The RADEON 9500 PRO card
ATI's RADEON 9500 PRO
The back of the card
New board design
As you can see the RADEON 9500 PRO board design is different than RADEON 9700 PRO. The card still requires an external power source, but the location of the power connector has been shifted towards the center of the board, just above the VPU. The memory is located just behind it.
The heat spreader that was located on the back of RADEON 9700 cards’ is no longer present and the memory chips are no longer oriented perpendicular to each other.
What’s really surprising by this design is how remarkably it contrasts with the regular RADEON 9500 cards. While the RADEON 9500 PRO is based on a new board design, the RADEON 9500 cards we’ve received have been built entirely on the original RADEON 9700 board!
We’re guessing that the third party manufacturers have decided to do this to save time. With the pressure of getting product out to market in time for the holiday shopping season, card manufacturers must have chosen to forego the time involved in coming up with a new design in favor of getting their RADEON 9500 products to market as quickly as possible. Essentially, they’ve slapped the RADEON 9500 on a RADEON 9700 PCB to save time.
As a result, we’ve had RADEON 9500 cards since the beginning of this month (although we’ve noticed that they’re still rather limited at retail), while the RADEON 9500 PRO card we’re reviewing today hasn’t even been in our possession for a full week. In fact, looking at the date of manufacture of our RADEON 9500 PRO card, this little red gem is just shy of three weeks old!
While we normally prefer to include overclocked results in our product reviews, we were unable to perform this function with PowerStrip with the RADEON 9500 PRO. Even armed with version 3.29, the software refused to properly recognize the clock speeds of the hardware. However, we were told during Comdex that these RADEON 9500 PRO boards are incredible overclockers.
Normally we’d take these statements with a grain of salt, but based on our experiences with the RADEON 9700 PRO we don’t doubt it. Since this card is essentially built on the same core, we have a feeling that we’re sitting on a wealth of overclocking potential with our RADEON 9500 PRO card. As soon as we’re able to overclock our board, we’ll report back with our findings in a separate article.
While Chris was able to run tests with his Gigabyte GV-R9500/ASUS P4S8X combo in yesterday’s article, I didn’t have the same results with my RADEON 9500 card from Sapphire or the ATI RADEON 9500 PRO. The same symptoms we reported on involving the RADEON 9700 and the SiS 648 chipset persisted, namely system stability was inconsistent, especially in Unreal Tournament 2003 and/or during high-resolution gaming. Owners of SiS 648-based motherboards should keep this in mind for the time being, fortunately the 845PE chipset from Intel works flawlessly with all of ATI’s products.
The KT400 chipset also has performance issues in OpenGL titles with the R300 core that allows the KT333 to outperform KT400 at low resolutions by about 8%. VIA is currently working to address this issue.