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ATI Radeon Mobility X1600 - First Look

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It might seem odd but we’re actually bringing you a first look preview of ATI’s mobile X1600 part before our review of its desktop counterpart. It’s not as if desktop X1600 cards don’t exist – they do and we’ve got one and we’ve got a full set of benchmark results from it. It’s just that as you can’t buy it and we’re not sure how much it’s going to cost we thought we’d hold on until we knew it was going to actually appear. However, we’re fairly confident that as you read this, Asus will have a notebook available featuring the Mobility Radeon X1600 available to buy, at least on its global web site.

We briefly had a pre-production version of this notebook in our Labs, so we’re bringing you a short taster of what you can expect from ATI’s new mid-range graphics chip. The primary aim is to see how the chip performs compared to nVidia’s GeForce Go 6600, which we’ve looked at in a couple of notebooks.

Before we talk about the notebook, a bit of background on the mobile chip itself. The Mobility X1600 is designed to replace ATI’s X700 part in its ‘Performance thin’ category. This is one step away from all out top-of-the range mobile graphics performance chips and is designed to combine performance with power savings for increased mobility and battery life.
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As with ATI’s new desktop parts, the chip is built using TSMC 90nm micron process. This enables it to feature a hefty 157 million transistors, crammed into a small die size, which reduces cost. As with the desktop part, it sports 12 pixel pipelines, and five Vertex Pipes. The core clock is 470MHz, while the 128MB of memory also runs at 470MHz.

There’s a lot of cutting edge technology employed in the making of the chip, such as copper interconnects, use of which lessens the electrical resistance of the tightly packed transistors, and low-k dielectric, to reduce leakage between them. A technology called Back bias is also employed to greatly reduce leakage by increasing the voltage necessary for switching transistors on and off. Using this technique delays transistor response time, which reduces potential clock speeds, so it’s only used when maximum power saving is required. The marketing name for this is ‘PowerPlay’.
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ATI has also implemented something called Dynamic Voltage Control, which can dynamically adjust voltage to deliver either performance or extended battery life, similar to Intel’s SpeedStep’ for CPUs. ATI’s tech is called ‘Power-on-Demand’.

We didn’t have time to see how the power saving features affect the battery life, but we’ll do so when we get the final production notebook in from Asus.

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