RV410)
  • 160M 130 nm (R481)
  • 384M 80nm (R580)
  • 666M 55nm (RV670)
  • 700M 80nm (R600)
  • 959M 55nm (RV790)
  • 2,154M 40nm (Cypress)
  • 2,640M 40nm (Cayman)
  • 4,313M 28nm (Tahiti)
  • 6,200M 28nm (Hawaii)

Radeon /ˈrdɒn/ is a brand of graphics processing units and random-access memory produced by Advanced Micro Devices. The brand was launched in 2000 by ATI Technologies, which was acquired by AMD in 2006. Radeon is the successor to the Rage line. Three different families of microarchitectures can be roughly distinguished, the fixed-pipeline family and the unified shader model-families of TeraScale and Graphics Core Next. ATI/AMD have developed different technologies, such as TruForm, HyperMemory, HyperZ, XGP, Eyefinity for multi-monitor setups, PowerPlay for power-saving, CrossFire (for multi-GPU) or Hybrid Graphics. A range of SIP blocks is also to be found on certain models in the Radeon products line: Unified Video Decoder, Video Codec Engine and TrueAudio.

Card brands[edit]

Though it did at one time, AMD does not distribute Radeon cards directly to consumers. Instead, it sells Radeon GPUs to third-party manufacturers, who build and sell the Radeon-based video cards to the OEM and retail channels. Manufacturers of the Radeon cards --- some of whom also make motherboards—include Sapphire, XFX, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Biostar, Gainward, Diamond, HIS, PowerColor, Club 3D, VisionTek and Force3D.

Graphics processor generations[edit]

Early generations were identified with a number and major/minor alphabetic prefix. Later generations were assigned code names. New or heavily redesigned architectures have a prefix of R (e.g., R300 or R600) while slight modifications are indicated by the RV prefix (e.g., RV370 or RV635).

The first derivative architecture, RV200, did not follow the scheme used by later parts.

Fixed-pipeline family[edit]


The Radeon, first introduced in 2000, was ATI's first graphics processor to be fully DirectX 7 compliant. R100 brought with it large gains in bandwidth and fill-rate efficiency through the new HyperZ technology.

The RV200 was a die-shrink of the former R100 with some core logic tweaks for clockspeed, introduced in 2001. The only release in this generation was the Radeon 7500, which introduced little in the way of new features but offered substantial performance improvements over its predecessors.


ATI's second generation Radeon included a sophisticated pixel shader architecture. This chipset implemented Microsoft's pixel shader 1.4 specification for the first time.

Its performance relative to competitors was widely perceived as weak, and subsequent revisions of this generation were cancelled in order to focus on development of the next generation.


The R300 was the first GPU to fully support Microsoft's DirectX 9.0 technology upon its release in 2002. It incorporated fully programmable pixel and vertex shaders.

About a year later, the architecture was revised to allow for higher frequencies, more efficient memory access, and several other improvements in the R350 family. A budget line of RV350 products was based on this refreshed design with some elements disabled or removed.

Models using the new PCI Express interface were introduced in 2004. Using 110-nm and 130-nm manufacturing technologies under the X300 and X600 names, respectively, the RV370 and RV380 graphics processors were used extensively by consumer PC manufacturers.


While heavily based upon the previous generation, this line included extensions to the Shader Model 2 feature-set. Shader Model 2b, the specification ATI and Microsoft defined with this generation, offered somewhat more shader program flexibility...


ATI's DirectX 9.0c series of graphics cards, with complete Shader Model 3.0 support. Launched in October 2005, this series brought a number of enhancements including the floating point render target technology necessary for HDR rendering with anti-aliasing.



ATI's first series of GPUs to replace the old fixed-pipeline and implement unified shader model. Subsequent revisions tuned the design for higher performance and energy efficiency, resulting in the ATI Mobility Radeon HD series for mobile computers.


Based on the R600 architecture. Mostly a bolstered with many more stream processors, with improvements to power consumption and GDDR5 support for the high-end RV770 and RV740(HD4770) chips. It arrived in late June 2008. The HD 4850 and HD 4870 have 800 stream processors and GDDR3 and GDDR5 memory, respectively. The 4890 was a refresh of 4870 with the same amount of stream processors yet higher clock rates due to refinements. The 4870x2 has 1600 stream processors and GDDR5 memory on an effective 512-bit memory bus with 230.4 Gbit/s video memory bandwidth available.


