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ATI unveils Radeon XT

Upgraded 9800, 9600

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ATI has launched its latest Radeon graphics chips, the 9800 XT and 9600 XT - essentially higher clocked versions of the current Radeon 9600 Pro and 9800 Pro.

The 9800 XT runs at 412MHz with memory clocked to 730MHz. By contrast the 9800 Pro its clocked to 380MHz and 700MHz. The vanilla 9800 runs at 325MHz and 580MHz. The extra clock speed gives the 9800 XT a fill rate of 3.3 billion pixels per second, said ATI, up from the 9800 Pro's 3.04 and the 9800's 2.6. All three chips feature eight pixel processing pipelines.

But while the Pro support G-DDR 2 memory, the XT supports regular DDR SDRAM across a 256-bit memory interface. Cards based on the part will offer 256MB of memory, ATI said.

The 9600 XT provides just four pixel pipelines, a 128-bit memory interface and supports 128MB of DDR video memory. Its core and memory are clocked at 500MHz and 600MHz, respectively, up from the 9600 Pro's 400MHz and 600MHz, and the 9600 and 9600 SE's 325MHz and 400MHz. The XT offers a fill rate of two billion pixels per second, compared to figures of 1.6 for the Pro and 1.3 for the regular 9600 and the SE.

The XT is fabbed using TSMC's low-k dielectric insulation material, and that's presumably what has allowed ATI to get that extra 100MHz of clock speed. There may well be headroom for further clock frequency increases.

ATI said boards based on both chips, which support DirectX 9, will ship with Half Life 2, revealing the extent of the company's deal with Valve, the game's creator. Valve said it had chosen to partner with ATI because of its hugely capacious wallet (surely 'superior DirectX 9 performance'? Ed.)

Given the very eager anticipation among the gaming community for the Half Life sequel, ATI must be paying Valve quite a bit for the privilege to give the game away. It's a tactic borrowed from Microsoft, which made Bungie an acquisition offer the game developer couldn't refuse in order to offer a top-notch first-person shooter to showcase its Xbox console.

ATI's launch also pips Nvidia to the release of a higher clocked version of a top-of-the-range chip. ATI's arch-rival is expected to announce the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra early next month. Codenamed NV38, the chip is essentially a higher clocked GeForce FX 5900.

ATI will ship boards based on its new chips next month, as will third-party board makers, including Asustek, Celestica, Connect3D, CP Technology, GeCube, Gigabyte, Hercules, Hightech, Sapphire, VisionTek and Yuan. ®

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