Until quite recently, ATI’s RV350 and NVIDIA’s NV31 were the mainstream graphics processors. The first of them was and is used in the RADEON 9600 (PRO) series. The GeForce FX 5600 (Ultra) series was based on the second one. The RV350 architecture resembles very much the R300 one, but has only four pixel pipelines and uses the 0.13micron manufacturing process (which allows for higher operational frequencies). NVIDIA’s NV31 traces its origin to the notorious NV30. This GPU features four pipelines and is made with 0.13micron technology, too. Following the example of the NV30, the NV31 can configure the pipeline formula to be either 4x1 (4 pipelines with one texture-mapping unit in each) or 2x2.
A little while ago, the monsters of the graphics market, ATI Technologies and NVIDIA, both added new mainstream GPUs to their product lines: RV360 (RADEON 9600 XT) and NV36 (GeForce FX 5700 and 5700 Ultra). Both products are heartily welcome for two major reasons:
- Higher performance of mainstream GPUs is more than appropriate today, since we are waiting for a whole lot of games fully using the DirectX 9 API. Moreover, the arrival of the new models will make the market competition tougher. For the end-user this may mean lower prices for the graphics cards of the previous generation;
- Being announced now, the graphics cards on the new GPUs will approach the Christmas season with waving advertisement banners, with mature drivers and pre-Christmas discounts.
So, what can we expect from upcoming graphics cards featuring the RADEON 9600 XT or GeForce FX 5700/5700 Ultra? Read our review to learn what the graphics companies want to seduce us with this time.
RV360 and NV36: What’s New? Part I: ATI RADEON 9600 XT
The specification of the RV360 is looks like “the second edition” of the RV350 specs: their characteristics are really close to being identical. Well, there are differences, of course, but these are slight ones. The new chip works at a higher frequency and supports the dynamic overclocking technology called Overdrive. Even the outside of the chip resembles the looks of its predecessor:
The new manufacturing process uses the improved technology for component insulation aka low-k dielectric. I won’t delve deep into physics, but rather put it in a slightly different way: the new production technology allowed ATI Technologies to boost the GPU frequency by 25%! So, the graphics core of the RADEON 9600 XT (that’s the name of the new mainstream VPUs from ATI) works at 500MHz clock frequency, compared with the 400MHz of the RADEON 9600 PRO. You will see whether this frequency gain leads to a corresponding performance growth a bit later. Now, let’s take a look at one of our today’s testing participants: ATI RADEON 9600 XT.