AMD has launched its much anticipated HD5800 series of graphics chips - announcing the first DirectX 11-supporting graphics cards a month before Windows 7's official release.

We've got hold of the first PC in the UK to include the DirectX 11-supporting graphics products, with a soon-to-be-released Windows 7 system from Mesh Computers built on a 100 percent AMD platform currently being put through its paces in the PC Advisor test centre. Check back for full details in the next few days.

AMD says the HD5800 series doubles the value consumers can expect, delivering twice the "performance-per-dollar" of previous generations of graphics products.

Two cards are being made available initially, the ATI Radeon HD5870 and the ATI Radeon HD5850, each with 1GB GDDR5 memory. AMD claims the cards are up to twice as fast as the closest competing product in its class.

AMD Direct X 11

DirectX 11 is a set of APIs that will come with Windows 7 and should allow for more realistic images and 3D experiences with games and movies.

For example, DirectX 11 will let game developers create more realistic images through improved 3D modelling and faster frame rates. A feature called 'Compute Shader' is designed to harness the parallel-processing capabilities of GPUs to improve gaming on PCs.

The technology is also designed to boost the performance of online and high-definition video playback, and it will let users instantly convert video clips simply by dragging and dropping them from PCs to portable devices.

Beyond graphics, DirectX 11 should help Windows 7 recognise multicore systems, which will speed up multimedia and other applications. The tools distribute tasks over multiple CPUs and GPUs for simultaneous execution. Such capabilities could reduce the strain on the CPU while offloading more tasks to the graphics processors. For example, a user could watch a high-definition DVD being processed by the GPU while the CPU handles everyday processing tasks such as virus scans.

DirectX 11 is the successor to DirectX 10 and 10.1, which came with Windows Vista. AMD is the first to ship DirectX 11-equipped hardware. Nvidia has said it will support DirectX 11, but it hasn't provided a specific hardware release date.

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