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ATI Mobility Radeon X700 Showcase
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Date: Feb 02, 2005
Section:Mobile
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Specifications & The Notebook

Mobile Graphics technology is advancing at a fevered pace. In a little over a year, the once dominant Mobility Radeon 9600 was eclipsed by the Mobility Radeon 9700. Then, the MR 9700 was surpassed by the Mobility Radeon 9800, which itself was recently eclipsed by the Mobility Radeon X800.  ATI's mobile GPUs went from 4, to 8, to 12 pixel pipelines, they now have essentially the same feature sets as their desktop equivalents, and they have frame buffers as large as 256MB. And these are only the high-end mobile products to come from ATI. They also released a few mid-ranges mobile GPUs, namely the Mobility Radeon X600 and X300.  In addition, NVIDIA also released their own group of mobile GPUs this past year that were significantly faster and more advanced than their predecessors. The fact of the matter is that laptop / notebook sales are skyrocketing at the moment, and NVIDIA and ATI are both looking to capitalize on the opportunity.

Today on HotHardware, we're going to evaluate yet another new mobile GPU built by the folks at ATI, the Mobility Radeon X700. As you've probably inferred from its name, the Mobility Radeon X700 isn't the successor to the MR X800, but rather its a mid-to-high end GPU that caters to a somewhat different audience. The Mobility Radeon X700 is targeted at consumers who demand convenient portability, as well as high performance.

Specifications & Features of The Mobility Radeon X700
Full-Featured Mobile Graphics
Technology Features
_8 parallel pixel pipelines
_Six programmable vertex shader pipelines
_0.11 micron fabrication process
_128-bit dual-channel DDR1/DDR2/GDDR3 memory support
_PCI Express x16 lane native support

SMARTSHADER HD
_Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
_DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shaders
- Vertex programs up to 65,280 instructions with flow control
- Single cycle trigonometric operations (SIN & COS)
_Direct X 9.0 Extended Pixel Shaders
- Up to 1,536 instructions and 16 textures per rendering pass
- 2nd generation F-buffer technology accelerates multi-pass pixel shader programs with unlimited instructions
- 32 temporary and constant registers
- Facing register for two-sided lighting
- 128-bit, 64-bit & 32-bit per pixel floating point color formats
- Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
_Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL(R) via extensions

SMOOTHVISION HD
_2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes
_Temporal Anti-Aliasing
_2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes

3Dc
_High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression
_Works with any two-channel data format

HYPER Z HD
_3-level Hierarchical Z-Buffer with Early Z Test
_Lossless Z-Buffer Compression (up to 48:1)
_Fast Z-Buffer Clear
_Z Cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering
_Optimized for performance at high display resolutions

VIDEOSHADER HD
_Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
_FULLSTREAM video de-blocking technology for Real, DivX, and WMV9 formats
_VIDEOSOAP noise removal filtering for captured video
_MPEG1/2/4 decode and encode acceleration
- DXVA Support
- Hardware Motion Compensation, iDCT, DCT and color space conversion
_All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
_YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
_Adaptive Per-Pixel De-Interlacing and Frame

HYPERMEMORY
_Uses the high-speed bi-directional data transfer capabilities of PCI Express to store and access graphics data in system memory, leading to less dependence on dedicated graphics memory and a lower overall notebook cost
POWERPLAY 5.0
_ATI's fifth-generation POWERPLAY power management technology provides users with the optimal balance between performance and power consumption
_Multiple power-saving settings offer increased control and flexibility
_POWER-ON-DEMAND – constantly monitors system activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
_LOW POWER LCD – enables lower LCD refresh rate for longer battery life
_VARI-BRIGHT technology optimizes notebook panel brightness for more power savings

VPU RECOVER II
_Automatically activated if the graphics processor hangs, triggering the driver to reset the VPU, avoiding system "crash"

Visual Display Flexibility
_Flexible and easy-to-use interface for multiple display settings
_LCD-EE display engine allows for support of the latest high resolution and wide-screen notebook displays such as WXGA (1920x1200) and QXGA (2048x1536)
_165 MHz integrated TMDS transmitter, for support of DVI Digital Flat Panels at up to UXGA resolution (1600x1200)
_230MHz integrated, Dual Channel LVDS
_Integrated TV-Out Encoder
_Dual RAMDACs at speeds of 400MHz
_Integrated HDTV encoder, supporting component output (YPbPr) for both North American and _Japanese D-link connectors

Multiple Variants For Ultimate Design Flexibility
_Support for multiple mobile form factors:
- Discrete
- On-chip 64MB DDR
- On-chip 128MB DDR

