ATi Mobility Radeon 9700 launch

ATi is pushing the mobile gaming envelope again with the introduction of it's latest notebook chipset, the Mobility Radeon 9700.

There was a time when the thought of playing the latest 3D games on a notebook computer was laughable. But over the past couple of years mobile game station notebooks have become hot products, and the ability to feed your latest game addiction wherever you are is pretty appealing.

Of course ATi wants to stay at the cutting edge of mobile graphics performance and it’s been doing a pretty good job with its Mobility Radeon chipsets. The last Mobility Radeon chipset to hit the streets was the 9600 and it was a huge hit with mobile gamers. But ATi has never been a company to sit back on its laurels and now it’s launching the Mobility Radeon 9700.

The big news for the 9700 is that it utilises low-k dielectric technology, first seen in the Radeon 9600XT desktop part. The low-k technology addresses the problem of interference and cross talk between circuits which results in more power having to be fed through to ensure efficient transistor switching. Implementing low-k dielectrics improves the circuit insulation, resulting in less chance of interference and ultimately reducing the amount of power needed. Less power also means less heat, which is paramount with a notebook chip.

So, utilising the low-k technology has allowed to ATi to push the core speed of the Mobility Radeon 9700 to a very impressive 450MHz. This is 100MHz faster than the previous Mobility Radeon 9600, but 50Mhz slower than the desktop Radeon 9600XT card. Of course it’s worth remembering that the Mobility Radeon 9700 is a top of the range mobile solution whereas the Radeon 9600XT is a mid-range desktop solution, so ATi will want to keep some distance between them despite the technological similarities.

ATi’s VPU recover feature is also in evidence. This means that if the VPU stops communicating with the driver software, the VPU recover utility will try to reset the graphics hardware and avoid an entire system crash.

Multimedia functionality is well taken care of with the usual array of hardware DVD decoding, MPEG encoding and video input. The MR 9700 will also output an HDTV signal via component video, which will be vital to the US market, but unfortunately of little use to us in Europe for the foreseeable future.

There are some cool shader effects that you can apply to games like inverse video and sepia. But although these might be fun, it’s likely that you’ll try them once and forget about them, much like the similar effects you get imbedded in digital cameras.

The MR 9700 is equipped with a thermal diode, so there is a possibility of making use of ATi’s Overdrive feature, although you’ll have to ensure a pretty well cooled notebook. Ultimately the actual clock speed and use of Overdrive will be decided by the notebook manufacturer.

Obviously ATi is confident that the MR 9700 will be the fastest mobile 3D graphics solution available, but we’ll wait until we get our hands on an equipped notebook before we make any performance judgements. Hopefully this won’t take too long since ATi assured us that there will be a strong uptake of the MR 9700 part.

So, be sure to check back soon for a full review of a Mobility Radeon 9700 notebook solution.

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