ATI has been at the forefront of 3D graphics ever since they introduced their Radeon 9700 Pro for high-end enthusiasts and the Radeon 9500 Pro for the mid-range market. But while the top cards from ATI and NVIDIA have the ability to produce stunning frame rates even with anti-aliasing and anisotropy filtering turned on, their price tags prevent most of us from even considering them.
Fortunately, ATI and NVIDIA are still offering mid-range graphics cards which are a lot more affordable. Of course, these mid-range graphics cards won’t be able to perform as well as the high-end cards at high resolutions with anti-aliasing and anisotropy filtering. But they are designed to run fast enough for most of the latest games - enough for those who cannot afford better.
Back in 2002, NVIDIA’s GeForce4 Ti 4200 dominated the mid-range market for a long time. Only after the release of the Radeon 9500 Pro did ATI finally snatch away the mid-range performance crown from NVIDIA. ATI maintained their lead in the mid-range market with their Radeon 9600 Pro. Even NVIDIA's GeForce FX5600 Ultra couldn't keep up with it.
But rather than just sit idle, ATI released their next mainstream graphics card - the Radeon 9600XT, powered by the RV360 VPU which sports new features and manufactured with a low-k dielectric insulator. Now, let us have a look at ATI’s RV360 VPU.
Before going to the card, let’s have a look at the ATI’s RV360 VPU.
The RV360 is based on the ATI’s previous mainstream VPU - the RV350, manufactured using 0.13 micron process. Unlike the previous Radeon 9500 Pro, which featured a 8x1 pipeline architecture, both the RV350 and RV360 use a 4x1 pipeline architecture which is a major drawback.
The RV360 comes with VPU core monitoring support, which is required for ATI’s OVERDRIVE feature. OVERDRIVE is an automatic overclocking software. It offers the RV360 overclocked speeds of 513MHz and 527MHz. Of course, it is only useful for newbies. Experienced enthusiasts will still prefer the old-fashioned method of overclocking.
The RV360 was manufactured using a special “Black Diamond” insulator, also known as the low-k dielectric insulator. This insulator has less capacitance than the insulator used in the RV350 VPU - the fluorin-doped silicate glass insulator. This new low-k insulator helps the RV360 VPU reach 500MHz, which is 25% faster than the 400MHz RV350.
ATI maintained the Radeon 9600XT’s memory at 600MHz though, just like the previous Radeon 9600 Pro. However, GeCube is doing something different on their Radeon 9600XT. Hmm.. Who is GeCube? Let's take a look!