AXIOM (Advanced eXpress I/O Module) is a flexible approach to PCI Express modules and provides a reliable, innovative solution on notebook PCs offering:
_Proven, robust connector
_Standard form factors
_Customization for optimal fit with industrial design
_Standard interconnect for graphics and other peripheral designs
_Full support for ATI FLEXFIT technology


 


      

    

To test the Mobility Radeon X700, we used a very attractive Acer TravelMate 8100 notebook powered by ATI's latest mobile GPU. Unlike the bulky and ultra-heavy laptops we used to test the Mobility Radeon 9700 and Mobility Radeon 9800 last year, the Acer TravelMate 8100 is a "performance thin" model that won't break a shoulder when carrying it through an airport. The Dell XPS and Eurocomm notebooks powered by the MR9700 and MR9800 were what you'd call "desktop replacement" notebooks.  They had large screens, desktop processors adapted for mobile use, and weighed in at a hefty 12-14 lbs.  Acer's TravelMate 8100, however, sports a 15.4" WSXGA+ screen and a speedy - yet efficient - 2.0GHz Pentium M 760. The TravelMate 8100 also has 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a fast 100GB hard drive. Plus, because this machine is powered by Intel's new Mobile i915 Express chipset, the X700 interfaces through a PCI Express X16 link, rather than AGP.  Not only does the PCI Express X16 link offer far more bandwidth than AGP8X, but it makes a new feature built into the GPU possible...

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More On The Architecture & Features

The Mobility Radeon X700 has the same base feature set as ATI's desktop version of the GPU.  For a detailed look at the technology behind the X700, we highly recommend taking a look at our article covering the Radeon X700's launch from back in September...

Features of The Mobility Radeon X700
Just Like Its Desktop Counterpart

 

Like its desktop counterpart, the Mobility Radeon X700 is manufactured on TSMC's .11 micron process.  And like the Radeon X700, the MR X700 is an 8-pipeline GPU with 6 hardware vertex engines and support for GDDR3 memory (128-bit interface).  The Mobility Radeon X700 is also a native PCI Express GPU, linked to the northbridge through an electrical X16 connection that offers more than double the bandwidth of AGP8X.  The MR X700 does differ from the standard Radeon X700 in a couple of ways, however.  The Mobility Radeon X700's reference clock speeds are 350MHz core / 350MHz memory (Peak Fillrate=2.8GPixels/s | Peak Memory Bandwidth=9.6GB/s) . That's a core clock speed 50MHz lower than the base Radeon X700, and 70MHz lower than the X700 Pro.  But be aware that notebook OEMs have some flexibility in this area based on their design's thermal and power requirements. In fact, the Acer TravelMate 8100 we tested had its graphics memory clocked at 300MHz (600MHz DDR), 50MHz lower than ATI's reference clock speed.

The Mobility Radeon X700 also incorporates ATI's PowerPlay 5.0 power management technology. With PowerPlay 5.0 unused portions of the GPU can be shut down to conserve power, clock speeds can be dynamically adjusted, and the PCI Express lane width can be switched from X16 to X1 on-the-fly to conserve power when the maximum bandwidth afforded by a PCI Express X16 slot isn't needed.  In a typical usage scenario, ATI claims the Dynamic Lane Count Switching (DLCS) will result in a 30% power savings.

Another difference between the Mobility Radeon X700 and its desktop counterparts is its packaging. The Mobility Radeon X700 can be used as a discreet GPU with a separate bank of graphics memory, or it can be incorporated into a notebook design as a multi-chip module with its graphics memory connected directly to the GPU. An AXIOM-TV module that also incorporates ATI's Theater 550 is in the works as well, which should make it an excellent choice for notebooks running Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition.

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The Test System & Halo v1.06

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: The Acer TravelMate 8100 notebook we used for testing had a clean installation of Windows XP Professional w/ SP2.  To get it ready for benchmarks, the first thing we did was hit the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates. Then we removed Windows Messenger from the system, disabled auto-updating, drive indexing, and system restore, and then we set up a 768MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drive, and ran the tests...

The HotHardware Test System
Intel-Powered Screamer
Hardware:
Processor -
Motherboard -
Video Card -
Memory -
Audio -
Hard Drive -
Optical Drive -
Other -

Software:
Operating System -
DirectX -
Video Drivers
-

Intel Pentium M 760 2.0GHz
Acer TravelMate 8100
ATI Mobility Radeon X700

1024MB DDR2 533 RAM
Integrated Audio
100GB - 5400RPM
DVD/CD-ROM Combo Drive
3.5-inch Floppy Drive


Windows XP Professional SP2 (Fully Patched)
DirectX 9.0c
ATI Mobile Catalyst v8.083
Benchmarks with Halo v1.06
Halo - All Patched & Ready To Go!

