ATI Delivers: The Radeon 9500 PRO

ATI Radeon 9500 PRO

Just four weeks ago, ATI announced the little brother of the Radeon 9700 PRO - the Radeon 9500 PRO, a graphics card tailored to the needs of the mid-priced market. The GPU is ostensibly the same as the one used in the 9700, apart from the fact that the 9500 has to make to do with a 128-bit memory bus, which reduces the card's memory bandwidth to a moderate 8.8 GB per second. To put this into perspective, a Radeon 9700 PRO delivers 19.8 GB per second, and a GeForce 4 Ti 4600 - also with a 128-bit bus - manages 10.4 GB per second.

Except for the reduced memory bandwidth, there are no other differences between the 9500 PRO and the well-known 9700 series. However, this is not the case with the 9500 (without the PRO). Here, ATI has reduced the number of pixel pipelines from eight to four, which cannot help but have a dramatic effect on the card's performance. This 9500 variant is expected to find favor in the OEM market, in ready built, value-oriented PCs.

Here is a summary of the differences:

  • Radeon 9700 PRO: The fastest and most expensive card among the ATI models. Eight pixel pipelines, four vertex shaders, 128 MB with 256-bit memory bus, DirectX 9 support. Clock speed (chip/memory): 325/310. Official price: $399.
  • Radeon 9700: The smaller of the 9700 series differs in its lower clock speeds: 275/270. Official price: $299.
  • Radeon 9500 PRO: The memory interface was reduced from 256-bit to 128-bit, but it can still accept up to 128 MB of memory. Otherwise, it has the same features as the 9700 cards, meaning that it offers full support for DirectX 9. Clock speeds: 275/275. Official price: $199.
  • Radeon 9500: Again, the memory bus is only 128-bit. The maximum memory is reduced from 128 MB to 64 MB. In addition, four pixel pipelines are left out. However, it still offers full DirectX 9 support. Clock speeds: 275/270. Official price: $179.
  • Radeon 9000/9000 PRO: Based on the technology of the Radeon 8500 (R200). Supports DirectX 8.1.

Four weeks ago, ATI supplied a prototype for preliminary review (see ATI Increases Its Lead: The New Radeon 9700, 9500 PRO and 9500 ). It had been built on a Radeon 9700 PRO board with a 256-bit memory bus. The fact that the chip only had a 128-bit path to the main memory meant that only 64 MB memory was used on the prototype card. The memory also ran 5 MHz slower, at 270 MHz. The results were, of course, only provisional.