ATI Technologies Inc. on Tuesday introduced its
Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics processor — the latest generation of the same type of graphics chip found in Apple’s PowerBook G4. ATI has lauded the chip as the first low-k graphics solution for notebooks, an important milestone in saving power and improving speed at smaller scales than has been available previously.
In announcing the new chip, ATI indicated that companies including custom gaming PC maker Alienware, Fujitsu-Siemens, Samsung and others are using the design in their new notebook systems. Apple is absent from the list, which is par for course — the company is notoriously secretive when it comes to its plans for future products.
The pendulum for ATI products in Apple’s line seems to have swung back in ATI’s favor after Apple’s brief dalliance with Nvidia GeForce Go products in its laptops — last year, Apple introduced 17-inch and 12-inch PowerBooks with Nvidia graphics hardware, but later refreshed the 17-inch unit with a Mobility Radeon chip instead.
Now the 12-inch PowerBook G4 model, which sports an Nvidia GeForceFX Go 5200 processor, is Apple’s only laptop with an Nvidia processor inside; even Apple’s iBook line features ATI products across the board. Both the 15-inch and 17-inch PowerBook models feature the Mobility Radeon 9600, which before today’s announcement was the fastest mobile chip in ATI’s arsenal. 12-inch and 14-inch iBooks use ATI Radeon Mobility 9200 processors.
Low-k technology works by reducing capacitance, or stored electrical charge. This lets the Mobility Radeon 9700 work up to a 30 percent faster clock speed the Mobility Radeon 9600, according to ATI while also sporting longer battery life. The chip is built using a 0.13 micron process. ATI’s manufacturing partner for the new chip is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), a company that has significant experience manufacturing low-k products.
In other respects, the Mobility Radeon 9700 is much like the Mobility Radeon 9600 that it unseats as ATI’s flagship mobile graphics processor. The 9700 features quad rendering and dual vertex engines; pixel and vertex shading capabilities; support for ATI’s Smartshader 2.0, which offers support for OpenGL; as well as ATI’s Smoothvision 2.1 multisampling, anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.
The Mobility Radeon 9700 is already shipping in new notebooks, according to ATI.