ATI RADEON 9700 and 9500 Family Preview
Meet The Whole Family!

By: Chris Angelini
October 24th, 2002

ATI has been hammering away at NVIDIAs firm grasp on the hearts and minds of gamers, multimedia enthusiasts, corporate users and laptop owners.  Up until now, they have done so with individual product announcements, like the RADEON 9700 Pro, RADEON 9000 Pro, and so on.  Each card effectively delivered a well-aimed blow to NVIDIAs comprehensive lineup, currently consisting of the GeForce4 Ti and MX families.  With the 9000 and 8500 cards covering the mainstream market, ATI is poised to further its cause in the mid and high-end 3D arenas, filling the gap between the RADEON 9700 Pro and the RADEON 9000.

As we've already seen, the R300 Visual Processing Unit is an ace for ATI; a hot commodity.  Its the first consumer level graphics engine with eight rendering pipelines and 128-bit per pixel floating point color support.  The chip employs four geometry engines to process up to 325 million polygons per second, when clocked at 325MHz .  In essence, the R300 is the first chip that adheres to Microsofts DirectX 9 specification, putting it in direct competition with NVIDIA's upcoming NV30.  NVIDIAs next-generation part isnt quite ready yet, though.  And despite rumors that have been circulating about a launch during this years Comdex, it is doubtful hardware based on the anticipated competitor will be ready at that time.  So, while NVIDIA puts the finishing touches on NV30, ATI is readying an entire family of cards designed to leverage the power of its R300 processor across several price points.

Features of the RADEON Family
Competition for the GeForce4 Ti 4600, 4400,  and 4200

 

GRAPHICS TECHNOLOGY

R300 Visual Processing Unit (VPU)

MEMORY CONFIGURATION

  • 128MB or 64MB of double data rate SDRAM

3D GRAPHICS FEATURES

  • Eight/four parallel rendering pipelines process up to 2.6 billion pixels per second

  • Four parallel geometry engines process up to 325 million transformed and lit polygons per second

  • High precision 10-bit per channel framebuffer support

  • 256-bit/128-bit DDR memory interface

  • AGP 8X support

-SMARTSHADER 2.0

  • Full support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 programmable pixel and vertex shaders in hardware

  • 2.0 Pixel Shaders support up to 16 textures per rendering pass

  • 2.0 Vertex Shaders support vertex programs up to 1024 instructions with flow control

  • New 128-bit per pixel floating point color formats

  • Multiple Render Target (MRT) support

  • Shadow volume rendering acceleration

  • Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL via extensions

-SMOOTHVISION 2.0

  • State-of-the-art full-scene anti-aliasing

  • New technology processes up to 15.6 billion anti-aliased samples per second for unprecedented performance

  • Supports 2x, 4x, and 6x modes with programmable sample patterns

  • Advanced anisotropic filtering

  • Supports up to 16 bilinear samples (in performance mode) or trilinear samples (in quality mode) per pixel

  • 2x/4x/6x full scene anti-aliasing modes

  • Adaptive algorithm with programmable sample patterns

  • 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes

  • Adaptive algorithm with bilinear (performance) and trilinear (quality) options

  • Bandwidth-saving algorithm enables this feature with minimal performance cost

-HYPERZ III

  • Hierarchical Z-Buffer and Early Z Test reduce overdraw by detecting and discarding hidden pixels

  • Lossless Z-Buffer Compression and Fast Z-Buffer Clear reduce memory bandwidth consumption by over 50%

  • Fast Z-Buffer Clear

-TRUFORM 2.0

  • 2nd generation N-patch higher order surface support

  • Discrete and continuous tessellation levels per polygon for dynamic LOD

  • DirectX 9.0 displacement mapping

VIDEO FEATURES

-VIDEOSHADER

  • Seamless integration of programmable pixel shaders with video data

  • High quality, hardware accelerated de-blocking of internet streaming video

  • Noise removal filter for captured video

  • Integrated MPEG-2 decode

  • Hardware accelerated iDCT, motion compensation, and color space conversion

  • Top quality DVD and all-format DTV/HDTV decode with low CPU overhead

  • Back-end scaler delivers top quality playback

  • Upscaling and downscaling with 4-tap horizontal and vertical filtering

  • Filtered display of images up to 1920 pixels wide

  • Unique per-pixel adaptive de-interlacing feature combines the best elements of the bob and add-field (weave) techniques