The series was launched on September 23, 2009. It featured a 40 nm fabrication process for the entire product line (only the HD4770 (RV740) was built on this process previously), with more stream cores and compatibility with the next major version of the DirectX API, DirectX 11, which launched on October 22, 2009 along with Microsoft Windows 7. The Rxxx/RVxxx codename scheme was scrapped entirely. The initial launched consisted of only the 5870 and 5850 models. ATI released beta drivers that introduces full OpenGL 4.0 support on the all variants of this series in March 2010.[1]

Northern Islands[edit]

This is the first series to be marketed solely under the "AMD" brand. It features a 3rd generation 40 nm design, rebalancing the existing architecture with redesigned shaders to give it better performance. It was released first on October 22, 2010, in the form of the 6850 and 6870. 3D output is enabled with HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.2 outputs.

Graphics Core Next-family[edit]

Southern Islands[edit]

Features a new compute microarchitecture known as "Graphics Core Next", along with the VLIW5 architecture utilized in the previous generation. The first card, the Radeon HD 7970, was released on January 9, 2012.

Volcanic Islands[edit]

The Radeon Rx 200 line is based on AMD's GCN 1.1 and has been released in late 2013.[2] However only the R9 290x/290 & R7 260X/260 are GCN 1.1 based, the rest of the line-up is based on re-branded Southern Islands GPUs.[3]

Technology Overview[edit]

Some generations vary from their predecessors predominantly due to architectural improvements, while others were adapted primarily to new manufacturing processes with fewer functional changes. The table below summarizes the technologies supported in hardware in each Radeon generation. A detailed comparison of hardware specifications is also available. Also see AMD FireStream and AMD FirePro branded products.

Chip series Microarchitecture Fab Supported APIs Models
rendering computing
Mantle OpenGL Direct3D HSA OpenCL Close to Metal
R100 fixed-pipeline 180 nm No 1.3 7.0 No TODO TODO Original "ATI Radeon", as well as Radeon DDR, 7000, VE, and LE models.
RV200 150 nm The only release was the Radeon 7500.
R200 1.4 8.1 Radeon 8500, 9000, 9200 and 9250.
R300/R350 2.0 9.0 Radeon 9500–9800, and X1050.
RV370/RV380 110 nm
130 nm
Radeon X300, X550, X600.
R420 130 nm 9.0b Radeon X700–X850.
R520 90 nm
80 nm
9.0c Radeon X1300–X1950.
R600 TeraScale 1 65 nm 3.3 10.0 Radeon HD 2000 series.
RV635/RV620 55 nm 10.0 Radeon HD 3450-3650, Radeon Mobility HD 2000 and 3000 series.
RV670 10.1 Radeon HD 3690-3870.
R700 10.1 Radeon HD 4000 Series-branded
Evergreen TeraScale 2 40 nm 4.3 11.0 Radeon HD 5000 Series-branded
Northern Islands TeraScale 3 Radeon HD 6000 series, and IGP 7000 series
Southern Islands GCN 1.0 28 nm Yes 11.2 Yes Bulk of Radeon HD 7000 series[4]
Sea Islands 28 nm Radeon HD 8000 series, and HD 7790[4]
Volcanic Islands GCN 1.1 28 nm AMD Radeon Rx 200 Series-branded
Pirates Islands TBA 20 nm TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA AMD Radeon Rx 300 Series-branded


Graphics device drivers[edit]

AMD's proprietary graphics device driver "Catalyst"[edit]

Main article: AMD Catalyst

Unofficial modifications such as Omega drivers and DNA drivers were available. These drivers typically consist of mixtures of various driver file versions with some registry variables altered and are advertised as offering superior performance or image quality. They are, of course, unsupported, and as such, are not guaranteed to function correctly. Some of them also provide modified system files for hardware enthusiasts to run specific graphics cards outside of their specifications.

Catalyst on operating systems[edit]

At GDC 2014 AMD revealed their plans to make the user-space components of AMD Catalyst for Linux, here named libGL-fglrx-glx abandon its binary blob component and use libDRM/DRM/KMS driver together with Mesa 3D instead.[7]

AMD Catalyst is being developed for Microsoft Windows and Linux. As of July 2014, other operating system are not officially supported. This may be different for the AMD FirePro brand, which is based on identical hardware but features OpenGL-certified graphics device drivers.

