Summary: ATI's RADEON 9000 Pro is poised to bring DirectX 8 gaming to the sub-$150 value market. In today's article, we take a brief look at the changes ATI has made in this new core and see how it stacks up against the competition from NVIDIA. Find out how it fares in our latest article!
What a difference a day makes
Over the past sixteen hours, we’ve witnessed some remarkable new technology from ATI. Not only was ATI’s flagship, next-generation DirectX 9 card introduced to us (the RADEON 9700) we also learned the first details of ATI’s new entrants in the value market – the RADEON 9000 and RADEON 9000 Pro. With its 8-pixel pipeline architecture and four vertex engines, RADEON 9700 doubles the feature set of anything else on the market in many key areas. Just as staggering is its 325 million triangles/second transform rate and its unique ability to process up to sixteen textures per pass.
So what does ATI have in store for the RADEON 9000 series? Surprisingly, quite a bit. Contrary to early rumors, RADEON 9000 (or as it was internally codenamed, R250) is a lot more than just a RADEON 8500 with a higher clock speed, or even an 8500 with a stripped feature set. For RADEON 9000, ATI started with a clean slate. Obviously the goal was to produce a variant of the RADEON 8500 that was cheaper to produce, but at the same time ATI’s engineers didn’t want to sacrifice performance, instead the goal was to enhance performance as much as possible while keeping costs to a minimum. In fact, the RADEON 9000 is more expensive to produce than the RADEON 7500 and therefore the RADEON 7500 family will live on in the lower portion of the value market, while the RADEON 9000 and RADEON 9000 Pro will completely replace RADEON 8500 and its variants in the value space. But what has changed between RADEON 8500 and RADEON 9000? Lets take a look at the specs.
SIDEBAR: The RADEON 9700 has been in development for the past 18 months.
3D Graphics Features
CHARISMA ENGINE II
As expected, the key difference in the 9000 and the 9000 Pro lies in clock speed, the 9000’s core clock frequency operates at 250MHz, while its DDR memory runs at 400MHz. In the case of the 9000 Pro, the core clock runs at 275MHz and is paired with 550MHz DDR memory.
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (533MHz bus)
256MB PC1066 RDRAM
ATI RADEON 9000 Pro 64MB
NVIDIA GeForce4 MX460 reference board
Driver version Detonator 29.44
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA/100 Hard Drive
AFREEY 12X DVD-ROM
Windows XP Professional
Desktop Resolution: 1024x768x32
3DMark 2001 Second Edition - 32-bit color, 32-bit textures
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
Quake III - High Quality
Jedi Knight II
While we’ve only had our RADEON 9000 Pro board for less than a day, we can clearly see the potential RADEON 9000 Pro brings to the table. What ATI has essentially done with the RADEON 9000 series is bring DirectX 8 gaming to the $100 price point. In our opinion, this is definitely a good thing.
Already we see signs of the RADEON 9000 Pro’s potential in Serious Sam 2 and 3Dmark 2001, although it still lags behind in older games such as Quake 3. During the RADEON 9000 launch, we were told that ATI focused the hardware design on DirectX 8 games with the RADEON 9000, with older, legacy games taking a backseat in terms of performance. Quite simply, the hardware emphasis for RADEON 9000 was focused more on the programmable engines present in today’s latest DirectX 8 games rather than the fixed function pipelines in older DX7 games. With many of these older applications, the RADEON 8500 will actually come ahead of RADEON 9000 in terms of performance.
Does this make the RADEON 9000 a bad successor to the RADEON 8500? In our opinion, no. With DirectX 8 gaming finally beginning to take off, we feel ATI did the right thing by focusing on DirectX 8 game performance, as the RADEON 9000 Pro core is more than capable of sustaining sufficient frame rates with older applications, and thanks to its pixel and vertex shaders, is also capable of running the latest and greatest DirectX 8 games. And with its sub-$130 price, DirectX 8 hardware has truly hit the mainstream price point.
The ATI RADEON 9000 and RADEON 9000 Pro are shipping today in 64MB configurations. We’re unaware if any plans are in the immediate works for a 128MB variant. As it stands now, the RADEON 9000 series looks very promising, but over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be running more tests to evaluate all aspects of its performance and features.
SIDEBAR: What do you think of the RADEON 9000 Pro? Would you have preferred a RADEON 9700 preview instead? Voice your thoughts in the comments!
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