ATi Mobility Radeon 9700

Article Index

The Technology & Implementation

 

ATi's internal code name for the Mobility Radeon 9700 was 'M11'.  The M11's architecture is basically the same as the M10's, but it is built using TSMC's (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) more advanced .13 micron low-k technology.  The move to true low-k dielectrics resulted in a GPU that required less power and could run at much higher clock speeds than its predecessor, the M10, or the Mobility Radeon 9600...

The M11 Architecture
It's Basically An M10...

To illustrate the M11's base architecture, we've borrowed a block diagram from Chris' ATi M10 mobile graphics preview from March of last year.  The M10 and M11 are basically identical, so we'd suggest taking some time and reading that article if you'd like to get more familiar with their features and capabilities.  As you can see in the illustration, the M11 has 4 full floating-point pixel pipelines, each with a single texture unit, and it has dual vertex shader engines.  Being a DX9 part, the M11 is capable of 16 texture inputs per pass and it can apply 16 textures per pixel.  The rest of the design may remind you of the Radeon 9600 Pro / XT, as it should - they are virtually identical.  So why not call this part a "Mobility Radeon 9600 XT"?  After all, the Radeon 9700 Pro has 8 pixel pipelines, not 4.  Well, ATi already has multiple flavors of the Mobility Radeon 9600 in the channel and they're reserved the "XT" branding for desktop parts that are "OVERDRIVE" compatible.  Instead of calling the it a "9650", ATi branded the M11 a Mobility Radeon 9700 to clearly show that it is a more powerful GPU than any of the products in the Mobility Radeon 9600 family.

Product Information & The Software
OEM Options...

  

Depending on the overall design, OEMs who actually build the notebooks that use ATi's Mobility Radeon 9700 can tailor the graphics sub-system to meet their specific needs.  The Eurocom D870P we tested with was designed strictly with performance in mind, so Eurocom equipped the M11 with a full 256MB of DDR RAM clocked at 270MHz (540MHz DDR), and they clocked the core at 405MHz.  These speeds result in a maximum of 8.6GB/s of memory bandwidth and a peak theoretical fillrate of 1.62GPixels/s.  This isn't the only configuration that will be available, however.  The Mobility Radeon 9700 can be used as a discreet solution with a 128-bit bus (like it is here), as a discreet part with a 64-bit bus, or it can be equipped with 64MB or 128MB of on-chip memory.  Clock speeds will also vary depending on the OEM.

Image Quality
An LCD for gaming?  Hmmm.

The Mobility Radeon 9700's in-game image quality is on the exact same level of ATi's desktop product, the Radeon 9600 XT.  For a recent look at some in-game screen shots from a 9600 XT compared to some competition, click here.  There is something that hinders the Mobility Radeon 9700's image quality though, but it doesn't have anything to do with ATi.  LCD screens, like the ones used on virtually all notebooks, produce the clearest images only when running at their native resolution - in our case, 1440x900.  If the GPU isn't powerful enough to provide playable framerates at that high of a resolution, the LCD has to be set to run at a lower resolution.  But when an LCD is set to run at a lower resolution, it has to interpolate the pixels and essentially simulate a lower-resolution screen.  Even if the control panel says you're running at 1024x768, there are still 1440x900 pixels on the screen.  The interpolation results in a somewhat blurred imaged which is especially prominent when viewing text.  Just something to keep in mind if you're in the market for a gaming notebook.


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