FULLSTREAM video de-blocking technology

  • Noise removal filtering for captured video

  • MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and color space conversion

  • All-format DTV/HDTV decoding

  • YPrPb component output

  • Adaptive de-interlacing and frame rate conversion

  • Dual integrated display controllers

  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel 400MHz DACs

  • Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI and HDCP compliant)

  • Integrated TV Output support up to 1024x768 resolution

  • Optimized for Pentium 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon 3Dnow!

  • PC 2002 compliant

DISPLAY FEATURES

  • Dual integrated display controllers

  • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions and refresh rates

  • HYDRAVISION software provides complete control over multi-display configurations with a user-friendly interface

  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel palette DACs operating at up to 400MHz

  • Integrated 165MHz TMDS transmitter supports resolutions up to QXGA (2048x1536) and complies with DVI and HDCP specifications

  • Integrated TV-Out support up to 1024x768 resolution

  • YPrPb output for direct drive of HDTV monitors

DISPLAY SUPPORT

  • 15-pin VGA connector for analog CRT

  • S-video or composite connector for TV/VCR

  • DVI-I connector for digital CRT or flat panel

  • Independent resolutions and refresh rates for any two connected displays

GENERAL FEATURES

  • Comprehensive 2x, 4x, and 8x AGP support

  • High performance quad-channel DDR memory interface supports 64/128/256MB configurations

  • Fully compliant with PC 2002 requirements

  • Optimized for Pentium 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon 3Dnow! processor instructions

  • Supports optional THEATER 200 companion chip for NTSC/PAL/SECAM video capture

  • Highly optimized 128-bit 2D engine with support for new Windows XP GDI extensions

 

The RADEON 9700 Family
GeForce4 Ti 4600 Killer

Vital Stats:

RADEON 9700 Pro: 325/620MHz core/memory, R300 core with eight parallel rendering pipelines, 128MB of DDR memory on a 256-bit data path (19.8GB/s of bandwidth)

RADEON 9500: 275/540MHz, R300 core with eight parallel rendering pipelines, 128MB of DDR memory on a 256-bit data path (17.3GB/s of bandwidth)

We're going to go out on a limb here, and assume that the RADEON 9700 Pro needs no introduction.  If you would like to refresh your memory, check out our review, however, the important fact is that ATIs RADEON 9700 Pro is currently able to outperform any competing 3D card.  On the 9700 Pro, the R300 core runs at 325MHz and is complimented by a 256-bit memory bus clocked at 310MHz DDR, or effectively 620MHz. 

Not all of the cores ATI receives back from the fabrication plant are capable of 325MHz, though.  Many function perfectly, yet are not as tolerant of high frequencies.  NVIDIA has used this concept of yield to build the GeForce4 Ti family.  The processors are sorted the best become GeForce4 Ti 4600 cards, others, reliable at 275MHz become Ti 4400s and the rest are used for Ti 4200 cards.  Of course, this doesnt mean a GeForce4 Ti 4200 card cant be overclocked to run at the same frequency as a 4400.

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Using a similar technique, ATI is introducing the "non-Pro" RADEON 9700 to compliment the more expensive Pro.  Both 9700 cards will feature the same R300 VPU with eight rendering pipelines and a similar 256-bit DDR memory bus (with 128MB of memory).  The distinguishing characteristic of the RADEON 9700 will be its operating frequency: 275MHz core and 270MHz DDR (540MHz effective) memory.  Then there is the $299 price tag, which should put the card in the same league as the GeForce4 Ti 4600 with regard to both price and performance.  Further, ATI claims the RADEON 9700 will be available as soon as this month.

RADEON 9500 Family and Conclusion