It’s been some time since ATI Technologies got rid of its dark past and emerged as one of the world’s leading PC graphics chips makers. A real breakthrough happened on the 14th of July 2002, when the company announced the world’s first “VPU” (Video Processing Unit), code-named R300, featuring Microsoft DirectX 9.0 support. This 0.15micron chip also supported AGP 3.0, contained about 110 million transistors and had a 256bit memory bus. Eight pipelines with one texture unit in each made up the computational power of the beast. At first, ATI rolled out high-end RADEON 9700 PRO, which was followed by three other models intended for different market sectors: RADEON 9700, RADEON 9500 PRO and RADEON 9500.
Thus, R300 found its way into graphics cards for enthusiastic as well as ordinary users.
Today ATI also offers two other R3xx chips: R350 and RV350, which will very soon replace the good old buddy R300 in the High-End and mainstream market. As the company is now offering both: old and new chips we witness a situation when there is a number of different over-$100 DirectX 9-compatible graphics cards in the market.
Majors, RADEON 9800 and 9800 PRO are based on R350 that supports infinite-length shaders and has higher working frequencies. This 0.15micron graphics chip provides the highest performance among consumer products from ATI. These solutions work at 380/680MHz and 325/620MHz (chip/ DDR memory), respectively.
Mainstream RADEON 9600 and 9600 PRO are based on another new chip from ATI: RV350. Unlike R300, it has only four graphics pipelines, but the 0.13micron technological process it is made with allows reaching higher frequencies. In its regular mode, RADEON 9600 PRO usually falls behind the eight-pipelined RADEON 9500 PRO. The frequencies of RADEON 9600 PRO and 9600 are 400/600MHz and 325/400MHz, respectively.
Two more cards, RADEON 9500 and RADEON 9500 PRO, deserve a closer examination and we are going to take a look at them in our review. These two graphics adapters are intended for the mass market: RADEON 9500 positioned closer to the lower price range while RADEON 9500 Pro belongs to the more expensive solutions. The memory bus of both cards is cut down to 128bit width, but there exist RADEON 9500 based cards with 128MB of graphics memory that are made on the PCB borrowed from RADEON 9700 and use a 256bit bus. RADEON 9500 is R300 with half of the graphics pipelines disabled. The PRO variant is a fully-fledged R300 with eight pipelines, just like RADEON 9700 / 9700 PRO. The frequencies of RADEON 9500 PRO are 275/540MHz for chip and memory against 325/620MHz of RADEON 9700 PRO.
This time we once again encounter a graphics card from Tyan. This company is known for its server mainboards, particularly Tiger and Thunder series, but it is also a partner of ATI Technologies and produces graphics cards of the Tachyon series. The series includes Tyan Tachyon G9000 PRO, Tyan Tachyon G9700 PRO and now – Tyan Tachyon G9500 PRO, which is to be the hero of this review.