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RADEON 9700/9500 PRO
PRO versus non-PRO production
Besides the slower clock speeds, another difference between the RADEON 9700 and RADEON 9700 PRO is that the RADEON 9700 won’t be offered from ATI themselves, rather their board partners will be the sole manufacturers. ATI has decided to stick solely with “PRO” production, while its board manufacturers will produce both “PRO” and regular models.
This means that the only cards ATI will be manufacturing will be the RADEON 9000 PRO, RADEON 9500 PRO, and RADEON 9700 PRO. If you want a RADEON 9500 or RADEON 9700 for example, you’ll have to rely on one of ATI’s board partners such as Gigabyte or Powercolor. From a business standpoint, this strategy is very easy to understand. As yields on the entire RADEON 9x00 series are so good that ATI must feel it would rather stick with the PRO models, which offer a higher margin of profit. Meanwhile, third party manufacturers have a bigger market to play in, but it is much more price sensitive.
From the end user’s perspective, the RADEON 9700 is a very tempting offering. With its $299 MSRP, the RADEON 9700 is officially priced $100 less than the RADEON 9700 PRO, but offers much of the same compelling experience. With the known overclocking prowess of the RADEON 9700 chip, these cards could become very popular among the enthusiast community. And if a board manufacturer chooses to equip its RADEON 9700 product with the 2.2ns memory currently used on the RADEON 9700 PRO, you’d have a pretty sweet package that would be hard for any hardcore gamer to pass up.
RADEON 9700 cards should begin shipping from third party manufacturers later this month. We’ll definitely be watching these boards closely to see if any gems pop up.
RADEON 9500 PRO
One of the keys to the RADEON 9700 PRO’s impressive performance is its 256-bit memory interface, an industry first. However, implementing a 256-bit interface is by no means inexpensive. Therefore, in order to bring the RADEON 9500 series to market at a $200 price point, ATI has decided to narrow the bus width to 128 bits. This product is known as the RADEON 9500 PRO.
By moving from 256 bits to 128 bits, memory bandwidth falls to 8.8GB/sec (the RADEON 9500 PRO utilizes 540MHz DDR SDRAM), which compares favorably to GeForce4 Ti 4200’s 8.0GB/sec of bandwidth, RADEON 9500 PRO’s primary competitor. Like RADEON 9700, the RADEON 9500 PRO core operates at 275MHz and features an 8-pixel pipeline architecture. As a result, fill-rate is 2.2 Gigapixels/sec, just over twice that of GeForce4 Ti 4200’s 1.0 Gigapixels/sec (and the same as RADEON 9700).