They’re back: ATi Technologies announces three new video board series

by Doug “guod” Atkinson

 

ATi LogoIntroduction

If you’re a competitor of ATi’s video boards, it’s time to get worried. Not content with the success of their Radeon™ 9500 and 9700 series, ATi is announcing three new video boards today. The bar has just been raised. Again.

The three new board series include the:

  • Radeon™ 9800 and Radeon™ 9800 Pro for the enthusiasts market
  • Radeon™ 9600 and Radeon™ 9600 Pro for the performance mainstream market
  • Radeon™ 9200 for the mainstream market

ATi has become the first manufacturer to embraced the new OpenGL 2.0 standard in hardware with the same vigor that they surged forward with support for DirectX 9.0 and AGP 8x. If you’re running a sim that likes OpenGL, things just got more interesting. So now ATi is the only company shipping DirectX® 9.0 and OpenGL 2.0 video boards. Impressive.

ATi is also offering DirectX 9.0++ with the new boards. The extended capabilities which 9.0++ offers that are not available in 9.0 includes:

  • floating point 3D textures
  • floating point cube maps
  • multiple render targets
  • displacement mapping
  • n-patches

So at a time when everyone else is catching-up to ATi’s support of DirectX 9.0, they expand to 9.0++.

Some of the DirectX 9.0 sims now in development include Harpoon IV, LOMAC, Pro Race Driver, Vietcong and WWII RTS.


Radeon 9800

Meet the new Radeon™ 9800 series

Right up front, ATi says the Radeon 9800 is the fastest graphics chip in the world. Here’s how they can make that claim. The new Radeon 9800 series arrives with three memory configurations. Leading the show is the Radeon 9800 Pro – 256MB memory. That makes it the first 256MB gamer’s video board on the market. They back that up with a Radeon 9800 Pro – 128MB and a Radeon 9800 – 128MB.

Here’s a profile of each new 9800 board:

Radeon™ 9800 Pro 256MB (reference board specifications)

  • worlds first 256MB gamer’s video board
  • core: 380MHz
  • memory (DDR2): 340MHz DDR or 680MHz effective
  • full DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL 2.0 support
  • AGP 4x/8x compatibility
  • 256MB fast DDR2 memory
  • DVI, TV and CRT
  • available in April 2003
  • suggested retail price: Not yet available

Radeon™ 9800 Pro 128MB (reference board specifications)

  • core: 380MHz
  • memory: 340MHz DDR or 680MHz effective
  • full DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL 2.0 support
  • AGP 4x/8x compatibility
  • 128MB fast DDR memory
  • DVI, TV and CRT
  • available in March 2003
  • suggested retail price: $399

Radeon™ 9800 128MB (reference board specifications)

  • core: Unknown at this time
  • memory: Unknown at this time
  • full DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL 2.0 support
  • AGP 4x/8x compatibility
  • 128MB fast DDR memory
  • DVI, TV and CRT
  • available in March 2003
  • suggested retail price: $349

Radeon 9600

The new Radeon™ 9600 series

Intended to open up cinematic quality imagery to a broader marketplace, ATi’s new Radeon 9600 ASIC has:

  • new .13 Micron micro-architecture
  • quad pixel pipelines (16 textures per pass, 128-bit floating point data)
  • dual vertex engines (up to 175 million triangles transformed and lit /sec
  • Hyper Z III performance optimizations include:

– 8:1 lossless Z compression
– advanced programmable Z caching
– early Z detection
– fast Z clear

  • hyper optimized memory controller with fully programmable bank and channel interleaving
  • advanced programmable visual processor:- DirectX 9.0 support with Smartshader™ 2.1: 128-bit floating point, supports standard high level shading languages, high dynamic range

    – high performance quality game settings with Smoothvision™ 2.1: adaptive anisotropic filtering, up to 6x multisample anti-aliasing with gamma correction, 6:1 color compression

Here’s the 9600 boards profiles:

Radeon™ 9600 Pro 128MB (reference board specifications)

