While Mac users are still awaiting a Mac-compatible product based on
ATI Technology Inc.’s Radeon 9700 chip, the company has moved on by introducing three new processors aimed at the desktop market — the Radeon 9200, 9600 and 9800 Pro.
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In announcing the new chips, ATI gave some indications of how it will position them in ATI’s own retail product matrix, and said that other retail product announcements would be put forth from its third-party retail product partners. ATI’s announcements stopped short of making any sort of promises for Mac retail cards. ATI’s Mac offerings inevitably lag months behind their PC counterparts, so it’s entirely feasible that other announcements will be made in the future.
The 9800 is ATI’s new flagship desktop graphics chip, and it provides a 256-bit memory interface and eight pixel pipelines. The 9800 includes programmable shader engines and support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL features — comparable features to ATI’s Radeon 9700 product, with moderately improved performance. The 9800 also supports the latest generation of ATI’s Smartshader technology, which provides more precise color precision, as well as the latest version of Smoothvision, ATI’s anti-aliasing and texture filtering technology. Cards built around the 9800 will support up to 256MB of DDR RAM.
The Radeon 9600 is positioned as ATI’s new mainstream processor, providing a full floating point architecture, quad pixel pipes and dual vertex engines. Like the 9800, the 9600 supports the latest improvements in DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL, along with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering technologies — important features for gamers looking for the best image quality in their 3D games. It’s also the first ATI product to be created using a 130 nanometer production system that promises to yield faster chips with lower power consumption. ATI plans to offer the chip on retail cards that feature VGA, TV and DVI outputs.
The Radeon 9200 is ATI’s new budget processor — it sports a quad-pipe architecture and support for 8x AGP. This chip will appear on two 128MB ATI cards — a “Pro” model featuring VGA, TV and DVI output along with enhanced performance characteristics, and a budget-priced version with just VGA and TV output.
Apple has not, as yet, announced plans to offer any of ATI’s new desktop processors in its Macs. Apple’s eMac and flat-panel iMac line rely on graphics systems based around chips designed by Nvidia Corp., while the Power Mac line offers several configurations continue to offer ATI’s Radeon 9000 Pro as standard equipment. Apple is also offering the Radeon 9700 Pro — the 9800’s immediate predecessor — as a $300 build to order option “available soon.”