Monday, December 19, 2005

Is ´Fast14´ the last secret?

I have been alerted to another interesting aspect that may feature in the Revolution. Product_Number_18 came across the keyword ´Fast14´, which turns out to be a ´dynamic logic process´ which makes for an extremely efficient chip architecture. Its inventors, a company called Intrinsity, claim that it improves the speed by two to three times:
Fast14® Technology (is) a unique style of digital logic that delivers multi-GHz performance from standard CMOS manufacturing processes. Ordinarily, such high performance logic requires large teams of engineers that spend years producing handcrafted custom circuits. With over 60 patents issued, Intrinsity's chip design technology delivers power efficient, multi-GHz performance in a highly automated design flow enabling quick time to market from small design teams.
In February 2004, Intrinsity signed a deal with ATI, licensing this technology to them. Here is what ATI said about this deal in an Intrinsity press release:
"We're combining ATI's pioneering leadership in consumer technologies with Intrinsity's proven chip-design technology to create innovative products with stunning levels of visualization and integration," said Bob Feldstein, Vice President of Engineering, ATI Technologies, Inc. "We selected Intrinsity after determining that Fast14 Technology can deliver up to four times the performance per silicon dollar when compared with standard design approaches."
Subsequently, the Xbox forums went haywire about the possibility that ´Fast14´ might be included in the Xbox360 (then tentatively titled ´Xbox 2´). Immediately after the licensing deal, The Inquirer wrote:
Now let's put the pieces all together. Microsoft has chosen IBM, a long time maker of mainframes and supercomputers to manufacture the XBOX 2's CPU...a variant of the Power4 CPU known as the G5. It is high performance and highly efficient, and thus much cooler than any X-86 chip which allows a multi-CPU design to be put into a much smaller form factor than a comparable multi X-86 design. The G5 has embedded in it a Vector Math unit which processes multimedia instructions much like Intel's SSE instructions. (...) Enter now the graphics chip side of things. The new ATI GPU using Intrensity's Fast14 dynamic logic process is a fantastic technological compliment to IBM's G5.
To my knowledge, there was no mention of the Xenon chip in the Xbox360 utilizing this kind of technology. In fact, there is no mention of this in any hardware forum, which I regard as proof that Xenon does not draw on ´Fast14´ technology.

Now think: Microsoft and Nintendo have identical partners for their CPU and GPU. The Revolution´s CPU (codenamed Broadway) will also be based on a G5 chip. So, the Revolution´s GPU (codenamed Hollywood) may indeed feature ´Fast14´ technology. In fact, seeing how the Revolution will be underpowered compared to its competitors, it would make perfect sense.

The critically minded should consider that there is no mention of ´Fast14´ on ATI´s website. Since the licensing agreement is obviously still valid, this would suggest that ATI wants to keep work on these chips under wraps. Again, this would make perfect sense if related to the Nintendo Revolution. For more hardware-minded people, there is a semi-understandable description of ´Fast14´ over at BDTI.

Sources: Intrinsity, Intrinsity, The Inquirer, The Inquirer, Chairman Steve
Thanks to: Product_Number_18


Falafelkid said...

Oh, and just for the record: I am not too excited about the announcement that Reggie Fils-Aime will speak at the DICE summit in February. (See I am sure that NCL will not allow NOA to reveal anything substantial about the Revolution. There may be tidbits, but no more. That´s why this story does not warrant the attention it´s getting, I think.

The Fast14 story, on the other hand, deserves to be discussed. The more I think about it, the more it seems plausible.

Arsenis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Falafelkid said...

Hi Arsenis. This is much more than any old speculation. First of all, ATI has access to this technology, but they haven´t used it yet. Experts say it will complement an IBM G5 CPU perfectly (which the Rev will feature). And, finally, the Revolution will be underpowered when compared to the competition, but the graphics are said to be on par. This is pretty good evidence for suggesting that Fast14 technology will be what the Hollywood GPU is based on.

Pekka said...

Perhaps in Microsoft's case there simply wasn't time to take advantage of this?

Ati is launching their next generation R520 card in late July, and there is speculation that they'll use fast14 architecture. If Revolution launches around the same time or later, I don't see why not.

Falafelkid said...

Hi Pekka. In hardware forums, people write that with Fast14, the R520 could easil reach clock speeds in excess of 700 MHz. How about that for speed?

Pekka said...

