Graphics card maker
ATI Technologies used its presence at Macworld Expo this week to introduce a new peripheral for Mac users who need to do video input. In an interview with MacCentral, ATI representatives also touched on other issues, including Radeon Mac Edition PCI card availability and their reaction to the news that Apple will be incorporating new video cards in most of its Power Mac G4 systems based on rival Nvidia’s GeForce2 MX chip.
Macintosh product manager Deanna Perkins said that despite Nvidia’s entry, ATI remains the primary supplier of video products to the Mac market. The company’s graphics chips are still used in iMacs, PowerBook G3s, the new PowerBook G4, and the base model Power Mac G4. ATI’s OEM version of its Radeon card also remains a build-to-order option at the Apple Store, and the Radeon Mac Edition retail card is now shipping in both AGP and PCI flavors.
“Apple’s strategy is to work with multiple vendors to supply the components they need,” said Perkins. “As I’ve said before, we’ve never had an exclusive agreement with Apple to provide them with graphics technology. Just like all of Apple’s vendors, we have to go in every time to sell new product.”
Perkins emphasized the Radeon’s performance by comparing Quake III Arena benchmarks produced using a dual processor Power Mac G4 operating at 500 MHz running Mac OS X public beta against a Windows-compatible Pentium 3 operating at 933MHz equipped with a GeForce2 MX-based card. ATI’s numbers show that the Radeon-equipped Mac showed better frame rates in every resolution from 640×480 all the way up to 1280×1024.
Although Apple’s three faster Power Mac G4 systems are preconfigured with graphics cards based on Nvidia’s GeForce2 MX chip, users can substitute ATI’s Radeon card for the GeForce2 MX. ATI spokesperson Brian Hentschel explained that the Apple Store offers the Radeon card for the same price.
ATI released its Radeon Mac Edition retail AGP card in October. ATI followed up with the release of a PCI version in December. Unfortunately, availability has been constrained due to forces beyond ATI’s control — a large supply of the company’s Radeon Mac Edition PCI cards was recently stolen in transport, along with other products.
That hasn’t stopped ATI from bringing PCI cards with them to this week’s show, however — the company has stock on hand and is selling them to show attendees. Perkins says that the retail availability bottleneck of the new cards should be resolved presently.
Perkins is pleased with Apple’s performance improvements to its Power Mac G4 line.
“The 4x AGP bus will improve things down the road, but it won’t have an immediate effect on frame rates in 3D games,” said Perkins. “The addition of write combining should also be a positive benefit.”
ATI’s new product for the show is the Xclaim TV USB Edition, an external video input device that attaches to the Mac through USB. The box is molded in red translucent plastic and has somewhat smaller than a telephone handset. It provides input support for audio and S-Video or composite video sources, captures still images, and records video at 320×240 pixels.
The Xclaim TV USB Edition provides 125 channel tuning capabilities and support for closed captioning. The software included with the Xclaim TV USB Edition also provides 4 channel preview, parental channel control, and “Intelligent TV,” which uses closed captioning support to alert users to content they are interested in — the software can notify users when keywords are displayed in closed captions, and will record a transcript as well.
ATI expects the Xclaim TV USB Edition to ship in spring of 2001. The peripheral will carry a suggested retail price of US$99.