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Graphics cards enthusiasts with a lot of experience for modification of hardware components to unleash their ultimate performance in the past are now looking forward to ways to enable additional pipelines on the RADEON X800 PRO graphics cards – ATI’s latest offering for $399.

A Lottery For Computer Enthusiasts

In order to pick up the number of chips that could be sold to customers, ATI Technologies added a capability to disable defective rendering pipelines – certain corrupted integrated circuits inside graphics processor – so that they did not affect the operating process of the chip negatively.

Such cut-down products are typically sold at lower price-points compared to full-speed SKUs, but still deliver performance that is high-enough to attract attention of gamers. But because of high speed and low cost the demand for such graphics cards is usually above the level the company is able to supply such “partly-faulty” chips. As a result, the firm disables the rendering pipelines, sometimes referred as “pixel pipelines” on fully-functional graphics processors so to fulfill the demand. Since there is usually a way to re-enable the pipelines, some experienced end-users succeed in this and the product series quickly becomes very popular among such type of customers.

In the past two years ATI Technologies unveiled two graphics designs that allowed to re-enable 4 pixel pipelines and end up with a powerful visual processing unit with 8 rendering pipes – the RADEON 9500 and the RADEON 9800 SE. To set the additional pipes work, a number of measures could be performed: from installation of certain software to re-soldering certain resistors on the graphics processor. While it is natural that not all graphics cards allow such modification, power-users usually try to play the lottery.

RADEON X800 PRO Into RADEON X800 XT – No Luck?

Right now performance-hungry customers are no longer interested in older-generation products and are looking forward to make the RADEON X800 XT with 16 pipes out of RADEON X800 PRO with 12 pipes.

Recently announced ATI RADEON X800 PRO and ATI RADEON X800 XT graphics cards are based on the same R420 chip, but with different number of pixel pipelines enabled. The RADEON X800 PRO features 12 pixel pipelines with 6 geometry pipelines and is clocked at 475MHz. The RADEON X800 XT features 16 pixel pipelines with 6 geometry pipelines and is clocked at 520MHz.

RADEON X800 XT. Please click to enlarge

So far X-bit labs’ laboratory has tried a number of ways to make the RADEON X800 PRO modification, but no luck. We soldered a wire on the graphics processor that could presumably disable 4 pipelines and we flashed RADEON X800 XT’s BIOS onto a RADEON X800 PRO graphics card – only the clock-speeds improved, but the device ID remained the same.

Could it be that there are no ways to re-enable the additional 4 pipelines on the RADEON X800 PRO? Well, a Chinese web-site Unika claims that there is, but it embraces the same wire in the upper right corner of the graphics processor we at X-bit labs’s specialists tried to re-solder with no luck.

RADEON X800 PRO. Please click to enlarge

At this point it is hard to confirm or deny the possibility to transform the RADEON X800 PRO into the RADEON X800 XT. On the one hand, ATI might have done something that prohibits the possibility to modify the VPUs into more powerful ones. On the other hand, a lot of people are working to find out a solution and at the end it has quite some chances to be found.

X-bit labs’ graphics processors analyst Tim Tscheblockov contributed to the report.


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