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Manufacturer: ATI Technologies
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ATI Radeon 9000 Pro
April 25, 2003 | Lucian Fong

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Available since August 2002 in Apple’s Power Mac, ATI's Radeon 9000 Pro has begun shipping to retail in recent months. It is a late addition to ATI’s Mac product lineup, but certainly a welcome one, especially since it is the only retail graphics card that sports an Apple Display Connector (ADC). The Radeon 9000 Pro fills the gap between the Radeon 7000 PCI and Radeon 8500, providing solid 2D/3D performance and dual digital display capability for $169 USD.

Specifications and Features
The Radeon 9000 Pro is a more efficient version of the Radeon 8500, but a few features have been removed to reduce the size and cost of the chip. First, ATI decreased the number of texture units to one (the Radeon 8500 has two) and increased the number of textures that can be applied per pass to six (the Radeon 8500 is limited to three). In terms of game performance, this means that the Radeon 9000 will perform slower than the Radeon 8500 in games that use multi-texturing, which is in the majority of modern games.

ATI also removed one vertex shader but increased the throughput of the remaining one to 75 million triangles per second. That is actually 15 million triangles per second more than the dual vertex shaders of the Radeon 8500. Since there aren't any Mac games that use vertex shaders yet, there isn't a way to benchmark this feature, so you will have to take ATI's word for it. Lastly, TRUFORM has been omitted from the Radeon 9000.

Below is a table comparing the specifications of the Radeon 9000 Pro, Radeon 8500 and NVIDIA's GeForce 3.

Core ClockFill RateMemory ClockMemory BandwithPixel PipelinesTex Units Per PipeTex Per Tex Unit
Radeon 9000 Pro275 MHz1.1 Gtexels/sec275 MHz8.8 GB/sec416
Radeon 8500250 MHz2.0 Gtexels/sec275 MHz8.8 GB/sec423
GeForce 3200 MHz1.6 Gtexels/sec230 MHz7.36 GB/sec424

Physically, the card is identical to the one shipping in Apple's Power Mac G4s. There is one ADC and one DVI-I port (a DVI-to-VGA adapter is included). If you plan to use the ADC port, make sure you have a Power Mac G4 with Gigabit Ethernet or later. Those of you whose ears bleed at the slightest hum of a fan will be glad to know that the Radeon 9000 Pro is cooled by a passive heatsink.

The Radeon 9000 Pro's feature set is similar to the Radeon 8500. It supports full scene anti-aliasing (supersampling method) and pixel and vertex shaders. Currently, game developers must explicitly write in support for FSAA, but ATI is developing a control panel that will give users the ability to enable/disable FSAA and anisotropic filtering in all 3D games.

Shaders will be used in the next generation of games like Unreal Tournament 2003 and DOOM III, but it remains to be seen how the Radeon 9000 will perform in those situations. Additionally, adaptive deinterlacing for DVDs is available in Mac OS 9. Due to the complex display technology used in Mac OS X 10.2, specifically Quartz Extreme, this feature was disabled. ATI is currently exploring a solution.


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