I'm not talking about other manufacturers' boards with the ATI chips and archetecture on them, but the ATI brand of boards.
I would think that the company who makes the chips would make an excellent board too, but ATI boards aren't carried by many vendors and there's little to no mention of them in reviews and forums.
I ask because I can pick up a new-in-box ATI (brand) HD 4850 PCI E 2.0 board for $100 from a friend who didn't do his research so he didn't understand that these boards don't work in AGP motherboards. Then he kept dragging his heels about returning it and now he can't.
This is the series of board I'm shopping for and the price is certainly right, but the lack of vendors who sell the ATI brand of boards and the lack of online information about them is giving me pause.
So what's up with this? Why are the chip-maker's own line of boards so uncommon and are they any good?
ATI definitely make their own cards, but they have been transitioning to a more nVidia model over the last few years. Also a few years back they reduced their warranty from 3 years to 1 year, which kind of had me wondering why they wouldn't stand behind their own product. In fact until VisionTek came along there were no AIB's that carried an Lifetime Warranty on ATI cards (that I know of anyway), which seems to be the standard for nVidia cards. That said almost all cards are reference cards made by one or two manufacturers. These boards are then shipped to the AIB's to slap a sticker on the heatsink shroud, add a bundle (hardware and or software) and box and sell it as their own. All of ATI's cards are reference cards. There are a few companies who totally redesign their boards for a niche market (PCB layout, HSF, memory configs, etc), whether these are contracted out to another manufacturing company or are handled in-house, I'm not sure.
Rest assured ATI markets their own cards, just not as many as they used to. I have owned an ATI built 9700 Pro, an ATI-All-in-Wonder 9600XT and an ATI X1900XTX. I have also owned a 9600XT from Diamond and a HD2900XT (was given as a replacement for the X1900XTX which failed just after it's year warranty was up) from Sapphire. When it comes to reviews, all reference cards are the same, so if you see a review of Brand X with a particular ATI GPU, all reference cards from all AIB's will perform the same. So when buying a reference card, you have to look at the rest of what you are buying: bundle, warranty, and cost. Which ever of the three means most to you, should dictate which card you buy.
^ basically it means either vision tech or diamond multimedia sold the board to the store. It doesn't matter since it's probably the same thing. ATI always had someone else manufacture their boards. Before it made sense for them but to compete with nVidia they had to let other partners in so they could take the risk on offering bundles, custom coolers, and higher clock speeds. AIBs also don't want to have to compete with their vendors, so ATI finally saw it was better to scale back their own branded boards so that their AIBs could compete against themselves and nVidia instead of trying to compete with the people they were trying to sell their chips to.