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As is known, ATI introduced the whole family of R300 based graphics chips: RADEON 9700 Pro, RADEON 9700, RADEON 9500 Pro and RADEON 9500. The first two versions, RADEON 9700 Pro and RADEON 9700, differ from one another only by the working frequencies: the graphics cards based on RADEON 9700 Pro support 325MHz chip and 620MHz (310MHz DDR) memory frequencies, while RADEON 9700 based cards work at 275MHz chip and 540MHz (270MHz DDR) memory frequencies. The distinguishing feature of RADEON 9500 Pro based solutions is the cut down memory bus: 128bit DDR SDRAM one. And finally, the slowest of them, RADEON 9500, features 4 pixel pipelines instead of 8 typical of its three elder brothers.

The solutions based on ATI RADEON 9500 are provided with either 128bit or 256bit memory bus depending on the amount of supported graphics memory onboard. Since these cards are built following the PCB layout of RADEON 9700, 64MB versions with only half of all chips are equipped with half the memory bus or RADEON 9700 respectively, which is 128bit. However, 128MB cards feature a fully-fledged 256bit memory bus, just like RADEON 9700 based solutions.

The exterior of the new ATI chips seems to be identical. In other words, we get the impression that the disabled 4 pipelines of RADEON 9500 could be somehow brought back to life. Unfortunately, all our attempts to put this idea into practice via software failed. However, our colleagues from Overclockers.ru found out that on the hardware level a RADEON 9500 could be turned into RADEON 9700. To do this, all we need is to study the chips carefully (see the picture of RADEON 9700 on the left and RADEON 9500 on the right):

 

As you can see from the picture, one of the resistors located on the RADEON 9500 wafer is placed differently. Having taken a close look at the chips of the entire family, we discovered that this resistor is located like that (2-3) only by RADEON 9500 chips with 4 working pixel pipelines. By all other RADEON chips this resistor is in a different location (1-2). If you lose it, which is not much of a deal, as it is really small, you can install a different one with 6.8kOhm resistance rate:

Ready! Now the final stroke: let’s reflash into the modified 128MB RADEON 9500 from Sapphire...

... the cracked BIOS from the Hercules RADEON 9700 taken from warp11 page. Now everything is done. Let’s run a few tests. It works!!

Now let’s try a bit more overclocking tricks. The card is equipped with Infineon memory chips with 3.6ns access time that is why we didn’t manage to speed it up too much. The top frequency the memory worked at equaled 300MHz. The chip did much better: we overclocked it up to 370MHz from the initial 275MHz.

So, our testing participants were: the regular Sapphire RADEON 9500 128MB, the modified RADEON 9500 graphics card from Sapphire working at the nominal frequencies, the modified Sapphire RADEON 9500 128MB overclocked up to 370MHz chip and 600MHz (300MHz DDR) memory, the regular RADEON 9700 Pro.

The testbed was configured as follows:

  • Intel Pentium 4 2800MHz CPU;
  • ASUS P4S8X (SiS648) mainboard;
  • 512MB PC2700 DDR SDRAM;
  • Windows XP;
  • DirectX 9;
  • Catalyst 3.0.
The graphics quality in Quake3 Arena was set to the maximum. In Unreal Tournament 2003 the settings looked as follows: Texture Detail (highest), World Detail (highest), Character Detail (highest), Physics Detail (normal), Character Shadows (on), Dynamic Lighting (on), Detail Textures (on), Projectors (on), Decals (on), Coronas (on), Decal Stay (normal), Foliage (on), Tri-linear Filtering (on).

Well, here is the verdict: the modified and overclocked graphics card based on RADEON 9500 defeated the RADEON 9700 Pro. Overclockers scored another point! I believe that it is not necessary to speak about the price difference between RADEON 9500 and RADEON 9700 Pro. However, just for your reference: RADEON 9500 128MB based cards cost around $200, while RADEON 9700 Pro based ones $350.

Hey, we just love ATI ;)

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