ATI previously offered driver updates for their retail and integrated Macintosh video cards and chipsets. ATI stopped support for Mac OS 9 after the Radeon R200 cards, making the last officially supported card the Radeon 9250. The Radeon R100 cards up to the Radeon 7200 can still be used with even older Mac OS versions such as System 7, although not all features are taken advantage of by the older operating system.[8]

Ever since ATI's acquisition by AMD, ATI no longer supplies or supports drivers for Mac OS Classic nor OS X. OS X drivers can be downloaded from Apple's support website, while Mac OS Classic drivers can be obtained from 3rd party websites that host the older drivers for users to download. ATI used to provide a preference panel for use in OS X called ATI Displays which can be used both with retail and OEM versions of its cards. Though it gives more control over advanced features of the graphics chipset, ATI Displays has limited functionality compared to Catalyst for Windows or Linux.

Catalyst-supported features[edit]

AMD Catalyst supports of course all features advertised for the Radeon brand.

Free and open-source graphics device driver "Radeon"[edit]


The free and open-source for Direct Rendering Infrastructure has been under constant development by the Linux kernel developers, by 3rd party programming enthusiasts and by AMD employees. It is composed out of five parts:

  1. Linux kernel component DRM
    • this part received dynamic re-clocking support in Linux kernel version 3.12 and its performance has become comparable to that of AMD Catalyst
  2. Linux kernel component KMS driver: basically the device driver for the display controller
  3. user-space component libDRM
  4. user-space component in Mesa 3D; currently most of these components are written conforming to the Gallium3D-specifications.
    • all drivers in Mesa 3D are as of July 2014 limited to OpenGL version 3.3.
  5. a special and distinct 2D graphics device driver for X.Org Server, which if finally about to be replaced by Glamor

Supported features[edit]

The free and open-source driver supports many of the features available in Radeon-branded cards and APUs, such as multi-monitor or hybrid graphics.


The free and open-source drivers are primarily developed on Linux and for Linux.

Other operating systems[edit]

Being entirely free and open-source software, the free and open-source drivers can be ported to any existing operating system. Whether they have been, and to what extent depends entirely on the man-power available. Available support shall be referenced here.

FreeBSD adopted DRI, and since Mesa 3D is not programmed for Linux, it should have identical support.[citation needed]

MorphOS supports 2D and 3D acceleration for Radeon R100, R200 and R300 chipsets.[10]

AmigaOS 4 supports Radeon R100, R200, R300 [11] , R520 (X1000 Series), R700 (HD 4000 Series), HD 5000 (Evergreen) series, HD 6000 (Northern Islands) series and HD 7000 (Southern Islands) series. [12] The RadeonHD AmigaOS 4 driver has been developed by Hans de Ruiter[13] and exclusively funded by and licensed to A-EON Technology Ltd.

In the past ATI provided hardware and technical documentation to the Haiku Project to produce drivers with full 2D and video in/out support on older Radeon chipsets (up to R500) for Haiku. A new Radeon HD driver was developed with the unofficial and indirect guidance of AMD open source engineers and currently exists in recent Haiku versions. The new Radeon HD driver supports native mode setting on R600 through Southern Islands GPU's.[14]

See also[edit]

  • AMD FirePro – brand for professional product line based on Radeon GPUs
  • AMD FireStream – brand for stream processing and GPGPU based on Radeon GPUs
  • AMD FireMV – brand for multi-monitor product line based on Radeon GPUs


  1. ^ "Ready, Willing and Able – AMD Supports OpenGL 3.3 and OpenGL 4.0 | AMD Developer Central Blogs". Blogs.amd.com. 2010-03-25. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  2. ^ Pop, Sebastian (30 September 2013). "Launch Date Revealed for AMD Radeon R9 290X Hawaii Graphics Card". Softpedia. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  3. ^ http://www.anandtech.com/show/7457/the-radeon-r9-290x-review/2
  4. ^ a b "RadeonFeature". Xorg.freedesktop.org. Retrieved 2013-11-10. 
  5. ^ "Graphics Core Next: The Southern Islands Architecture". Tom's Hardware. 2011-12-21. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  6. ^ "AMD Clarifies 2013 Radeon Plans". Tom's Hardware. 2013-02-20. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  7. ^ "AMD exploring new Linux driver Strategy". 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  8. ^ "System 7 Today - High Power 3D Video Cards". Main.system7today.com. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  9. ^ "RadeonFeature". Xorg.freedesktop.org. Retrieved 2014-07-06. 
  10. ^ "Supported hardware - MorphOS". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  11. ^ "AmigaOS 4.1 Hardware Compatibility List". Acube Systems. 2012-11-25. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  12. ^ "http://www.a-eon.com/?news=27-03-2014". A-Eon Technology. 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  13. ^ "RadeonHD Driver". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  14. ^ "Haiku Radeon HD driver". Retrieved 2013-03-06. 

External links[edit]