A quantum leap in hardware development is a rare occurrence, but ATI has accomplished this with the Radeon 9700 Pro. Equipped with 110 million transistors, this high-performance graphics chip outshines all of its competition. For several years, the 3D graphics chip market has been dominated by nVidia with its GeForce processors. The first signs of change came last year, when ATI released the Radeon 8500. Recently, Matrox has also re-entered the 3D market with the Parhelia-512, a 2D/3D chip that can keep up with the GeForce competition, particularly in terms of picture quality.
Now, with the Radeon 9700 Pro, ATI has a graphics chip that makes the GeForce products look, performance-wise, like lame ducks.
Radeon 9700 Pro technology
With some 110 million transistors, the Radeon 9700 Pro has double the number of electronic circuits as Intel’s current Pentium 4 processor. By contrast, nVidia’s flagship GeForce 4 Ti 4600, with 63 million transistors, is well behind the new ATI chip.
The Radeon 9700 Pro's chip and memory clock speeds are 325MHz and 310MHz respectively. Together with the memory interface, which has been doubled to 256-bit, the new ATI chip offers bandwidth of over 20GB per second (the GeForce4 Ti 4600 manages 9.7GB/sec). The integration of a floating-point pixel processor, which drops back to a 128-bit frame buffer, helps the Radeon 9700 Pro achieve greatly improved accuracy at rendering 3D objects. Underpinning the new ATI chip is an eight-pixel pipeline architecture that can render up to 16 textures in a single pass.
Improved video quality
The Radeon 9700 Pro also offers innovative 2D features, notably in the shape of the new VideoShader and Fullstream technologies, which should make for previously unattainable video and DVD playback quality. To this end, the ATI has an integrated pixel shader for removing blocky artefacts from videos. The blocky effect occurs whenever the resolution selected for video playback is higher than the video’s resolution.