Halo
For many gamers, the release of Halo marked the end of a very long wait.  To the chagrin of some PC gamers, Halo was originally released as an Xbox exclusive a few years back. But Microsoft eventually released it for the PC. No additional patches or tweaks are needed to benchmark with Halo, as Gearbox has included all of the necessary information in its README file. The Halo benchmark runs through four of the cut-scenes from the game, after which the average frame rate is recorded. We patched the game using the latest v1.06 patch and ran this benchmark twice, once at 1,024 x 768 and then again at 1,400 x 1,050. Antialiasing doesn't work properly with Halo, so all of the tests below were run with antialiasing disabled.

Unfortunately, we did not have access to a similarly configured laptop with graphics powered by a competing GPU, and configuring a similar desktop system also was not possible, so the Mobility Radeon X700's benchmark scores will have to stand on their own for now.  When additional Mobile i915 Express (Alviso) based notebooks arrive in the lab, using the same CPU but a different GPU, we'll post its benchmark scores ASAP to give you all a frame of reference.

We would also like to point out, that most of the games we used to benchmark the Mobility Radeon X700 did not support the 15.4" LCD's native WSXGA (1680x1050) resolution.  So, we benchmarked the games at resolutions of 1024x768, and whatever the highest resolution available in-game that worked with the TravelMate 8100's LCD.  In some cases this was 1280x1024, 1400x1050, or 1680x1050.

Halo didn't pose much of a problem for the Mobility Radeon X700.  At 1024x768, the MR X700 just barely missed breaking the 50 FPS mark. And with the resolution turned up to 1400x1050, the Mobility Radeon X700 also performed fairly well finishing just shy of 30 frames per second.

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Final Fantasy XI v3 & 3DMark05

Performance Comparisons with Final Fantasy XI Benchmark 2 v1.01
A Classic Console Franchise On The PC

Final Fantasy XI
The Final Fantasy franchise is well known to console gamers, but Squaresoft has since made the jump to the PC with a MMORPG version of this classic. The Final Fantasy XI benchmark runs through multiple scenes from the game and displays a final score every time a full cycle of the demo is completed. Although the demo is meant to check an entire system's readiness to play the game, the number of frames rendered scales when different video cards are used. Lower scores indicate some frames were dropped to complete the demo in the allotted time. The score below was taken with the demo set to its "High Resolution" option (1,024 x 768) with tantalizing and anisotropic filtering disabled.

With a score of 4863, the Mobility Radeon X700 is more than capable of playing Final Fantasy XI at smooth frame rates.  To give you some idea where the MR X700 stands, a 3GHz Pentium 4 equipped with a 256MB X700 Pro scored just over 5000 in this test.  A Radeon X600 XT in the same test machine scored 4315.

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark05
Futuremark's Latest


3DMark05
3DMark05 is the latest installment in a long line of synthetic 3D graphics benchmarks, dating back to late 1998.  3DMark99 came out in October of 1998 and was followed by the very popular DirectX 7 benchmark, 3DMark2000, roughly two years later.  The DirectX 8.1-compliant 3DMark2001 was released shortly thereafter, and it too was a very popular tool used by many hardcore gamers.  3DMark03, however, wasn't quite as well received thanks in no small part to the disapproval of graphics giant NVIDIA.  With 3DMark05, though, Futuremark hopes to win back some of its audience with a very advanced DirectX 9 benchmarking tool.  We ran 3DMark05's default test (1,024 x 768) in a couple of different configurations on the Mobility Radeon X700 we tested and have the overall results for you posted below...

In 3DMark05's default test, the Mobility Radeon X700 scored a very respectable 2275 3DMarks.  Switching on 4X anti-aliasing reduced the overall score by 537 points (23%), but for the most part the benchmark still remained somewhat smooth and fluid.  When we enabled 8X anisotropic filtering, the score expectedly dropped a bit to 1586, which is a further drop in performance of 8.7%.

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Aquamark 3

Performance Comparisons with Aquamark 3
DX8 & DX9 Shaders

Aquamark 3
Aquamark 3 comes to us by way of game developer Massive Development. Massive's release of the original Aquanox in 1999 wasn't very well received by the gaming community, but it was one of the first games to implement DX8-class shaders.  This led to the creation of Aquamark 2 - a benchmark previously used by many analysts. Because the Aquamark benchmarks are based on an actual game engine, they must support old and new video cards alike. Thus, the latest version of Aquamark, Aquamark 3, utilizes not only DirectX 9-class shaders, but DirectX 8 and DirectX 7, as well. We ran this benchmark at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,280 x 1,024 with no anti-aliasing and with 4x AA and 8X aniso enabled concurrently.