It says something that their current fastest line runs only at 625 MHz.

I'm guessing that if Nintendo is using Fast14 technology, they're not using it for the high-end graphics but rather low-cost manufacturing. The goal being on par with the competition but with less in terms of expense.

Exciting stuff, nonetheless.

Revaen said...

Wuoldn't that make the price of the Revolution more costly to build and sale? I realy dout this
fast14 to be a componet for the Revolution. Nintendo doesn't seem to be trying very hard to amp the power of the system, they dont seem to care much fot that sorta thing.

Falafelkid said...

Hi Revean. Obviously, they DO care about this kind of thing to some extent. They don´t want to be better than the competition, but they realise the necessity to be roughly on par. Just look at the GameCube. You wouldn´t realise from the system specs, but it´s still a console that is easily on par with the other consoles, even Xbox. Also, manufacturing Fast14 chips may not be that much more expensive. Consider the millions of dollars Nintendo spent on research. They are obviously keen on producing a state of the art system. They just don´t want to subsidize their consoles heavily for pumping out technology that may not be what gamers want (Blu Ray, HD, terraflops of performance).

Grandmaster B said...

I dont know much about the IC's it may have, power drawing out from it & so on but it may have something to do with making the system smaller as well and is why it maybe chosen.

Niwre said...

"Consider the millions of dollars Nintendo spent on research. They are obviously keen on producing a state of the art system."

Word is Nintendo was working on 'Gamecube 2', when Iwata cancelled the project and came up with Revolution. :)

Falafelkid said...

Yup, there were rumours like that. But there was no evidence whatsoever for them, I believe. I don´t think that was the case. The claim was that they changed plans as late as 2004 and I think that is completely unrealistic from both an economic and development point of view.

Falafelkid said...

In other forums, people have wanted clarification on the issue of whether this technology would improve speed or power. I looked around for a better description and here is one, courtesy of

Fast14 technology enables semiconductor logic to run at very high clock rates while using standard design tools. According to Intrinsity, circuit designers using Fast14 can be more productive, allowing them to design processors that can run at high clock rates without the tedious hand-tuning that larger companies, like Intel and AMD, use.

I hope that clears it up. Fast14 is using dynamic logic when building chips, enabling a largely automated design process rather than requiring a large team of engineers. The outcome is a GPU with a much higher clock speed than you would have gotten out of the same size team and, hence, budget. So we really should be talking clock speeds here, though obviously that does relate to power. But as Pekka pointed out: "they're not using it for the high-end graphics but rather low-cost manufacturing". I believe so too.

saviorofhyrule said...

In relation to the uh, Reggie gaming session thing, I thought this was interesting:

Click Here

Taylor said...

Wouldn't the speed of this hyper-efficient GPU be bottlenecked by the slow CPU speed? I remember installing a GeForce 3 on a computer with a 433 Celeron (hey, the GeForce 3 was fucking FAST at the time), and in spite of that card's best efforts, it couldn't muster the speed boost I had hoped for. It played ZSNES well, though, and that's all that matters, anyway.

Federline OUT!

Anonymous said...

Famitsu Editors blog. -scans.

Anonymous said...

Pekka said...

Google Cache has some discussion about this subject. link

Some highlights:

- *Notice it does not say "4 times faster than existing silicon," but says "up to four times the performance per silicon dollar compared with existing design approaches." This makes me think we are talking about a design technique which isn't necessarily 4x faster, but might be 4x cheaper, instead.

- It sounds like as future chips become ever more complex and expensive, design technologies like FAST14 will make the difference between a chip being economically viable to build or or not.

- No more hand-tuning necessary, hence faster design times.

Where did you find those?

The Toyshop video can be downloaded from ATI's demopage. It even shows parallax occlusion mapping on the cobblestone.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hyperlink that actually works

Blizz419 said...

very cool stuff but i question the validity of these Ati/Nintendo hollywood demo pics

Anonymous said...

Fixed..I think

No clue where they came from. Someone linked to them from a message board a few days ago.
Two are supposedly from a PDF file, the big one was linked to a site that didn't allow hyperlinking of images, so the link was edited and re-hosted elsewhere.
Not sure what site it was originally.

Red Bull and Vodka said...


The big serect has nothing to do with graphics, GHz or processing power!!!



Nintendo don't care about graphics!!!


When did Nintendo care about graphics? We have only ever heard the exact opposite from them since the days of the samurai...

