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| The RADEON 9500 Family |
| Potential GeForce4 Ti 4200 Killer |
RADEON 9500 Pro: 275/540MHz core/memory, R300 core with eight parallel rendering pipelines, 128MB of DDR memory on a 128-bit data path (8.6GB/s of bandwidth)
RADEON 9500: 275/540MHz, R300 core with four parallel rendering pipelines, 64MB of DDR memory on a 128-bit data path (8.6GB/s of bandwidth)
Seeing as the RADEON 9700 Pro costs $399 and the RADEON 9700 costs $299, there is still plenty of room for less expensive ?mainstream? alternatives. This is where ATI has positioned the 9500 series, in which there are two cards. The first, the RADEON 9500 Pro, is like the more powerful 9700 series except for its 128-bit memory architecture. With 128MB of DDR memory effectively clocked at 540MHz, the card?s memory bus can transfer up to 8.6GB per second of data ? a stark contrast to what the 9700 series is capable of, but ideal for comparison against NVIDIA?s GeForce4 Ti 4200. The R300 chip is the same, supporting DirectX 9, eight rendering pipelines and AGP8X, and like the RADEON 9700, the 9500 Pro incorporates a 275MHz core.
When the board debuts in November, it will sell for $219, minus a $20 mail-in rebate. ATI claims the 9500 Pro will outperform the Ti 4200 by up to 40% in 3D Mark 2001 SE, making the card an impressive value for a gamer wanting the latest features but interested in saving some money as well.
The RADEON 9500 brings up the tail end of ATI?s DX9 family. It features the same 275MHz R300 processor and 128-bit memory bus as the 9500 Pro, only the R300 on the 9500 features "only" four functional rendering pipelines rather than eight. Yet, Even with half of the pixel fillrate of its older brother, ATI maintains that the 9500 will perform up to 20% better than the Ti 4200 in 3D Mark 2001 SE. We'll have to wait until we get a card to verify this though. When equipped with 64MB of DDR memory, the RADEON 9500 is slated to debut at $179.
Nowadays, many companies have fallen into the habit of unveiling hardware without making available either retail product or early samples for evaluation. With that in mind, we?ll have to wait for another day before judgment can be passed on the RADEON 9700 or either of the RADEON 9500 cards. ATI has, of course, provided its own "independent" benchmarks that show the 9700 and 9500 series besting the targeted competition in a few clearly chosen optimal situations, but whether that analysis holds true for all other gaming scenarios remains to be seen.
You may have noticed that third-party manufacturers and ATI currently offer RADEON 9700 Pro cards. ATI will continue manufacturing boards with the ?Pro? designation, mainly the 9700 Pro, 9500 Pro and 9000 Pro, while companies like Sapphire Technology and Hercules will be able to manufacture boards based on any of ATI?s processors.
For the first time, ATI has a product lineup that competes against NVIDIA's best effort. On paper, the RADEON 9700 and 9500 series hold an advantage over anything carrying the GeForce4 moniker, however, even when the 9500 series of cards become available, they will still cost more than a GeForce4 Ti 4200. The same thing goes for the vanilla 9700 - the GeForce4 Ti 4600 can be found for around $240 or so. Then, there's the NV30 factor. NVIDIA's next-generation graphics processor doesn't mean much to the cards being unveiled today, but if the rumors turn out to be true, it will very likely usurp the RADEON 9700 Pro from its performance throne. Undoubtedly, NVIDIA will craft an entire line to compete with what is presented here, just as ATI has done.
It's great to see ATI pushing DirectX9 into the mainstream. Unfortunately, game development still takes time, so it will be a while before we are able to fully realize the true benefit of DX9 compliance. Nevertheless, the RADEON 9500 series should be able to give NVIDIA's best-selling Ti 4200 a run for its money and the 9700 should do the same for the Ti 4600. The NV30 isn't far off, though, so expect the graphics scene to get even more interesting sooner rather than later.
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