It’s ATI time again. Those Crazy Canadians who just don’t know when to stop releasing products have yet more news: cheap as chips graphics cards and top of the range solutions for all of us still using AGP.
So how on earth can you make something for significantly less than you could before?
It is a question which torments every manufacturer on the planet. According to ATI, the answer for video cards is Hypermemory, a dynamic memory technology which shifts system RAM into video RAM (VRAM) as and when needed. For example, in games the technology will draw larger amounts of RAM into VRAM and then release it again when you are working in Windows.
We interviewed Rene Froeleke, ATI’s all round technical guru for Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA). “To be honest, it is a balancing game,” he said. “Essentially, what we have created is a card that can access system memory which means it requires us to install less on-board memory which reduces costs. It is done through the driver and the way we have laid out the design of the card itself. We could have done something similar a long time ago with AGP but the connection is too slow to make the memory swapping appear transparent, but PCI Express bandwidth has made it practical.”
As Froeleke points out what ATI has done with Hypermemory means they can produce a stripped down, potentially lean and mean (if malnourished looking) product. It is unlikely to break any speed records, but at the same time it should appeal to those on a budget as the company claims it is still capable of playing HDTV without dropping frames and even games like Half Life 2 and Doom 3 when set to lower resolutions.
Two cards will be released on the back of Hypermemory: the Radeon X300SE 128MB, which can take up to 128MB from system RAM to use as VRAM and comes with 32MB of its own permanent on-board memory and the X300SE 256MB which is identical, except (you guessed it) it can take up to 256MB from system RAM while also boasting 128MB of on-board memory.
European pricing for the two cards has yet to be announced, but US RRPs will start from as low as $59 for the basic X300SE 128MB. As Alan Rickman once famously said in Galaxy Quest: By Grabthar’s hammer… what a savings.
Jumping for one end of the scale to the other now, we have news ATI is bringing out AGP versions of its high end X850 XL and XT video cards. Announced three months after ATI brought out the same offerings for PCI Express, it should offer some crumbs of comfort to those of us not looking to change our current motherboards anytime soon.
A number of ATI development partners have rushed to declare their support for the boards, amongst which Sapphire and GeCube (Info-Tek) were the first to let us know they have working cards ready to ship.