ATI RADEON 9100 IGP Chipset Preview

ATI RADEON 9100 IGP Chipset Preview - Page 2

ATI RADEON 9100 IGP Preview
Integrated Graphics for the Pentium 4

By: Chris Angelini
July 7th, 2003


Plus, the Reference Board

Architecturally, the RADEON 9100 IGP is very similar to ATI's desktop RADEON 9200 family, in that both processors are DirectX 8.1-compliant.  But integrated graphics cores are necessarily slimmed down to accommodate particular packaging and thermal guidelines.  In short, the 9100 sports two pixel pipelines compared to the 9200's four.  Furthermore, the hardware T&L pipeline has been pulled from the chip.  Instead of hardware transform and lighting, the 9100 offloads vertex calculations to the CPU itself, purportedly sacrificing very little performance.  But even armed with the "light" version of the 9200 core, ATI doesn't exactly have a formidable opponent in the integrated Pentium 4 market.  Ironically, Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 is the only real competition.

Manufactured on a .15-micron TSMC process, our early sample of the 9100 IGP is operating at 300MHz.  Third-party motherboard manufacturers will have free reign to set their own operating frequencies, though, depending on the complexity of cooling that they want to implement.  ATI's Chris Hook claims the core will run reliably right up to 350MHz, should an active cooler be used.


In its current incarnation, ATI's RADEON 9100 IGP officially supports Pentium 4 processors that operate on 400 and 533MHz front side buses.  Additionally, ATI and Intel made a joint announcement that confirms the RADEON 9100 IGP will also function properly with 800MHz front side bus processors - valuable because ATI anticipates most system builders will couple 9100 boards with 800MHz FSB processors.


Early on in our 875P testing, it became apparent that certain "Canterwood" boards wouldn't work properly with some brands of DDR400 memory that apparently hadn't been validated by Intel's own labs.  This was naturally a concern when we started testing 865PE boards, and of course, when we outfitted the sample RADEON 9100 system with two sticks of DDR400 memory.  Fortunately, compatibility wasn't an issue, even with ATI's pre-production board.  We went a step further to test different memory frequencies, gauging which speeds delivered the best performance (an especially important point, considering that the nForce2 chipset favors synchronous operation).  Indeed, the RADEON 9100 IGP ran best in dual-channel DDR400 mode, regardless of the front side bus speed.  No doubt, this is due to the increased memory bandwidth available to the integrated graphics core.

One particularly unique feature of the RADEON 9100 IGP is its ability to drive a third display, even with a discrete card installed.  Most integrated solutions allow you to choose between a discrete card and the internal processor.  ATI's SurroundView, on the other hand, enables up to two monitors, connected to an AGP card, to work in conjunction with the RADEON 9100 core in either 2D or 3D modes, akin to Matrox's Surround Gaming. 

Mobility RADEON 9100 IGP:

The mobile variant of the RADEON 9100 IGP is nearly identical to the desktop chipset.  It does include a dual LVDS interface for resolutions up to QXGA (2048x1536) and ATI's POWERPLAY support to adjust the graphics engine clock, memory clock, and core voltage, obviously with the intention of preserving battery life.  It also supports Intel's SpeedStep technology.

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
RADEON 9100 IGP versus 865G

Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz (533MHz) with Hyper Threading enabled


ATI RADEON 9100 IGP Pre-Production (RS300)

Intel D865GBF (Intel 865G)


512MB Corsair XMS3200C2


Seagate 120GB Serial ATA 7200RPM

Maxtor Diamondmax Plus 8 20GB ATA-100

Reference Silicon Image Serial ATA controller card


Windows XP Professional with SP1

DirectX 9.0a

One of the primary differences between Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 setup and that of ATI's RADEON 9100 IGP is the amount of memory that can be dedicated to the graphics core.  While both systems featured 512MB of DDR400 memory, the D865GBF was limited to a 16MB frame buffer, while the RADEON 9100 could be configured up to 128MB.  This affected the dedicated graphics and system memory of each platform. 


Each platform featured Windows XP with Service Pack 1.  In configuring the operating system, we disabled System Restore and the Automatic Updating feature.  Finally, we set all of the graphical enhancements to "Performance" in the Windows XP properties.  It should also be noted that we disabled audio and Ethernet in order to minimize the effects of these subsystems on overall performance.


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