ATi can now check off two big items on its portfolio list: the manufacturer has high performance graphics chips for desktops/ workstations and for notebooks on offer. It's only the chipsets that still have been rather weak, and that's enough to try one's patience, because, after all, ATi already bought the required know-how four years ago through its acquisition of ArtX. The first step, the S1-370 TL chipset, was only a small test. The first noteworthy milestone, the IGP320 chipset for the Athlon XP and the IGP340 chipset for the Pentium 4 (both of which are also available in mobile versions for notebooks) met with lackluster market acceptance. THG had already tested these products and found them to be good, as can be read in the articles AMD Power in a Notebook: Mobile Athlon XP and ATi's Radeon IGP320M Chipset A New Chance For Athlon Notebooks . It seems that ATi went about these market launches only half-heartedly. But at least ATi can show off a list of wins for its notebook designs in North America.
Nevertheless, ATi is not giving up. After a delayed launch for the Mobility Radeon 7000IGP, the company wants to finally make a breakthrough with the Radeon 9100IGP and the Mobility Radeon 9100IGP. And it's high time too, because its competitor NVIDIA has been able to boast its nForce desktop chipset for Athlon platforms for a while now. In addition, they supply the chipset for the Xbox, which is based on a processor that's similar to the Pentium III, and which already enjoys the enthusiasm of millions. The only sector in which NVIDIA still doesn't have anything to offer is that of notebook chipsets.
Strategically, it's important to integrate high performance graphics in a chipset. In the end, this enables one to sate performance-hungry notebooks more effectively than is possible with the combo-solution of Northbridge + a dedicated mobile graphics chip.
THG tests the first desktop board with the Radeon 9100IGP chipset. Although many functions on this preview sample are deactivated, such as AGP, PCI, sound, USB 2.0 and networking, the integrated 3D graphics based on R300 (Radeon 9000) does work.
The 9100IGP Motherboard In Detail
Currently, ATi only has a reference design available. However, Sapphire Technology has already announced the product name for its first 9100IGP motherboards. The ATX variant is called "9100-AA27" and the MicroATX board is called "9100-MA26." Other OEM partners such as Asus and Co. are keeping this information to themselves at the moment.
(Half-Complete) Motherboard with ATi Radeon 9100IGP.
The Northbridge and Southbridge communicate through the proprietary A-Link protocol. The clock runs at 66 MHz and allows a bandwidth of 254 MB/s. It's still not certain what the maximum FSB clock will be. Technically, the ATi preview sample can only run with FSB 533. The bus width of the dual channel memory interface theoretically lies at 5.96 GB/s (2 x 64 bit as well as 200 MHz clock). The integrated graphics core of the Northbridge uses the system memory (128 MB max). By comparison, other mobile graphics chips from ATi have their own graphics memory.