C'mon, guys. Aren't you grasping at straws here?


Well researched and an interesting read, but not relevant to the Revolution or it's secret in my humble opinion.

Everyone at Nintendo, and all other developers in the know, have said publically, that the Revolution will only be three to four times more powerful than the GameCube. If Revolution games look three to four times better than RE4, then I'll be happy, won't you?

"But what about 'Hollywood' and 'Broadway'", I hear you cry. "Why are they making a big noise about them?"

Well, do you remember 'Flipper' and 'The Emotion Engine'? Guess what - Big, big noise, but no pants when finally revealed. They're simply chips that do stuff better than we did before. No ground-breaking technology - just public relations giving things a cool name. It can't be reffered to as a new Chipset, new GPU or a new Silicon thing-ama-jig. People wouldn't care, but call it a name and people can attach to it.

And don't forget that, when used on a regular TV, both Sony & MS will be working up to twelve times as hard to generate the same image resolution. Their specifications dictate at least 720p or 1080i in the code, if not 1080p (PS3). So the console has to produce at least that resolution, and then down convert in the video field to a regular TV. The Revolution can run full speed at 480 lines and spend more time on effects, textures, geometry and framerates without having to worry about filling as many as twelve times the number of pixels every second. Take a look below for some idea of the horsepower required for these resolutions...

480i (10,368,000 pixels per second)
480P (20,736,000 PPS)
720P (55,296,000 PPS)
1080i (62,208,000 PPS)
1080P (124,416,000 PPS!!!!)

I'm sure there will be some trickery on the chipset, as there always is, but I don't think it will be anything that turns the world on it's head. Simple natural progression will improve the graphics being that the Gamecube chipset is about 6 years old, and things have simply gotten more efficient and faster since then.

Maybe we need to just accept that the PS3 and 360 will have more juice and make things look prettier than the Revolution ever could if played on a HDTV, but on a regular TV they're gonna look the same and that's what Nintendo is counting on. A movie shown in HD is no better than that same movie shown on a DVD or regular TV. The experience maybe a little richer, but the content is the same. Star Wars EP3 was shot entirely in Digital HD - but the DVD did look six times better than Star Wars EP1 which was shot in Analogue Arriscope. By the same token, FIFA 2007 will not six times better on PS3 than it is on Revolution.

Don't worry your pretty little heads about the processing power or how the Revolution will make thing look better. It will not make one iota of a difference to the Revolution's success or failure. The secret is something else...

therealabdallah said...

I couldnt agree less - my head is neither pretty or small.

Mo said...

According to the document refered to in the original article posted by the webmaster (falafelkid)... the chips consume high ammounts of power 10-15W. Apparently much higher than its TI and Motorola counterparts. With Nintendo being very particular about power consumption, would these numbers be anything to suggest that implementation into a traditional home console would be feasable?

The final secret seems to be no big secret at all. Its in clear view of everyone who's taken a glance at the Revolution Controller. The "home" key seems to be the missing link in the puzzle surrounding the Revolution launch. Numbers have never really been a part of Nintendo's previous consoles.

Since the release of the N64, Nintendo has not failed the consumer when it comes to graphics performance. Ya, they missed the 32bit boat and hence allowed their then technology partner (Sony) to eventually plant the seeds which grew to become Playstation.

For those who believe that these rendering / manufacturing processes are not the final secret, you would only be half right. These technologies are like the cherries and crust that make a cherry pie. (ok so that was a lame analogy,... lol).

The "home" key is where you'll find the answer. Nintendo will most likely unleash the library of games, its UI, and features of its online network for Revolution. I think features like downloadable games, online save games, and tournaments will be the final secret. Nintendo wants people of all ages to play games.

"What the eyes see, and the ears hear - the mind believes" - The Magician Guy...

Niwre said...

Falafel, could the classic shell be the last secret? They keep on hammering about 'Wavebird-like', but they didn't show anything.

Could it be that the controller gets buttons projected on it or something?

Pekka said...

I don't see what the problem is. Some people are just interested in speculating and researching what might be Nintendo's next graphical processor unit and what we might expect from it. I agree that the last secret will propably be something completely different, and we'll find it out eventually. But for now, my eyes are on Hollywood.

