Graphics chip and card maker
ATI Technologies Inc. today unveiled the Mobility Radeon 9600 graphics chip, its latest generation of mobile graphics technology. The new 8x AGP graphics technology promises considerably better performance than ATI’s already substantial offerings.
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The Mobility Radeon 9600 supports ATI’s Smartshader 2.0 technology, which provides advanced pixel and vertex shading capabilities to produce “cinematic quality” 3D effects. It’s also the first to use “Overdrive,” a new overclocking technology which enables the chip itself to modulate and scale its speed depending on the thermal readings inside the notebook. The 9600 also adds HyperM, ATI’s memory bandwidth optimization technology, and Smoothvision 2.1, the latest iteration of ATI’s full-scene anti-aliasing technology.
The Mobility Radeon 9600 is made using a 0.13 micron TSMC manufacturing process, and sports a more efficient power management system than previous mobile processors, according to ATI — with a 1.0V core voltage and power consumption as low as half a watt in idle condition. Like previous Mobility Radeon designs, the chip is actually designed to turn off parts of itself that aren’t being used to better conserve power. What’s more, the Mobility Radeon 9600 uses a specially kind of memory designed exclusively for ATI called GDDR2-M, which provides DDR-2 memory speeds without gobbling up the amount of power you’d expect.
There’s another benefit of the GDDR2-M memory design, too. This is the first Mobility Radeon architecture to support 128MB of memory integrated directly onto the chip package. Some laptop makers may opt for discrete memory added on to the chip, but the integrated memory offers a more efficient design and a smaller footprint.
The Mobility Radeon 9600 isn’t just more efficient than previous designs, however — it’s fast, too. ATI says that the new chip can perform 12 pixel shader operations per clock cycle, with 50 percent better performance than Nvidia’s best mobile chip, as measured using the 3DMark 2003 Pixel Shader 2.0 test. Much of ATI’s performance claims on the chip are focused specifically on how well it supports features in Microsoft’s new DirectX 9.0 API, a 3D technology used heavily by Windows game developers, but some of that raw performance value will also translate well into OpenGL, the cross-platform 3D API preferred by Apple and other companies.
What’s more, the Mobility Radeon 9600 also features an upgradable pin and driver architecture, which should be a boon to companies like Apple who put these chips in their laptop designs only to replace them with new hardware a revision or two down the road. This unified pin and driver architecture simplifies product design, according to ATI.
The Mobility Radeon 9600 is also the first to feature HDTV encoding support, which means that future laptops with this chip inside can deliver component output to wide-screen HDTVs.
ATI said the Mobility Radeon 9600 will ship in laptops coming out this spring from a variety of manufacturers. Apple’s not on the list, but ATI’s Mobility Radeon 9000 architecture remains in place in the 15 inch PowerBook G4 line, and ATI components are also used in the iBook series, so it’s entirely possible that the Mobility Radeon 9600 could be used in a future Apple laptop design.
In related news, ATI also introduced the Mobility Radeon 9200. It’s an upgraded variant of the same design used in the Mobility Radeon 9000, with improved performance and support for AGP 8x.