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ATI Radeon Everywhere ATI has decided to sell Radeon 8500-series chipsets to third-party vendors and expand its product line, what does this mean to you?

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ATI Radeon Everywhere
ATI has decided to sell Radeon 8500-series chipsets to third-party vendors and expand its product line, what does this mean to you?

Until now, the only way to get a deal on a particular ATI video card was to:

  • wait for a sale
  • wait until the card was replaced by a newer model and the price was reduced
  • pick up an OEM version designed for system integrators (and maybe lose some features and bundled software

You couldn't play one maker of ATI-chipset video cards against another as you can with nVidia-based video cards because ATI video cards, whether retail boxed or "white box" OEM products, are made by ATI. This has kept ATI video card prices relatively high, and has made nVidia-based products better deals in many cases.

One way that ATI is fighting back is by introducing "new" low-cost video cards based on its original Radeon chips: ATI has renamed its original Radeon chipset the Radeon 7200, and its low-end Radeon VE chipset the Radeon 7000; cards based on both models are now available at retail outlets. Unlike the original Radeon VE, the new Radeon 7000-based video cards offer only a single VGA port.

The New ATI Product Line

Here's how ATI's Radeon product line shapes up as of November 2001:

Chipset

Notes

Ports

Comparable nVidia Product

8500

Most advanced 3D features

VGA, DVI-I, TV-out with dual-display (8500);

All-in-Wonder supports single display plus TV/VCR; adds TV in; IEEE-1394, stereo, S-Video, and composite video I/O; Dolby S/PDIF output

GeForce3 Ti500

7500

Faster version of original Radeon

VGA, DVI-I, TV-out with dual-display support

GeForce2 Ti

7200

Renamed version of original Radeon

VGA (European models also offer a TV-out jack)

GeForce2 Pro, GTS

7000

Renamed version of original Radeon VE (lacks hardware T&L features of Radeon 7200 & 7500)

VGA

GeForce2 MX

As you can see from this table, ATI's new retail product line provides significant alternatives to the GeForce2 and GeForce3 series all the way down the line.

But, broadening the Radeon product line alone isn't sufficient to help ATI surpass nVidia in sales. After all, ATI has watched one company after another crash and burn because the only outlets for those companies' video chipsets were their own video cards. 3Dfx, who spurned the chipset-only business in an attempt to grab all the marbles as a retail video card maker, and drove many of its one-time partners into nVidia's camp, is the most recent casualty of this strategy. Meanwhile, ATI archrival nVidia doesn't make video cards, but watches eager retail and OEM customers gobble up its video chips and provide shoppers with a huge variety of options.

Is ATI Competing with Itself?

ATI has apparently decided: if you can't beat nVidia, join 'em. Third-party products based on ATI's Radeon 8500, 7500, 7200, and 7000 chipsets have been announced by various Pacific Rim vendors, and over time may appear in the US market as well. In apparent anticipation of this, ATI's latest product boxes stress the virtues of ATI-built video cards. ATI's crown jewel is its Radeon 8500, available in both dual-display and All-in-Wonder versions. With new drivers available from ATI's video site, the Radeon 8500 is providing ATI's strongest response yet to the GeForce 3 series from nVidia. Since ATI continues to make a broad line of video card products, how can it avoid competing with itself?

Clock Speed is the Secret

ATI's new OEM and third-party chipset product is the Radeon 8500LE, which is a slower component than the normal Radeon 8500 chipset. The Radeon 8500 runs at a 275MHz core clock speed, which is about 10% faster than the 8500LE's 250MHz core clock speed. Otherwise the 8500LE chipset is identical to the Radeon 8500, supporting all of the same advanced 3D features including Truform, SmartShader, and SmoothVision. The same drivers are used for both chipsets.

The other current ATI Radeon 7xxx chipsets run at the same speed in either retail or OEM/3rd-party versions.

Where to Look for the First Radeon 8500LE Products

While many of the first thirteen Radeon 8500LE vendors mentioned in ATI's October 29th press release will bring only a blank look to the faces of most PC users, a few of them are well-known in the US, including DFI Inc., Giga-Byte Technology Co. Ltd, and Shuttle Inc.

However, the first Radeon 8500LE-based products are already available from other companies, including Taiwan-based First International Computer, Inc, Germany's Colour Power GmbH (Club3D), Hong Kong's PowerMagic, China's Joytech, Hong Kong's Super Grace and Taiwan's Jetway. While most of these products don't have US distributors yet, they represent the early signs of a wider range of lower-cost ATI-based video cards to come. While most vendors identify their products as simply "Radeon 8500", if you look at the core clock speed, you'll see that they're using the slower 250MHz Radeon 8500LE component.

If you like the high performance and feature set of ATI's Radeon 8500, but want more choices and better prices, watch for these and other products. While some may appear on retail superstore shelves, you may have better luck checking with "white-box" computer dealers. As with any video card purchase, be sure to check warranties, technical support, and manufacturing quality to help you find the right product at the right price. Some vendors sell OEMed cards manufactured by ATI, while others build their own cards.

Web Resources

Check out ATI's press release about the Radeon 8500LE chipset:
www.ati.com/na/pages/corporate/press/2001/4424.html

Read Digit-Life's very detailed review of PowerMagic's Radeon 8500LE and 7500 cards:
www.digit-life.com/articles/pmradeon2/index.html

The following are Web sites for the first manufacturers of Radeon 8500LE-based cards:

Super Grace Electronics Ltd.
www.supergrace.com

First International Computer (Taiwan)
www.fic.com.tw

Joytech Computer Co., Ltd.
www.joytech.com

Club3D (Colour Power GmbH)
www.club3d.de

PowerMagic
www.powermagic.com

Jetway
www.jetway.com.tw

Copyright©2002 Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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