And you can't say that if the GPU is four times more powerful that the ingame graphics will look four times better. Graphics is what artists do. And as GPUs become more and more powerful, the visual splendor actually starts taking smaller and smaller steps. We've come to a saturation point where the graphics already look relatively great, but if you double the GPU's horsepower, the graphics won't miraculously become two times better.

From this perspective alone, I find it extremely interesting to see what Nintendo will do regarding this graphical saturation that is hitting the industry.

wellsed said...

Here are the patent links from the images provided by Anonymous:

Method and apparatus for interleaved processing of direct and indirect texture coordinates in a graphics system
, filed June 15, 2005.


Video game play using panoramically-composited depth-mapped cube mapping
, filed August 8, 2004, though I've seen a similar (virtually the same) application from circa August 2000.

Pekka said...

I looked into that name, Vineet Goel, and I found this pdf file. If the images are fake, then they're really good fakes. But also stamping that big Nintendo logo on them seems awfully convenient... Fishy, I'd say.

Red Bull and Vodka said...

Pekka - I don't "have a problem" with discussing graphical power. The blogg post is titled;

"Is 'Fast14' the last secret?"

I'm discussing it, like Fala suggested. I say no it is not and say why not. So what's the problem?

Pekka said...

@red bull and vodka

Sorry, I may have overreacted there a little bit. :)

wellsed said...

Here's the paper related to Pekka's slideshow presentation. It includes a better explanation of many of the graphics:

Mesh Mutation in Programmable Graphics Hardware

Red Bull and Vodka said...


Not a prob. That's the first EVER apology published on a blogg...

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing an article from ATI talking about the 360 chipset and the Revolutions. I remember it went along the lines of..."The Nintendo chip is not about what it makes things look like, but how it allows games to be interacted with"

Anyone alos seen it...? It was posted by SG on his blog.

Pekka said...

@red bull and vodka
Thanks. I'm usually too quick to temper like that for my own good.

But back to the subject, I noticed something interesting about those pictures that anonymous posted and the demovideo on ATI's website.

1. Pictures are taken from angles that weren't shown in the demo. Unless you can roam freely in the executable ATI provides, those snapshots were created for use in this presentation.

2. In one of the slides, a street sign in the background reads "Broadway". The video you can download from ATI's demopage has no such sign.

If these images are fake, someone went to real lengths to make these.

wellsed said...


I noticed those things too. However, if the ATI-Revolution chip is "Hollywood" it would seem to me that the Broadway sign is simply a common street sign. I'm not reading much into it.

BTW, it was really cool to seem POM in motion. It doesn't seem that POM provides the correct sillouhette does it (notice they put flat stones at the edges of every POM texture to hide it)? It just appears to be a nicer normal/bump mapping routine.

Arsenis said...

on one of the pic on the lower right hand corner the little hollywood GPU sign looks fake.

GPU seems to be blured.

HereticPB said...

I did not read all these posts but I did read that article Fala posted and it says it consumes a considerable amount of electricity to run the processors.

Pekka said...

Pretty sure the pictures are fake. The Broadway sign is translucent. You can see some yellow of the traffic light shine through it.

HereticPB said...

Aren't those pictures from the Revealing of the X1800 by ATI? Then somebody tacking on Nintendo and some graphical logos.

Pekka said...

Yeah, those were the same cobblestones mentioned in the PDF. But I'm guessing that the ToyStore sign was also done with POM. That looked rather nice, didn't it?

You are propably right.

HereticPB said...

In the picture


Nintendo at the bottom has been pasted into the picture. The Hollywood part has white marks around it like somebody erased white.

The same feature of the Hollywood sign affects the Nintendo in the picture


The only one that looks really good and close to looking real is the third image but it too is fake.


As I stated those pictures are from when ATI revealed their new X1800 card.

Falafelkid said...

Just posted the story. I believe they could be real. If they were from, say, an internal prsentation, they would not have been put together too well. Remember the slideshow from Reggie? It looked so amateurish that I thought that was fake.

What makes me think it could be real is that it is almost impossible to find this developer and his area of expertise simply by browsing the web. But please read the post, if you will.

therealabdallah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You need to get your head out of the technical clouds. Nintendo is trying to entice casual gamers with the revolution. They wouldn't make a big deal of this secret if it wasn't something that any average joe could understand. Anyway, remember the big secret nintendo had about the cube controller. Turned out to be nothing but a click function on the shoulder buttons. I think you and everbody else needs to simplify there thinking about this secret.

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