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Reports over various web-sites suggest that ATI Technologies is planning to broaden its range of DirectX 9.0-supporting graphics cards with extremely cost-effective offering based on the same VPU as the company’s mainstream products.

ATI’s RADEON 9550 is down-clocked RADEON 9600 featuring 128MB of DDR SDRAM memory with 128-bit bus, Chinese web-site HardSpell.com believes. Graphics cards based on the RADEON 9550 will work at 250MHz/400MHz speeds for chip/memory, 75MHz below core clock-speed provided by the RADEON 9600. Additionally, ATI may roll-out a version of the RADEON 9550 with 64-bit bus. Sources assume that the price of the RADEON 9550 that is expected to be formally announced in early April will be in the range of $70 - $85.

All graphics cards based on the RADEON 9550 and RADEON 9600-series VPUs are based on processors code-named RV350 and RV360. From architectural stand-point these two chips are same and feature 4 pixel and 2 vertex pipelines, but the RV360 is made using more advanced 0.13 micron low-k fabrication technology.

RADEON 9550 graphics processors will have nothing to do with the RADEON 9500 and RADEON 9500 PRO chips that are based on the R300 architecture and offer different number of pipelines as well as dissimilar set of capabilities.

With the latest additions included, ATI and its add-in card partners would offer 6 solutions based on the RV350/RV360 chips with different clock-speeds, but the same DirectX 9.0 capabilities:

  • RADEON 9600 XT – 500MHz visual processing unit, 128MB/256MB 600MHz memory with 128-bit bus;
  • RADEON 9600 PRO – 400MHz visual processing unit, 128MB/256MB 600MHz memory with 128-bit bus;
  • RADEON 9600 – 325MHz visual processing unit, 128MB 400MHz memory with 128-bit bus;
  • RADEON 9550 – 250MHz visual processing unit, 128MB 400MHz memory with 128-bit bus;
  • RADEON 9600 SE – 325MHz visual processing unit, 128MB 400MHz memory with 64-bit bus.
  • RADEON 9550 SE – 250MHz visual processing unit, 128MB 400MHz memory with 64-bit bus;

Despite of the fact that the majority of expensive DirectX 9.0 compliant graphics cards usually acquired by computer enthusiasts sold last year were based on VPUs from ATI Technologies, its arch-rival NVIDIA seems to be making a good progress in entry-level and mainstream market segments with its GeForce FX 5200, 5600 and 5700 technologies, which is indisputably a success. Additionally, the company wants to address more market segments with very thoroughly tailored graphics processors to offer attractive price performance ratio for its customers. Increased competition from the GeForce FX 5500 and GeForce FX 5700LE based on the 5200 and 5700-series processors from NVIDIA might lead ATI to shape its RADEON 9600-series for very cost-effective segments.

ATI Technologies did not comment on the matter.

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