ATI goes mainstream with new graphics technology

Three new graphics processors bring DirectX 9.0 support and ATI's industry-leading Radeon 9700 Pro technology to a lower-cost consumer market

ATI has unveiled three new graphics chips aimed at taking its industry-leading Radeon 9700 Pro technology to a wider base of consumers. By setting prices for two of the graphics cards under $200 (about £128), ATI said it is taking advantage of the fact that the vast majority of consumers are looking for a reasonable price rather than the fastest chip on the market.

"We have accomplished a tremendous feat -- one never seen before in the industry -- by driving our high-end product features into the mainstream market while maintaining the lead in the enthusiast market," said David Orton, ATI president and chief operating officer, in a statement on Thursday.

The Radeon 9700, Radeon 9500 Pro and Radeon 9500 will be available through graphics card makers such as Hercules, Gigabyte, Hightech, Wistron and Yuan. The Radeon 9700 will retail for $299, the Radeon 9500 Pro for $199 and the Radeon 9500 for $179. The 9500 Pro will begin shipping within 30 days while the other two boards are available immediately, Radeon said.

All three, like the Radeon 9700 Pro announced three months ago, support Microsoft's DirectX 9.0, an emerging API (application programming interface) platform being used in high-end games for Windows. DirectX 9.0 allows programmers to take advantage of more realistic 3D effects, and ATI estimates that the platform will remain at the cutting edge for at least two years -- reassuring buyers that they will not have to replace their hardware right away.

The Radeon 9700 and Radeon 9500 Pro both feature an eight-stage rendering pipeline, 275/550 clock speed, AGP 4X/8X, 128MB of DDR memory. The Radeon 9500 Pro uses a 128-bit memory architecture, compared with the Radeon 9700's 256-bit architecture. The Radeon 9500 has many of the same features, but uses four pipelines and 64MB of DDR memory.

ATI is aggressively pushing its performance advantage over rival Nvidia, while Nvidia's response -- the NV30 -- struggles with delays caused by a more advanced manufacturing process. The NV30, to be sold under the GeForce 5 brand, will be unveiled at next month's Comdex trade show, but will not roll out in volume until early next year.

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