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Preview: ATI's All-In-Wonder 9700 Pro


It's All-In-Wonderful
— 5:00 AM on September 30, 2002

ManufacturerATI
ModelAIW 9700 Pro
Price (expected)Under $500US
AvailabilityNovember

ATI STUNNED THE WORLD when it announced the Radeon 9700 Pro graphics chip back in July. Since then, multimedia enthusiasts have been clamoring for an All-In-Wonder version of this revolutionary new graphics product. At the Radeon 9700 Pro launch event, ATI showed off the power and flexibility of the Radeon 9700 Pro's pixel shaders by applying Photoshop-like filter effects to live video streams, and that only heightened the desire for an AIW 9700 Pro.

Today, ATI unveils the AIW 9700 Pro, adding to the AIW's impressive lineage in the process. The All-In-Wonder dates all the way back to the Rage II, so there's a lot of history there. The experience gained over years of making AIW products has no doubt contributed to the success of ATI's current cards, which have the most complete AV/PVR feature set in consumer graphics.

Someone at ATI must be really enthusiastic about the AIW concept, because they keep on pushing the limits of just how much audio, video, and TV input/output gear they can pack into a graphics product. But a revolutionary GPU like the Radeon 9700 Pro calls for something above and beyond ATI's current AIW offerings; it deserves something special. How has ATI tweaked its current AIW offering to better complement and enhance the Radeon 9700 GPU? Let's find out.


The AIW 9700 Pro, picture provided by ATI

Pixel pushing prowess
The AIW 9700 Pro is essentially a Radeon 9700 Pro with a bunch of extra AV and PVR goodies tacked on. Basing an AIW product on a current GPU platform is nothing new for ATI, they've been doing this for years. However, some of ATI's previous AIW products have run at lower clock speeds and used slower memory chips than their vanilla derivatives. The slower clock speeds haven't made a difference in AV/PVR features or performance, but have throttled 3D performance. The AIW name does imply that a card should be able to do it all, and I'm of the mind that the cards should do at least no less than their vanilla counterparts when it comes to 3D performance.

Fortunately, the AIW 9700 Pro is every bit as fast as a vanilla Radeon 9700 Pro. Both cards use the same GPU and memory running at the same clock speeds; gone are the days where you have to sacrifice frame rates just to get your AIW groove on.

At this point, I shouldn't have to tell you that the Radeon 9700 Pro is the current king of consumer 3D graphics. We've covered the Radeon 9700 Pro extensively here at TR, so I'm not going to be giving you a feature-by-feature analysis of the GPU. I will, however, break out our graphics chip chart so you can get a look at what the 3D graphics landscape looks like among AIW products and their competitors in NVIDIA's Personal Cinema camp. Much has changed since the last time we took a look at AIW products here at TR, so let's get up to speed.

  Core clock (MHz) Pixel pipelines Peak fill rate (Mpixels/s)Texture units per pixel pipeline Peak fill rate (Mtexels/s) Memory clock (MHz) Memory bus width (bits) Peak memory bandwidth (GB/s)
GeForce2 MX 400200240028001661282.7
Radeon 8500DV2304920218403801286.1
GeForce4 MX 4402702540210804001286.4
GeForce4 Ti 4200 128MB25041000220004441287.1
Radeon 75002902580317404601287.4
GeForce4 Ti 4200 64MB25041000220005001288.0
Radeon 8500 128MB27541100222005501288.8
GeForce4 Ti 4600300412002240065012810.4
Radeon 9700 Pro325826001260062025619.4

ATI currently offers a full line of AIW products, starting at the low-end with the Radeon 7500, and going all the way up to this latest Radeon 9700 Pro. The features of each AIW product in that spectrum are a little different, but what we're really looking at here are fill rates and memory bandwidth. Theoretical performance limits aren't always indicative of overall 3D performance, but they do give us a frame of reference since we won't be diving into any benchmarks today. We'll throw a stack of graphs at you when we get a card in for testing, but you'll have to be happy with paper specs until then.

There are two things to take note of here. First, notice that the Radeon 9700 Pro completely outclasses every other AV/PVR-capable graphics card; it's not even close. The chart doesn't take into account the Radeon 9700 Pro's support for DirectX 9 and other advanced features, where the Radeon 9700 Pro also has a huge advantage. Second, look at the wide variety of products now available based on NVIDIA's Personal Cinema. Personal Cinema products used to be limited to cards based on the GeForce2 MX 400, but that's not the case anymore.

As far as Pricewatch is concerned, the GeForce2-based Personal Cinema is still the only one out there, but a company called Compro USA currently makes a full line of GeForce4-based Personal Cinema products. Unfortunately, the availability of these products is limited to Outpost.com, Fry's, and Compro's own online store. Compro's GeForce4-based products do make Personal Cinema products more competitive (at least GPU-wise) with ATI's Radeon 7500 and 8500-based AIW products, but there's no competing with the Radeon 9700 Pro.

I could go on, but I'd just end up repeating the same thing over and over again: the AIW 9700 Pro uses the fastest, most feature-filled consumer graphics chip on the planet. NVIDIA's NV30 should make things a far more even match, but NVIDIA has yet to formally announce the chip, and there's no telling when we'll see it featured in Personal Cinema products.