ATI: Taking DX9 graphics mainstream
While ATIís RADEON 9700 PRO stole all the headlines last year, the RADEON 9500 PRO was easily just as significant in the grand scheme of things. For the first time in recent history, a mainstream next-gen product accompanied a next generation launch for the high-end segment as well. GeForce3 and RADEON 8500 were both launched with premium price tags, NVIDIAís GeForce3 refresh, GeForce3 Ti 500 and Ti 200 helped bring prices down to more acceptable levels, but it wasnít until the debut of RADEON 8500 LE and GeForce4 Ti 4200 that mainstream DirectX 8 cards really took off.
For those of you with calendars and a good memory, thatís a separation of nearly a year between the debut of DX8 graphics and mainstream market acceptance. In contrast, the RADEON 9500 and RADEON 9500 PRO debuted in November of last year, roughly three months after RADEON 9700 PRO was unveiled. Within a matter of weeks, the first batch of cards hit retail, just in time for the busy holiday shopping season (and have been selling like hotcakes ever since). In fact, the RADEON 9500 and RADEON 9500 PRO beat Microsoftís own DirectX 9 API to market! Clearly ATI was out to gain the hearts and minds of gamers and hardware enthusiasts, and broke all the rules in the process.
What do we mean by ďbroke all the rulesĒ? You see, not only did ATI set a new record for mainstream introductions with the RADEON 9500 series; they literally sold their high-end product as a mainstream part. Thatís right, the RV300 core the RADEON 9500 family was based on was nothing more than a RADEON 9700 with its memory interface cut in half, while the RADEON 9500 sported a 128-bit memory interface with half its pixel pipelines disabled. In fact, early RADEON 9500 cards were built on the exact same PCBs as RADEON 9700 cards! It wasnít long after enthusiasts got their hands on the RADEON 9500 in particular that it was modified to perform similarly to a RADEON 9700. Not bad for a $150 graphics card!
Of course, with 110 million transistors on a 0.15-micron process, the R300 core the RADEON 9700 is built on is by no means inexpensive for ATI to produce. Selling these graphics cores in $150-$200 graphics cards is no way to improve your bottom line financially. Therefore, ATI had to come up with a DirectX 9 card for the mainstream market that was cheaper to produce. Enter the RADEON 9600 PRO.
Tyanís graphic roots
While ATI has been busy reinventing itself among gamers and enthusiasts, Tyan has been doing much of the same with its new Tachyon line of graphics cards. Actually shaking up the graphics market would be a more accurate description. Whereas most manufacturers have been content with ATIís reference design, Tyan has been using its engineering expertise to add new, unique features to its Tachyon cards. Tyan is essentially out to make a better card than ATI, or any other card manufacturer for that matter. The end result has brought Tyan lots of rave reviews from online publications and end userís alike.
Does Tyan still have its winning formula down for the Tachyon G9600 PRO? Letís find out!