Since ATI was granted a Pentium 4 license in January of 2001, gamers and enthusiasts on a budget have anxiously awaited the arrival of ATIís integrated solution for the Pentium 4 platform. This wait turned out to be a long one, as ATIís first integrated products eventually found their way into notebooks and, ironically enough, AMD Athlon XP-based systems. It literally got to the point that many began to speculate that ATIís license agreement with Intel didnít include desktop PCs. ATI ultimately didnít enter the Pentium 4 desktop market until the introduction of the RADEON 9100 IGP last summer.
The first wave of these RADEON 9100 IGP boards first hit the market late last year, with ASUS recently unveiling its P4R800-V Deluxe which we reviewed last month. We found the integrated performance of the RADEON 9100 IGP chipset found within the P4R800-V Deluxe to be second to none in its class. In fact, we were able to game in titles such as Unreal Tournament 2004 and Halo with adequate performance, and thanks to SURROUNDVIEW, had a system that was capable of driving three independent displays.
The only limitations we found with RADEON 9100 IGP was its lesser performance in comparison to other Pentium 4 chipsets when a discrete graphics card was used, and the outdated nature of its South Bridge, which lacked some of the critical features found on todayís Pentium 4 chipsets such as native Serial ATA and RAID support.
ASUS was able to make up for some of these shortcomings by integrating external controllers for Serial ATA, RAID, and PCI-based Gigabit Ethernet, but many micro-ATX RADEON 9100 IGP-based motherboards donít have room for these features. In fact, ASUSí own micro-ATX RADEON 9100 IGP motherboard, the P4R800-VM doesnít provide Serial ATA hard drive support. This puts RADEON 9100 IGP motherboards at an extreme disadvantage in comparison to Intel 865G platforms when it comes to a features perspective. ATI needed an answer, and it appears they have may have found it in the RADEON 9100 PRO IGP.
Billed as ATIís last AGP chipset, the RADEON 9100 PRO IGP is meant to address the RADEON 9100 IGPís biggest criticisms: the 9100 IGPís outdated South Bridge and its lackluster performance when an external graphics card is used. In addition, ATI has also prepped a Pentium 4 chipset for the value space, the RADEON 9000 PRO IGP.
With the RADEON 9100 PRO IGP serving the performance crowd while the RADEON 9100 IGP and 9000 IGP service the mainstream and value integrated markets, ATI hopes to have all its bases covered going into the crucial back-to-school season when countless PCs are sold.
But how do these chipsets differ from their competitors and what new features have been added? Letís explore the changes, starting with the RADEON 9100 PRO IGP.