ATI With ATI’s introduction of the RADEON 9500 series just a few weeks ago, ATI now has a top to bottom solution on the desktop for the Holiday shopping season. The 9500 cards from its add-in board partners are shipping now and should be slowly trickling into store shelves, while the first RADEON 9500 PRO cards should begin to hit retail within the next few weeks. In terms of the RADEON 9700/9700 PRO, we’ve noticed that the third party manufacturers are beginning to release their second generation of RADEON 9700 PRO cards, all of them feature unique cooling solutions that set them apart from the ATI reference design. Tyan was the first manufacturer to announce that it would be releasing a RADEON 9700 PRO card that raised the bar in terms of core/memory clock speeds, but it appears that they won’t be the only card manufacturer with the intention of doing this. FIC is working on their “overclocked” part. And while the card probably won’t be officially endorsed by ATI’s certification program, privately ATI is encouraged to see third-party manufacturers doing this. We also saw an interesting solution from Sapphire that utilized heatpipe technology (without the loud fan) that also looked very impressive. We’ll be reporting on these cards in more detail shortly. ATI’s take on GeForce FX The focus of our conversation with ATI was dealing with the misconceptions brought about by NVIDIA during the GeForce FX launch. ATI essentially feels that the RADEON 9700 is a more balanced solution than GeForce FX, which doesn’t have the bandwidth to perform many of the operations it’s boasting at an acceptable frame rate. For instance, NVIDIA is proud to claim that GeForce FX boasts pixel and vertex shaders that go beyond DirectX 9.0’s specs, yet a 400-500MHz chip with 8 pixel pipelines running very long shaders would spend all of its time in geometry, bringing frame rate to a crawl. ATI feels that with RADEON 9700’s multi-pass capability, having native support for thousands of shaders is useless, as the RADEON 9700 can loopback to perform those operations. ATI ran a demonstration of a space fighter that was rendered using this technique. As far as NVIDIA’s bandwidth claims of GeForce FX’s 48GB/sec memory bandwidth, ATI states that the color compression in their HYPERZ III technology performs the same thing today, and with all of the techniques they use in RADEON 9700, they could claim bandwidth of nearly100GB/sec, but if they did so no one would believe them, hence they’ve stood with offering just shy of 20GB/sec of bandwidth. One other clarification is in regards to DDR2 memory support. Late last week rumors were floating around that ATI’s DDR2 demonstration wasn’t actually running as DDR2 memory. ATI reiterated that the RADEON 9700 memory controller does indeed support DDR2 and that was the memory type used in the demonstration board.