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ATI Technologies is currently trying to push its RADEON 9200 SE, 9200 and 9200 PRO graphics processors with AGP 8x support into low-end and mainstream market segments having its DirectX RADEON 9600-series in the mainstream and performance-mainstream parts of the market. Unfortunately for ATI, the RADEON 9200 family of GPUs does not support DirectX 9.0, even though their performance may be higher compared to the rival’s GeForce FX 5200. The company seems to understand the importance of DirectX 9.0 support for PR and advertising purposes and in late 2003 and 1H 2004 there will be two or more DirectX 9.0 supporting GPUs for entry-level market, one of them will even support PCI Express, unofficial sources claimed.

ATI Technologies is set to start sampling of its code-named RV351 chip shortly in order to mass-produce it in late Q4 2003 or, more probably, in Q1 2004. The chip will have 4 rendering pipelines, DirectX 9.0, AGP 8x support and other features of the RADEON 9600 (aka RV350) product line. ATI will redesign the VPU a bit in order to reduce manufacturing costs. Most likely, the main trump of the whole RV350/RV360 VPU family – their high core-speed – will not be inherited by the RV351 due to price constraints. Obviously, you should expect some 275 – 325MHz VPU, 400 – 500MHz memory and a simple PCB with 64- or 128-bit memory bus.

Performance of the part with 128-bit memory should be higher compared to the RADEON 9200 PRO, but lower compared to the RADEON 9600 PRO. Nevertheless, in case NVIDIA Corporation, the main rival of the Canadian graphics processors’ developer, offers something more powerful for the entry-level market, ATI will have to boost the performance of the RV351, I believe.

In the first half of 2004, presumably in the second quarter, shortly after the RV380 – a future-generation mainstream VPU from ATI – the firm plans to release its cost-effective version presently code-named as RV381. The RV380 is expected to be a mainstream VPU with PCI Express support and RV3xx architecture currently found on the available RADEON 9600 parts and soon-to-come RV360 chips. I assume that the RV381 will in general be slower compared to its brethren, but will maintain PCI Express support. This will give ATI an opportunity to offer top-to-bottom PCI Express graphics lineup.

ATI Technologies’ RV350, RV360 and RV380 chips are set to be produced using 0.13 micron technology at TSMC. ATI claims that the Low K technology process offered by TSMC allows to build powerful and feature-rich graphics processors with high core-clocks and acceptable yields. However, there is no information about the manufacturer of RV351 and RV381 dies. At this point UMC manufactures ATI’s entry-level RADEON 9200 (aka RV280)  GPUs, hence, it would be logical to expect ATI utilizing the same foundry for manufacturing its future entry-level solutions with DirectX 9.0 support.

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