ATI has announced its next-generation graphics processor, the RADEON 256.

ATI, which makes the RAGE 128 chips built-in to current Macs, released the full spec of its new chip at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. The chip is compatible with OpenGL 1.2 and Mac OS support is in the core technology. This includes support for Mac byte order, colour space and Apple's DVD playback.

The company gave a sneak peek at the chip's new technology at the Game Developers Conference in March. A key technology is Pixel Tapestry - a new 1.5 gigatexel rendering engine that can process up to three textures simultaneously.

The chip also introduces the Charisma Engine – a geometry engine that brings 3D characters to life. It supports full transformation, clipping and lighting, and advanced character animation features such as vertex-skinning and key-frame interpolation.

It supports up to 128MB of double-date rate (DDR) memory at 200MHz - a first for a graphics chip, according to ATI. It also includes built-in MPEG acceleration and an HDTV decoder.

ATI has not yet announced whether the new chip will be built-in to forthcoming Macintosh systems.