As the graphics battle rages on, one market segment is often over-looked by the enthusiast community. The low-end/low-budget market, while not interesting to a lot of enthusiasts, is a very important one for IHV and AIB partners alike because, while a high-end top performer can give your company a name that's talked about in forums the world over, it's the low-end that makes most of the cash.
This review will be focused on a Radeon 9200SE, a low-end budget card sent to us by, you guessed it, Sapphire.
Sapphire 9200SE Front
Sapphire 9200SE Back
There's a bit of history and controversy surrounding the 9200 core (aka RV280), mostly having to do with where it came from. The Radeon 8500 graphics core (aka R200), which holds the honor for possibly the worst graphics card launch in recent history, eventually turned out to be a fairly respectable part for ATI. It was a 4x2 design, had support for DX8 Pixel Shaders up to version 1.4, and still performs well enough to be considered a decent gaming card. ATI of course milked it for all it was worth and turned out, at last count, three subsequent graphics cores based on it. The 9000 was the first iteration, a stripped down 4x1 design which met with quite a bit of controversy simply because it was slower than the 8500, but had a significantly higher model number. The 9200 strangely came next, which itself is simply a repackaged 9000 with AGP8x support. Then finally we saw the 9100, which is nothing more than a re-badged 8500.
The 9200SE can't be held up as a new core simply because it isn't. What makes the 9200 an "SE" is a slower core speed, slower memory speed, and a much narrower memory interface (64bit as opposed to 128bit). Speed isn't the most important thing with a low-end budget videocard however, price is. In that regard, a Sapphire 9200SE with 128MB DDR ram can be found online for under $50US, which would certainly fit nicely into anyone's budget.