Both NVIDIA and ATI use similar strategies for marketing their respective products. The recipe goes a little something like this: generate excitement with your high-end product (even if it is in limited supply), design budget-oriented cards based on the same technology shortly thereafter, and finally, reap the financial benefits of a compelling product for each market you’ve targeted. At least that’s the plan. An economic concept called capitalism often complicates the situation. If your competitor’s flagship is more successful, there’s a safe bet he’ll dominate all the way down your product line.
And dominate is exactly what ATI has done since releasing its RADEON 9700 Pro. We’re still waiting for GeForce FX to hit store shelves, so the R300-based products continue to hold the upper hand. More specifically, the RADEON 9700 has demonstrated the ability to stave off the GeForce4 Ti 4600, while the 9500 Pro makes quick work of the Ti 4200 (albeit at a higher price) and even the Ti 4600 in anti-aliased tests. At under $150, the RADEON 9500 is able to take care of the mainstream market while boasting proper DirectX 9 support, according to ATI.
Sapphire Technologies offers a full range of ATI products, including the eye-catching Atlantis RADEON 9700 Pro Ultimate. The other cards in Sapphire’s product family are less extravagant, but of course the pleasant result is a more manageable price tag (an important consideration for the gamer on a budget). Neither the RADEON 9700 nor the 9500 Pro are mainstream cards. However, both are more affordable than the 9700 Pro and still offer remarkably compelling benchmark results.
R300 Power for the Masses
Both the RADEON 9700 and RADEON 9500 Pro cards are very similar. The differences between the two are limited mainly to their respective memory busses. They both feature the same R300 core found on the RADEON 9700 Pro, operating at 275/270MHz rather than the 9700 Pro’s 325/310MHz. But the 9700 is outfitted with a 256-bit memory bus that delivers 17.3GB per second of bandwidth and the 9500 Pro is slightly handicapped with a 128-bit bus that offers 8.6GB per second.