On a bright sunny day in beautiful San Francisco, the Canadian
video graphics company ATI launched the powerhouse Radeon 9700 Pro and the low-end
mainstream card Radeon 9000. At the end of the presentation, ATI revealed a
little teaser to the few hundred reporters in the hall, a card they labeled
the Radeon 9500 that was to be a DX9 mainstream product. That is all they would
mention about the card throughout the whole festivities. All the ATI employees
present at the launch kept tight lipped about it, and the subject was dropped
as the unveiling of the 9700 was awesome. Besides, there was not much to talk
about at the time regarding the 9500 as no real specs were known or finalized.
ATI has really kept themselves busy since the initial launch; they
introduced the FireGL X1 based on the Radeon 9700 core, the Mobility Radeon
9000 for the notebook market and just recently the AIW Radeon 9700 Pro. Not
wanting to lose any momentum, today ATI is announcing not just one product,
but three: the Radeon 9700, Radeon 9500 Pro and the Radeon 9500. Why three products?
ATI has a large gap to fill between the two main products they launched in July,
the Radeon 9700 Pro and the Radeon 9000 Pro, a difference in price of $270 (based
from prices on ATI’s store). These three products will fill in this gap.
Why the need for more products? For a number of reasons. First,
cheaper video cards sell better than more expensive cards. According to ATI,
for every card you sell at $300+, you can sell eight $200 cards and thirty-two
$100 cards. Secondly, you want to have products in each market segment to provide
competition with your competitors in all markets. And finally, having DX9 mainstream
products out already, months before DX9 is out, allows developers to target
DX9 specs when they are designing games.
The final reason is the most important, in my opinion. When DirectX
8 launched, we were supposed to have games that utilized it within a year, but
that didn’t happen, because there weren’t enough cards in the market
to justify it financially for the game companies. Both ATI and nVidia didn’t
release mainstream products for DirectX 8 until long after the initial DX8 release.
Now, roughly two years later, we are finally seing DX8-level games. With DX9,
though, the situation is reversed; mainstream cards are already arriving. Plus,
developers are receiving a lot of aid in terms of High Level Shading Languages
(HLSL) from both MS, OpenGL and nVidia to help speed up game design, as well
as advanced tools like RenderMonkey, and an abundance of research on shaders!
If you looking to get an inexpensive video card in the near future,
you shouldn’t hesitate on spending the extra cash for DX9 compliancy.
Let’s see what these new boards have to offer!