Introduction & Specifications
The battle between NVIDIA and ATi for dominance in the desktop 3D gaming video card market has been on-going for many years. With each new product they release, both companies attempt to leap-frog the other by introducing new features and increasing performance over their previous generation. The competition has gotten so fierce, that every 6 months or so a new product hits the scene that turns last season's flagship video cards into a mid-range parts, that will soon be sold at bargain basement prices.
Both NVIDIA and ATi have done very well with their desktop GPUs, but a new market recently emerged that demanded their attention. "Desknote" or Desktop Replacement Notebooks, are high-end mobile systems that are equipped with fast processors, plenty of RAM, and large screens. Desknotes have bigger power budgets and thermal controls when compared to traditional notebooks. And they also have virtually all of the features and capabilities of a full-sized system. However, the mobile GPUs pumping the pixels have just recently begun to catch up to their desktop counterparts. ATi definitely raised the bar with their Mobility Radeon 9700 (reviewed here), but even though the Mobility Radeon 9700 was their most feature-rich mobile GPU at the time it was released, it was only equivalent to their mainstream desktop product, the Radeon 9600 XT. Today, ATi is officially unveiling their newest mobile GPU, the Mobility Radeon 9800. And although it doesn't carry the "X800" branding, it's every bit as feature-rich as ATi's current flagship desktop GPUs. The Mobility Radeon 9800 has more features than even a Radeon 9800 XT...
The Mobility Radeon 9800 is a the result of a collaborative effort between ATi's Mobile and Desktop graphics teams. As such, it shares all of the features of its desktop counterpart, the X800, but it has only 8-Pixel pipelines and 4-Vertex pipes (Desktop X800's have 12 or 16-pixel pipelines). Other than that though, there are virtually no differences between the X800 and Mobility Radeon 9800 architectures. Please note, that the specifications and features listed above are only a small portion of what the Mobility Radeon 9800 is capable of; for a more complete list, we strongly recommend checking out our Radeon X800 launch article from May of this year.
Architectural Overview: Mobility Radeon 9800
With the Mobility Radeon 9800, ATi is the first company to bring a 256-bit memory interface to a mobile GPU. The .13 micron Mobility Radeon 9800 is also the first mobile GPU with 8-pixel pipelines and 4-Vertex pipes. It's able to address up to 256MB of memory and it has full support for ATi's PowerPlay technology. PowerPlay is one of the features that make it possible to bring desktop GPU-like performance to a battery powered notebook. PowerPlay dynamically adjusts clocks and voltages, and by using ATi's Clock Gating technology, functional blocks of the GPU can be shut off when they are not in use, conserving power and reducing thermal output. The official clock speeds for the Mobility Radeon 9800 are a 350MHz core, with 300MHz DDR RAM (effective speed of 600MHz). At these clock speeds, the Mobility Radeon 9800 has a peak fillrate of 2.8GPixels/s and a maximum of 19.2GB/s of memory bandwidth. These numbers should firmly place the Mobility Radeon 9800 atop the mobile 3D graphics food chain, unless NVIDIA's got something powerful up their sleeves, but they are a bit below a Radeon 9800 Pro.