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ATI Radeon 9700 PRO - getting acquainted
Product : ATI Radeon 9700 PRO
Manufacturer : ATI
Price : 330

ATI, almost always playing second fiddle to NVIDIA released this, their next generation product some months before NVIDIA could release theirs. Previews were read, information was digested and people waited patiently for the Radeon 9700 PRO (also known as the RV300) to hit the stores.

There is only one aim for this video card, to beat NVIDIA's Geforce 4 Ti4600. In order to do that ATI have taken some big steps.

In the table above you are able to compare the three "current generation" cards. Of course the Parhelia isn't designed for gaming (or so Matrox tells us) therefore we can ignore it for the rest of this year. ATI are pitching this as a card to beat the Ti4600 and throughout the list of comparisons it favours well.

Whilst NVIDIA is working away on producing a .13 micron part ATI have stuck to a .15 process for the RV300 unit. Although a lot of emphasis on the size of future processors has been made, it is important to remember that size is one factor amongst others that affects the performance of a processing unit.

The inclusion of 256bit DDR RAM is very nice to see, the extra bandwidth along with the support of the AGP 8x specification should bring an ample boost in performance on it's own. We did encounter problems through testing with 8x AGP, and this is detailed later in the review.

The macroscopic properties of this card is also fairly interesting. Based on a red PCB (not a surprising choice for ATI) the card is not as large as it's rival, the Geforce 4 Ti4600 which will come as a welcome bonus for people with small cases and motherboard manufacturers.

There is no cooling present on the memory which is surprising since the Geforce 4 has passive cooling and runs 10MHz lower than the Radeon 9700. There is a relatively lean heatsink on the RV300 processing unit. Looking under the heatsink you are presented with a "different" looking unit even against the RV250 (which is used in the Radeon 9000/PRO boards).

On the left you have the RV300 and on the right you have a RV250.

Even though this card is half length the PCB is not as crowded as one might be led to believe.

As you can see from those pictures the Radeon 9700 does require a 3 pin power connector. Of course this isn't new, we've seen it years ago with the 3DFX Voodoo 5 5500 cards. ATI supply a 3 pin pass through plug.

You are presented with 1 15pin D-SUB connector (standard VGA connector), 1 DVI and 1 TV-OUT. It would have been nice to see two DVI connectors with converters to D-SUB (analogue) provided, since D-SUB to DVI connectors isn't possible.