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Dell recently started to offer the latest addition to ATI Technologies’ latest high-end product line – the RADEON X800 SE – in some of its systems intended for games and entertainment. The availability of a product from one of the world’s largest computer makers may suggest that such graphics cards are likely to emerge for sale in retail market shortly.

ATI Technologies Delivers X800’s “Weakest Link”

ATI RADEON X800 SE graphics cards is the third graphics product in ATI RADEON X800 lineup unveiled in early May. According to Dell, the graphics card has a 425MHz graphics processor, 128MB of DDR SDRAM memory with 256-bit bus width along with typical set of connectors, such as D-Sub, DVI-I and TV-Out.

So far Dell has been spotted offering only PCI Express x16 flavour of the RADEON X800 SE product.

Earlier this year unofficial sources claimed that the RADEON X800 SE graphics chip had 8 pixel pipelines. By contrast, ATI RADEON X800 PRO and ATI RADEON X800 XT graphics processors boast with 12 and 16 pixel pipelines respectively, delivering greater performance in the majority of cases. Dell did not disclose the number of rendering pipes for the RADEON X800 SE.

According to the previously released information, the RADEON X800 SE will cost about $299, complementing the existing offerings with recommended pricing of $399 and $499. Dell's customers will receive the RADEON X800 SE for $180 when upgrading to it from ATI RADEON X300 SE graphics card installed by default.

ATI RADEON X800 SE promises to be more powerful compared to ATI RADEON 9800 XT in the majority of cases. In case the speed gap is enough substantial, when available, the product may put quite some pressure on sales of NVIDIA’s GeForce 6800 graphics offering at the same price-point.

ATI RADEON X800 SE Modification - Another 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.

Earlier this year it was discovered that certain RADEON X800 PRO graphics processors may be transformed into RADEON X800 XT chips by activating 4 pipelines. As soon as the RADEON X800 SE reaches retail, enthusiasts will try to re-enable 4 or 8 pipelines in an attempt to add muscle and get a more powerful graphics card out of a performance-mainstream product. Since the RADEON X800 SE features 256-bit memory bus, not 128-bit bus as previously reported, enabling of additional rendering pipelines will deliver performance comparable to more expensive SKUs from the RADEON X800-series of products.

Limited Availability?

While the previous “SE” versions of high-end graphics processors, such as RADEON 9800 SE, were pretty popular among enthusiasts, not all retailers and e-tailers offered them to clients. Sources close to ATI said that the company has strong yields of the RADEON X800 PRO graphics processors and doubted there will be a lot of RADEON X800 SE graphics cards available on the channel market in the short-term.

Officials from ATI Technologies did not immediately returned the inquiry seeking for comment.

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