On July 17th, ATI launched two new cards that aimed to bring stellar
visual processing to their respective market segments. The Radeon 9700 in the
high-end spectrum and the Radeon 9000 series for the all important mainstream market. Why is it important? Because the
mainstream segment accounts for the majority of sales for all video card manufacturers,
and that means big revenue.
ATI has continually worked to drive advanced features from their
high-end parts into the more reasonably priced mainstream boards. ATI Radeon
9000 Pro borrows many of the features from its older sibling Radeon 8500 and
the now released 9700 will be the role-model for the more-resonably priced 9500
when it is released. ATI Radeon 9000 Pro is the first mainstream product with
full DirectX 8.1 support. This level of technology needs to be spread quickly
among the mainstream users so the developers can design more games for DX8 level
graphics instead of DX7.
With the launch of these new products, ATI introduces the term Visual
Processing Unit (VPU) to describe all of their new video products. 3Dlabs was the
first to introduce this nomenclature with the release of their P10 video chipset
but I think they use it in a different meaning than ATI. 3DLabs used the term
VPU to imply programmability of their new chip, ATI on the other hand is using
VPU to describe the whole range of video processes their products do, ranging
from the Imageon 100 to the Radeon 9700. The Radeon 9000 not only accelerates
video games but also DVDs, dual monitors, etc. Acronyms are a dime a dozen!
The Radeon 9000 is a hybrid of technologies mostly derived from
ATI's 8500 line but also some parts have been inherited from the 9700. Let's
see what the engineers at ATI have hacked and slashed together.