ATi Radeon 9000 and Radeon 9700 Preview

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The ATi Radeon 9000 and Radeon 9700 Preview
ATi 's Next Generation Products Unveiled

By, Jeff Bouton
July 18, 2002


 

The video card wars are heating up once again.  The rivalry between ATi and NVIDIA has never been more intense.  The two are poised for yet another battle in their ongoing attempts for market supremacy.  As of late, the two seem to be in strike / counter-strike mode.  ATi launches new drivers and NVIDIA launches Cg.  Just as was the case with the Radeon 8500 launch, ATi is the first to break the silence and have announced their next generation technology.  We can only assume that NVIDIA is lying in wait, to see what their arch-rival has brought to the table. 

Recently, ATi had to overcome a few obstacles that had tarnished their image for some time.  They've had a long history of developing promising new hardware that was often limited by poor driver development.   ATi knew they needed to rid themselves of this image, and took steps to improve the overall quality, stability and performance of their drivers and software.  Over the past year or so,  ATi has taken their "driver issues" very seriously and have taken proactive steps to find solutions to any issues that arise in a timely manner.  The end result was the Catalyst driver package which incorporated several new tools that help to diagnose and report compatibility issues.  While they were at it, ATi also developed a cleaner, more concise driver interface that should help end-users become familiar with their card's available features.  We had the chance to take a look at ATi?s new Catalyst Drivers, just before they were released back in June, and we were impressed to say the least.

Today, ATi has unveiled new products, in hopes of turning the tides on the competition, with innovative new features and design implementations that, on the surface, look promising.  The first is the new Radeon 9000 Series of video cards that aim to offer mid-range performance, at budget price points.  The Radeon 9000s are offered in two flavors that are intended to compete directly with the GeForce 4 MX line, as well as the GeForce4 Ti4200.  ATi's new high-end product is the, "soon to be released", Radeon 9700, that aims to topple NVIDIA?s GeForce 4 Ti series of products from atop their throne, with a completely new GPU that touts an impressive list of features and "killer" performance.  Today we have a preview of the Radeon 9000 / 9000 Pro as well as some advanced information on the widely anticipated Radeon 9700 board, formerly only known as the "R300".

Features of the Radeon 9000 Series
Getting a lot on the cheap?

     

3D GRAPHICS FEATURES

  • Four parallel rendering pipelines process up to 1 billion pixels per second

SMARTSHADER? technology

  • Full support for DirectX 8.1 programmable pixel and vertex shaders in hardware

  • 1.4 pixel shaders support up to 6 textures per rendering pass

  • 1.1 vertex shaders support vertex programs up to 128 instructions

  • Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL via extensions

  • Programmable shaders provide enhanced 3D effects in over 100 existing and upcoming game titles

SMOOTHVISION?

  • Image quality enhancement features for Direct3D? and OpenGL applications

  • Programmable full-scene anti-aliasing

  • Supports 2 to 6 samples

  • Performance and quality modes

  • Advanced anisotropic filtering

  • Supports 2 to 16 samples

  • Bandwidth-saving algorithm enables this feature with minimal performance cost

CHARISMA ENGINE? II

  • High performance 2nd generation hardware transform and lighting engine

 HYPERZ? II

  • Lossless Z-Buffer Compression and Fast Z-Buffer Clear increase memory bandwidth by up to 25%

VIDEO FEATURES

  • VIDEO IMMERSION? II delivers industry-leading video playback

  • FULLSTREAM? Hardware accelerated de-blocking of Internet video streams

  • Integrated MPEG-2 decode including iDCT and motion compensation:

  • All format DTV/HDTV decode

  • Top quality DVD with lowest CPU usage

  • YUV to RGB color space conversion
     

  • Back-end scaler delivers top quality playback

  • 4-tap horizontal and vertical filtering

  • Upscaling and downscaling

  • Filtered display of images up to 1920 pixels wide
     

  • Unique per-pixel adaptive de-interlacing feature combines the best elements of the ?bob? and ?add-field? (weave) techniques

  • Hardware mirroring for flipping video images in video conferencing systems

  • Supports 8-bit alpha blending and video keying for effective overlay of video and graphics

DISPLAY FEATURES

  • Dual integrated display controllers

  • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions and refresh rates

  • HYDRAVISION? software provides complete control over multi-display configurations with a user-friendly interface
     

  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel palette DACs operating at up to 400MHz

  • Integrated DVI-compliant 165MHz TMDS transmitter supports resolutions up to WUXGA (1920x1200)

  • Integrated TV-Out support up to 1024x768 resolution

GENERAL FEATURES

  • Comprehensive 2X and 4X AGP support

  • Compatible with AGP 8X universal motherboards

  • High performance dual-channel 128-bit DDR memory interface supports 32/64/128MB configurations

  • Fully compliant with PC 2002 requirements

  • Optimized for Pentium4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon? 3Dnow! processor instructions

  • Supports optional THEATER? 200 companion chip for NTSC/PAL/ SECAM video capture

  • Highly optimized 128-bit 2D engine with support for new WindowsXP GDI extensions

 


The Radeon 9000 and 9000 Pro are virtually identical except they are clocked at different speeds. The Radeon 9000 will be outfitted with a 250MHz GPU and 400MHz DDR RAM (200MHz x 2), while the Pro version's core will be running at 275MHz with 550MHz DDR RAM (275MHz x 2).  We were fortunate enough to get our hands on a Radeon 9000 Pro for testing, but the package we received wasn't quite ready for retail shelves.  Due to this fact, we won't be commenting on the bundle, we'll cover that in future reviews. 

The Card:

Although the feature set is very similar to the Radeon 8500, from an architectural standpoint, the Radeon 9000 Pro is a completely new design.  Just like the Radeon All-In-Wonder 8500 we reviewed back in April, the Radeon 9000 Pro has a GPU clocked at 275MHz.  The onboard memory is also clocked the same at 275MHz (550MHz DDR), although the 9000 Pro is equipped with only 64MB as opposed to 128MB.  The unit comes with Dual Monitor support supplied by the new Radeon 9000 Pro Flexible Display Engine.  What this means is the Radeon 9000 is equipped with two integrated RAMDACs, each running at 400MHz, allowing for resolutions of up to 2048x1536 on each monitor.  With good filtering, these fast RAMDACs should produce excellent 2D image quality, even while driving two monitors at high resolutions.  The card also has a TV-Out option and has support for Digital Flat Panel displays.  A DVI-VGA adapter is included for connecting a second analog VGA monitor to the card. 

Click To Enlarge

   

 

The Radeon 9000 Pro implements much of the same technology found in the Radeon 8500 such as the CHARISMA ENGINE II, SMARTSHADER, and SMOOTHVISION, although they do vary in a number of key areas.  The 9000 Pro also implements some new technology that we haven't seen before like FULLSTREAM. 

Technology and Features of the Radeon 9000 Series

 


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