The Mobility Radeon X700 performed well in most of the Aquamark 3 tests.  At 1024x768, the MR X700 hit 47.11 frames per second in the default test and dropped down to 32.49 FPS with 4X anti-aliasing the 8X anisotropic filtering enabled.  The MR X700 also did well with the resolution turned up to 1280x1024, but once AA and aniso were enabled at this higher resolution, things started to slow down quite a bit.  At 1280x1024 with 4X AA / 8X aniso enabled, the MR X700's frame rate dipped to 23.69 FPS, half of the frame rate of the default 1024x768 test.

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FarCry v1.3

Benchmarks & Comparisons With Far Cry
DX9 Effects Galore.

Far Cry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene, you probably know that Far Cry is one of the most visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Although Doom 3 and Half Life 2 have both arrived, Far Cry still looks great in comparison, especially with the new v1.3 patch installed and some special effects turned on.  Far Cry came along and gave us a taste of what was to come in next-generation 3D gaming on the PC.  We benchmarked the laptop used in this review with a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Pier" area checkpoint at various resolutions without AA or aniso Filtering enabled and then with 4X AA enabled along with 8X anisotropic filtering.

FarCry was the only game to support the native resolution of the TravelMate's 15.4" WXSGA LCD.  In both of the default tests, where anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering were disabled, the Mobility Radeon X700 performed well.  However, with AA and aniso filtering enabled in FarCry, the MR X700 took quite a hit in performance.  The 128MB of 300MHz RAM is definitely holding the GPU back here.  A larger frame buffer and some faster RAM would certainly help...

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Doom 3 (Single-Player)

Benchmarks & Comparisons with Doom 3 - Single Player
The Wait Is Over!.

Doom 3
id Software's games have long been pushing the limits of 3D graphics.  Quake, Quake 2, and Quake 3 were all instrumental in the success of 3D accelerators on the PC.  Now, years later, with virtually every new desktop computer shipping with a 3D accelerator, id is at it again with the release of the visually stunning Doom 3.  Doom 3 is an OpenGL game using extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows.  We ran this benchmark using custom demos with Doom 3 set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,280 x 1,024, without any AA and then with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled.  Note: Doom 3 enables 8X anisotropic filtering automatically when set to "High Quality" in the game's control panel.

In our custom single-player Doom 3 benchmark, the Mobility Radeon X700 performed admirably in the default tests, but enabling 4X anti-aliasing in High-Quality mode was a bit too much.  Doom 3 seemed perfectly playable at 1024x768 with a frame rate just over 41 FPS. However, at the higher-resolution and with anti-aliasing enabled, the MR X700 couldn't quite hit 30FPS.

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Doom 3 (Multi-Player)

Benchmarks & Comparisons with Doom 3 - Multi-player
The Wait Is Over!.

Doom 3
Our first round of Doom 3 benchmarks focused on single-player performance.  In this round we'll run a series of multi-player tests to see how things unfold.  These timedemos were run with our custom "HH_Frag2" demo, which is a recording of a five-player on-line match that took place in the "Frag Chamber" map area. We ran benchmarks with Doom 3 set to its "High-Quality" mode at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,280 x 1,024 without any anti-aliasing enabled and then with 4X AA and 8X Aniso enabled concurrently.  Note: Doom 3 enables 8X anisotropic filtering automatically when set to "High Quality" in the game's control panel.

The Mobility Radeon X700 performed somewhat better in out custom Doom 3 multi-player test.  At 1024x768 with anti-aliasing disabled, the MR X700 his a respectable 50.4 frames per second.  And in the same configuration at 1280x1024, it hit just broke 34 FPS.  Turning on anti-aliasing though, dragged performance down significantly, although you could argue that an on-line death match would be playable at 1024x768 with 4X AA enabled.

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Half-Life 2

Benchmarks & Comparisons with Half-Life 2
It Shipped!  And it's GOOD! Damn Good!

