Earlier this year, it seemed as if we could expect things to heat up in the graphics market this fall. After the launch of its new flagship product in the summer, the Radeon 9700 PRO, ATI clearly took on the role of a technology leader in the area of 3D graphics chips for the first time (see ATi Takes Over 3D Technology Leadership With Radeon 9700 ). Now the Canadian company takes its lead even further. With the Radeon 9000 series, which is based on the R200 technology (alias Radeon 8500), ATI had armed itself well for the lower priced segment. Now, they're ready to attack the mainstream market of the mid-range price class.
ATI now introduces three new chips and graphics card variations. The Radeon 9700 (without the "PRO"), as well as the 9500, both of which are based on the R300 chip of the 9700 series. While the 9700 differs from the PRO variation only in its lower clock speed, the differences with the 9500 are much more significant. Instead of a 256-bit memory interface, the 9500 series has to make do with 128-bit. Other aspects were cut back with the smaller variant of the 9500 series - the addition 4 pixel pipelines are stripped away, and the memory is only 64 MB. The 9500 PRO, however, gets the full 8 pixel pipelines and 128 MB.
The chip of the 9500 PRO test card. The die surface corresponds exactly to the 9700 PRO.
This might all sound a bit confusing, so here's an overview of the differences:
- Radeon 9700 PRO : The fastest and most expensive card among the ATI models. 8 pixel pipelines, 4 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: 275/270. 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, 4 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.
Under its own label, ATI will only bring PRO versions to the market. The non-PRO models will be left to its graphics card partners, who will bring both PRO and non-PRO versions to the market.