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ATI X-Series Overview

ATI's initial PCI-Express GPUs include six models, using three different GPU series:

  • X800 XT Platinum Edition

  • X800 Pro

  • X600 Pro

  • X600

  • X300

  • X300 SE

These GPUs have the following common features:

  • Dual-monitor support: one VGA and one DVI port

  • TV-out support (S-Video port)

  • PCI-Express x16 connector

  • DirectX 9.0 compliant in hardware

The differences between them are revealed in the following sections.

RADEON X800 GPUs

The ATI X800 GPUs represent the top of ATI's initial crop of PCI-Express components. The X800s are designed to provide up to twice the performance of ATI's AGP flagship, the Radeon 9800 series, thanks to:

  • more pixel pipelines and vertex shader pipelines than their predecessors

  • support for OpenGL 2.0 (programmable shaders)

  • faster core clock and memory subsystems

  • GDDR-3 memory, the fastest memory used by video cards

Initially, ATI offers two X800 GPUs, but a third, the X800SE for use by OEMs, is likely to be introduced in the future. Table 1 shows how the Radeon X800 PRO and Radeon X800 XT Platinum compare to the ATI Radeon 9800 series.

Table 1 – Radeon X800 Versus Radeon 9800

GPU

X800 PRO

X800 XT Platinum

9800 XT

9800 PRO, AIW 9800

9800

Interface

PCI-Express x16

PCI-Express x16

AGP 8x/4x

AGP 8x/4x

AGP 8x/4x

Memory Bus Size

256-bit

256-bit

256-bit

256-bit

256-bit

Memory Size

256MB

256MB

256MB

128MB

128MB

Core Clock Speed

520MHz

475MHz

412MHz

380MHz

325MHz

Memory Type

GDDR-3

GDDR-3

DDR-II

DDR-II

DDR-II

Memory Speed

450MHz

575MHz

365MHz

340MHz

290MHz

Pixel Pipelines

16

12

8

8

8

Vertex Shader Pipelines

6

6

4

4

4

DirectX Support

9

9

9

9

9


As you can see from Table 1, the use of GDDR-3 memory by the Radeon X800 series enables memory clock speeds to greatly increase compared to those available with the DDR-II memory used by the Radeon 9800 series. GDDR-3 memory's effective clock speed is actually twice that listed in Table 1, enabling the GPU to keep the greater numbers of vertex shader and pixel pipelines properly supplied with data.

Other factors which enable the X800 series to outperform the Radeon 9800 include enhanced versions of ATI's anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering (SMOOTHVISION HD), compressed texture maps (3Dc), high-speed data transfer techniques (HyperZ HD) and video decoding and playback (SMOOTHVISION HD). The X800 GPUs are best suited to extreme gamers who prize performance above all else.

RADEON X600 GPUs

RADEON X600 GPUs represent the middle of the ATI PCI-Express pack, blending the performance of PCI-Express X16 with features inherited from the mid-range Radeon 9600 series. The X600 GPUs' main features include:

  • 4 pixel rendering pipelines

  • 2 programmable vertex shader pipelines

  • DDR memory

  • 128-bit memory bus

  • SMARTSHADER 2.0, SMOOTHVISION 2.1, HyperZ III, VIDEOSHADER*

*To learn more about these technologies, see my article "The ATI RADEON 9800 and 9600 Series" http://www.quepublishing.com/articles/article.asp?p=339020

Table 2 compares the RADEON X600 PRO and X600 against the RADEON 9600 series.

Table 2 – Radeon X600 Versus Radeon 9600

GPU

X600 PRO

X600

9600 XT

9600 PRO, 9600 AIW

9600

9600SE

Interface

PCI-Express x16

PCI-Express x16

AGP 8x/4x

AGP 8x/4x

AGP 8x/4x

AGP 8x/4x

Memory Bus Size

128-bit

128-bit

128-bit

128-bit

128-bit

64-bit

Memory Size

128MB, 256MB

128MB, 256MB

128MB

128MB

128MB

128MB

Core Clock Speed

500MHz

400MHz

500MHz

400MHz

325MHz

325MHz

Memory Type

DDR

DDR

DDR

DDR

DDR

DDR

Memory Speed

750MHz

600MHz

600MHz

600MHz

400MHz

400MHz

Pixel Pipelines

4

4

4

4

4

4

Vertex Shader Pipelines

2

2

2

2

2

2

DirectX Support

9

9

9

9

9

9


As Table 2 makes clear, the X600 series is essentially a PCI-Express version of the Radeon 9600 series. Choose the X600 if you want mid-range game performance and solid business performance in the PCI-Express form factor.

RADEON X300

The ATI RADEON X300 series represents the low end of ATI's PCI-Express lineup. Cards based on these chips are more likely to wind up in OEM-assembled PCI-Express-based systems than as retail products. However, unlike the 9200-series RADEON GPUs (which are the current low end of ATI's 9xxx series for AGP slots), the X300 and X300SE, like their more powerful siblings, are full DirectX 9 compatible GPUs.

The major features of the X300 series include:

  • 4 pixel rendering pipelines

  • 2 programmable vertex shader pipelines

  • DDR memory

  • 128-bit or 64-bit memory bus

  • SMARTSHADER 2.0, SMOOTHVISION 2.1, HyperZ III, VIDEOSHADER

Table 3 shows how the RADEON X300 series compares to the ATI 9200 series.

Table 3 – Radeon X300 Versus Radeon 9200

GPU

X300

X300SE

9250

9200

9200SE

Interface

PCI-Express x16

PCI-Express x16

AGP 8x/4x

AGP 8x/4x

AGP 8x/4x

Memory Bus Size

128-bit

64-bit

64-bit, 128-bit

128-bit

64-bit

Memory Size

64MB, 128MB, 256MB

64MB, 128MB

128MB, 256MB

128MB, 256MB

128MB

Core Clock Speed

325MHz

325MHz

240MHz

250MHz

200MHz

Memory Type

DDR

DDR

DDR

DDR

DDR

Memory Speed

400MHz

400MHz

400MHz

400MHz

333MHz

Pixel Pipelines

4

4

4

4

4

Vertex Shader Pipelines

2

2

1

1

1

DirectX Support

9

9

8.1

8.1

8.1


As you can see from comparing Tables 2 and 3, although the X300 is the lowest-performing PCI-Express GPU made by ATI, it still rivals the RADEON 9600, and far outstrips the RADEON 9200 with full DirectX 9 support and faster clock speeds. Given the continued movement to DirectX 9 in gaming and the planned use of DirectX 9 graphics in the upcoming Longhorn version of Windows, it's very useful to have DirectX 9 support at all levels of ATI's PCI-Express product line.

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