Half Life 2
Thanks to the dedication of millions of gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over began chomping at the bit.  Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network; the theft of a portion of the game's source code; a couple of missed deadlines and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November 2004 to get our hands on this gem.  In this first round of tests, we benchmarked Half-Life 2 with a long, custom- recorded timedemo that takes us along a cliff and through a few dilapidated shacks, battling the enemy throughout.  These tests were run at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,400 x 1,050 without any AA or aniso and with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

Even with all its graphical splendor, Half-Life 2 doesn't terribly torture today's mid-to-high end GPUs.  The Mobility Radeon X700 handled this area of the game very well, maintaining playable frame rates throughout all of the test configurations.  This demo doesn't use any terribly advanced shaders or lighting effects though, so lets see what happens when we benchmark the Mobility Radeon X700 in a more graphically intensive area of the game...

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Half-Life 2 (Continued)

Benchmarks & Comparisons with Half-Life 2
More With Valve's Instant Classic

Half Life 2
This second round of benchmarks with Half-Life 2 were run with a custom demo that takes the player through the "Canals" map, riding through some water at high speed and ending up in an indoor environment to duke it out with some baddies.  This demo makes use of an advanced water shader with reflections, and has more lighting effects than one used on the previous page.  Because of these effects, it is much more demanding and results in lower overall frame rates.  In this round of tests, we also benchmarked Half-Life 2 at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,400 x 1,050 without any AA or aniso and with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

The Mobility Radeon X700's performance was also quite good in the 'Canals' map, although its frame rates were markedly lower than we saw in the previous Half-Life 2 tests.  This time around, the MR X700 maintained playable frame rates in both of the default tests, and at 1024x768 with AA and aniso enabled this were still OK. However, with the game running at 1400x1050 with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled, the frame rate dipped to a point a little too low for our liking.

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Power Consumption & Battery Life

Although power consumption is usually somewhat of an afterthought to most gamers with a high-end desktop PC, notebook owners are much more interested in how much juice their portable machine is using.  A notebook that draws a ton of power will rapidly drain its battery, and throw off enough heat to make you wish you had a pair of asbestos undies. With that in mind, we plugged the Acer TravelMate 8100 with its 2GHz Pentium M 760 processor and Mobility Radeon X700 into our power meter to see what kind of power it was using in a couple of different circumstances...

ATI Mobility Radeon X700: Power Consumption
Not Bad Considering Its Performance

Please keep in mind that this is TOTAL SYSTEM power consumption, and is not isolated to the Mobility Radeon X700.  At idle, the machine drew a maximum of 38 watts of power. It actually hovered in the 26-30 watt range most of the time, but we've recorded the peak output here.  To test how much power was being drawn under load, we fired up 3DMark05, and looped its built-in demo at a resolution of 1680x1050, with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled.  With 3DMark05 running, power consumption jumped by 36 watts, peaking at 74 watts.  After about 20 minutes of the demo looping, the underside of the laptop got fairly warm, but never got to a point that we'd consider "hot".

To see what kind of effect taxing the GPU had on battery life, we also looped the 3DMark05 demo at 1680x1050 with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled while running the system completely on battery power. After letting the battery charge completely, we started up the demo, and pulled the plug.  It took a full 1 hour and 20 minutes for the notebook to die.  And this was with the LCD at full brightness with PowerPlay disabled. Not too bad considering most of today's "desktop replacement" notebooks, powered by higher-end GPUs and processors, barely get 30-45 minutes from a full charge.

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Summary & Conclusion

 

Benchmark Summary: Unfortunately, without a similarly configured laptop to directly compare the Mobility Radeon X700's performance to another GPU, we can't say exactly where it stands on the 3D performance scale. It's basically about twice as fast as the 4-pipe MR 9700. What we can say is that the Mobility Radeon X700 is perfectly capable of playing any of today's popular games without sacrificing image quality or disabling any advanced features.  And the Mobility Radeon X700's power consumption and thermal characteristics make it suitable for use in a much more "travel friendly" package.

The Mobility Radeon X700 hits the sweet-spot in mobile graphics in our opinion. It's fast enough to play all of today's advanced games at adequate frame rates, and its power requirements are low enough to make it usable in a sleek "performance thin" form factor. The Mobility Radeon 9700/9800/X800 are all excellent mobile GPUs, but the desktop replacement form factor they usually require is just too big and heavy to make carrying them around very easy. The Mobility Radeon X700, however, doesn't require such a large form factor and when incorporated into a design like the Acer TravelMate 8100 we tested, portability is no problem whatsoever.  With a recommended form factor that's easy on travelers, and power consumption levels that don't drain batteries in a matter on minutes, the Mobility Radeon X700 is going to appeal to a large audience. We're sure NVIDIA has something similar on the way in the not so distant future as well, but for now, ATI has another industry leading product on their hands.  The Mobility Radeon X700 is an excellent addition to their mobile GPU line-up.

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