  • core: 400MHz
  • memory: 300MHz DDR or 600MHz effective
  • full DirectX 9.0 support
  • AGP 4x/8x compatibility
  • 128MB fast DDR memory
  • VGA, DVI and TV
  • Hydravision
  • available in April 2003
  • suggested retail price: $169 – $199

Radeon™ 9600 64MB – 128MB (reference board specifications)

  • core: 325MHz
  • memory: 200MHz DDR or 400MHz effective
  • full DirectX 9.0 support
  • AGP 4x/8x compatibility
  • 64MB – 128MB DDR memory
  • Hydravision
  • available in April 2003
  • estimated selling price: $149 – $169

Radeon 9200

…and the new Radeon™ 9200 series

The Radeon 9200 is intended to raise the mainstream market standard in video graphics quality. Featuring AGP 8x and DirectX 8.1, it’s quad-piped, has a 10-bit per color DAC and includes Smartshader™, Smoothvision™, Fullstream™. Fullstream uses ATi’s shader engine to improve Internet video playback. This results in higher quality streaming video.

Radeon™ 9200 Pro 64MB – 128MB (reference board specifications)

  • core: unknown at this time
  • memory: unknown at this time
  • DirectX 9.0 compatible with DirectX 8.1 shader level support
  • AGP 4x/8x compatibility
  • 128MB DDR memory
  • VGA, DVI and TV
  • Hydravision
  • available soon
  • estimated selling price: $129 – $179

Radeon™ 9200 64MB – 128MB (reference board specifications)

  • core: unknown at this time
  • memory: unknown at this time
  • DirectX 9.0 compatible with DirectX 8.1 shader level support
  • AGP 4x/8x compatibility
  • 64MB – 128MB DDR memory
  • VGA and TV
  • Hydravision
  • available soon
  • estimated selling price: $79 – $129

Coming to a cinema near you

ATi has coined the term “cinematic rendering” to represent their 9700 and now the 9800 series boards. The 9800 has the only second generation cinematic video processing unit (VPU) available. Featuring a second generation cinematic architecture, the 9800 has built on their technology with Smartshader™ 2.1, Smoothvision™ 2.1 and HyperZ™ III+.

Smartshader 2.1 has unlimited instructions for the pixel shaders, and is enabled by a new “F-Buffer” technology. This results in more complex effects with improved performance.

Smartshader 2.1

 

Smoothvison 2.1 features an optimized memory controller which improves the performance in anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering at higher resolutions.

Hyper Z III+ advances memory bandwidth efficiency with it’s optimized Z cache. The result is enhanced performance of shadow volumes.

Competitive comparison

Lets see how the NVIDIA® GeForceFX™ and ATi Radeon™ 9800 Pro compare.

NVIDIA GeForceFX
ATi Radeon 9800 Pro
Memory interface
128-bit
256-bit
DirectX version support
v9.0
v9.0
OpenGL® 2.0 unlimited shader support?
no
yes
Memory bandwidth
16 GB/sec.
22.4 GB/sec.
Vertex shader instructions
65,280
65,280
Z-compression
4:1
24:1
Color compression
4:1
6:1
Maximum pixel precision
128-bit
128-bit
Maximum anisotropic filtering setting
8x
16x
Correct anti-aliasing gamma correction
no
yes
Maximum distinct anti-aliasing samples
4x
6x
Second generation 6x anti-aliasing, 16x anisotropic filtering
no
yes
Support for unlimited shader instructions
no
yes
Multiple rendered targets
no
yes
Full floating point processing in a single cycle
no
yes
High dimension floating point textures
no
yes

VisionTek 9800 PROConclusion

This kind of competition among video board manufacturers is wonderful for the consumer. We are seeing better and better quality and features than we would have ever believed possible a few years ago. It will be very interesting to see how ATi fares with their OpenGL 2.0 hardware support. While we can be amazed at the specifications, seeing is believing so we’re very anxious to get some hands-on time with “The fastest video chip in the world” and put it through the tests. Expect a review of the Radeon 9800 PRO soon.

Pictured above is a reference board picture of a VisionTek 9800 PRO powered by ATi!

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