RADEON 9800/RADEON 9600 Family
DDR2 RADEON 9800!
Yes, you read that correctly, ATI will release a RADEON 9800 PRO product with DDR2 memory, except its not quite what you think. The DDR2-equipped RADEON 9800 PRO will ship with 256MB of DDR2 memory. We’ve been told that the memory core will ship at the same 380MHz as the 128MB boards, but the final clock speed of the memory has not been determined. ATI is shooting for the same 21.8GB/sec currently offered by the 128MB RADEON 9800 PRO, but since this product isn’t final this may change.
The reason ATI decided to go with DDR2 for the 256MB board was power consumption. 256MB of DDR memory would have put RADEON 9800 PRO over the power budget ATI’s engineers were shooting for, so they elected to go with DDR2. We were not given an MSRP for the 256MB board, but were told that it will begin shipping sometime next month.
RADEON 9800 PRO reference card
Back of the reference card
The RADEON 9800
We know that the RADEON 9800 PRO ships in a 380/340 configuration, will begin shipping this month, and is priced at $399, unfortunately the details on the vanilla RADEON 9800 aren’t quite as clear. Final clock speeds have not been determined, and availability is listed as Q2, which could be anywhere from 1-3 months from now. ATI has quoted an MSRP of $349, so the board is only $50 less than the 9800 PRO flagship.
Based on all this, we don’t have the same excitement for the 9800 as we did for the 9700 when it was released. As you’ll see in our overclocking results, even the 9800 PRO appears to be clocked conservatively, so we have no doubt that the 9800 will scale to high clock frequencies well, but we’re only saving $50 (versus $100 last year with the 9700) and we’ll have to wait longer for it. Surprisingly, ATI plans to market their PRO and non-PRO cards this time around, for R300 they left non-PRO cards to third-party manufacturers. We’ll have to wait and see how everything plays out with street prices and 9800 performance but right now we don’t see any reason to hold out for the RADEON 9800.
The RADEON 9600 Family
Unlike the RADEON 9500 series, which shared the same R300 core among all four products (including as it turns out, the “4”-pixel pipeline RADEON 9500), RADEON 9600 is based on an entirely different core.
The biggest change is the new 0.13-micron manufacturing process. As a result, RADEON 9600 doesn’t require an external power source. Like RADEON 9500 (non-PRO), RADEON 9600 utilizes a 4-pixel pipeline architecture with one texture unit per pipe. To get around the fill rate disadvantage in comparison to RADEON 9500 PRO, ATI has cranked up the core clock frequency: 400MHz in the case of the RADEON 9600 PRO, and 325MHz for the RADEON 9600. To further improve performance for the 9600 family ATI has integrated an enhanced memory controller as well as new 8:1 loss-less Z-Compression (versus 6:1)
We’ll have to wait and see how things play out with the RADEON 9600 PRO. It’s 400MHz core/300MHz memory should help it perform well, but the RADEON 9500 PRO still enjoys a fill rate advantage. The RADEON 9600 PRO will be priced in the $169-$199 price range while the RADEON 9600 will come in around $149-$169. The RADEON 9600 will be clocked at 325MHz core/200MHz memory so you’ll be better off with the RADEON 9500 PRO. Both cards will begin shipping in April.