Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/505

ATI Rage Mobility 128

by Mike Andrawes on March 15, 2000 5:41 AM EST


Notebooks have always lagged behind desktops in a number of areas, most notably performance and expansion, due to space and heat restrictions imposed by the concept of a "laptop computer." That generally meant that everything in a laptop is based on technology that is one or two generations old in the desktop market.

But when the 3D graphics revolution got going with the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics about 3 years ago, the mobile market didn't follow. The problem was that 3D chipsets ran hot, hot enough to burn your skin in fact, and draw a lot of power. The need for large heatsinks quickly arose as graphics power increased. A really hot product that draws lots of power and requires a heatsink simply won't work in the mobile environment. The fact that the desktop 3D market has accelerated so quickly with a 6 month product cycle hasn't made 3D for notebooks any easier.

ATI was one of the companies providing any 3D solution for the mobile environment with the Rage LT Pro, which was based on the Rage Pro Turbo core. Anyone that ever used the Rage Pro Turbo knows that it wasn't a very good solution on the desktop, and by the time it was available in notebooks, it felt even worse. Image quality was poor and it was plain slow.

Announced "way back" in October 1999, ATI's promise to bring real desktop 3D performance to the mobile market has finally come true - the Rage Mobility 128 has finally arrived. Based on the same core used in the Rage 128 Pro for the desktop market, the Mobility 128 promised to bring a full 3D rendering feature set, excellent image quality, and, most importantly, performance to match their desktop solution at the time, the Rage Fury Pro.

Well the Mobility 128 is just now becoming available - a bit later than we had expected, but still in time to capitalize on a market that still sorely lacks a good 3D solution. While the Rage 128 Pro is not exactly a state of the art chip in the desktop market any more, do we really need 110 fps in Quake 3 to enjoy our games? Of course not. What the mobile market needs right now is a solution with image quality on par with the desktop and playable performance at 640x480. While 640x480 is not the resolution of choice for most gamers today, the mobile market needs to start somewhere and 640x480 is certainly reasonable on the 13 - 15" LCD's on most notebooks today.



Specifications

The Rage Mobility 128 specs are somewhat interesting to look at and told us quite a bit before we even received our evaluation sample. The most important thing to remember is that this is still a mobile solution, so the specs are not up to par with the latest and greatest on the desktop side of things. What the Mobility 128 is, however, is the first chip that brings reasonable 3D performance to the mobile space. It does so with an all-in-one package that's pin compatible with other members of the ATI Rage Mobility family, allowing great flexibility for OEM's that can produce notebooks for different market segments with a single motherboard design.

The Mobility 128 is largely based on the Rage 128 Pro core that is found in the Rage Fury Pro and Rage Fury MAXX, but with a number of modifications and additions to make it suitable for the mobile environment. The Rage 128 Pro core provides the 2D engine, 3D engine, hardware DVD decoding, and a TMDS transmitter. The TMDS transmitter provides support for digital flat panels in the desktop Rage 128 Pro through a DVI interface and the same is true for the notebook version, although OEM's will have to actually implement it in their designs.

The Mobility 128 starts by adding dedicated hardware to provide ratiometric expansion on digital flat panels, which we'll talk about in detail later. A LVDS transmitter, which is necessary for the digital interface to the built-in LCD of the notebook, is next. By integrating the LVDS transmitter on chip, EMI is significantly reduced. Throw in support for spread spectrum and EMI is reduced even further without any additional weight or space. EMI is a major issue in notebook design and normally space is dedicated to additional shields to reduce it. Most mobile graphics solutions that are being released today would probably also feature an integrated LVDS transmitter.

For TV-out support, a 10-bit TV encoder is thrown in the package as well. AES power management provides dynamic gate level power management, allowing individual parts of the chip to power down when they're not in use, which leads to improved battery life.

The memory configuration of the Mobility 128 is where we start to see differences that affect performance. An all new memory controller and 8MB of SGRAM are also put in the chip package. It should be noted that this memory is not on-die, but rather simply in the same package as the graphics core in order to save PCB space - something that is crucial in notebook designs. The potential performance issues come from the fact that the interface to the internal memory is only 64-bit, which could cause a significant performance drop compared to the full 128-bit interface of the desktop part. This is similar to the performance loss we saw in the TNT2 M64 when compared to the original TNT2. Fortunately, the Mobility 128 also supports an external 8MB memory upgrade that boosts the memory interface to 128-bit, which should hopefully bring it back up to par with the desktop Rage 128 Pro.

The next performance hurdle stems from the fact that notebooks are by their nature extremely cramped machines with little space or power for cooling devices. As such, the clock speed of the Mobility 128 has been toned down from the desktop Rage 128 Pro. Instead of a 125/143 MHz core/memory clock, we get a 105/105 MHz configuration. With the ability to render two pixels per clock, that still results in a fillrate of 210 Mpixels/s, which is far greater than any notebook part on the market now and more than some that are still on the horizon.

Now 210 Mpixels/s doesn't sound like a whole lot with all the talk of gigapixel performance in the near future, but remember that the NVIDIA RIVA TNT was released about one and a half years ago and only offered 180 Mpixels/s. Further, the retail version of the Rage Fury, which featured the original Rage 128 chip, was released just over a year ago and featured a nearly identical clock speed. Then consider the fact that the the next closest competitor in the mobile market is the Mobile Savage from S3, which promises "just" 125 Mpixels/s and the Mobility 128 sounds better and better all the time.

All this is built on the same 0.25 micron process that ATI has used since the original Rage 128 was released. Ideally, a die shrink to 0.18 micron would allow for a higher clock speed, lower power consumption, and possibly more memory to be included on chip. The inclusion of embedded DRAM with a wider bus, perhaps 256-bit, could greatly enhance performance. Unfortunately, we've heard nothing from ATI as to the possibility of this in the future.



Texture Compression (taken from our Rage Fury Pro Review)

Since the Mobility 128 is based on the Rage 128 Pro core, it inherits its support for Texture Compression.

When S3 first introduced support for S3TC the market was stunned by the potential that was seemingly just sitting there. Since that announcement, there hasn't been too much support for the standard, also known as DirectX Texture Compression (DXTC) which is natively supported in Direct3D and, through an extension, supported in OpenGL. However the support is growing and since the Rage 128 Pro supports DXTC with its 6 to 1 compression algorithm, you can add ATI to that list.

The Rage 128 Pro, like the original Rage 128, features support for textures of up to 2048 x 2048 pixels in size. Although there isn't a game that makes use of such a large texture, the texture sizes will continue to increase as games become more and more realistic. For this reason the chip's support for texture compression is definitely a move in the right direction. While it won't be the deciding factor in your buying decision it does help the industry move forward.

In this respect, texture compression can be equated with features such as hardware transforming & lighting or Environment Mapped Bump Mapping (EMBM). While they may not be features that are fully taken advantage of in current games, hardware support for them is a step forward for the industry as a whole. The ball must start rolling somewhere and once it does the entire industry benefits. It's refreshing to see ATI contribute to the industry by supporting DXTC and, as we already know, they aren't the only ones that have already pledged support for it. Even 3dfx, with their own texture compression algorithms, has already announced support for DXTC in their upcoming next generation product.

DVD Decoding

Since the original Rage 128 chip, ATI has been a leader in DVD decoding on a single 2D/3D card. Their secret? The addition of Inverse Discrete Cosine Transform, or iDCT for short, support in hardware. iDCT is simply a part of the MPEG-2 decoding process, the standard by which DVD's are encoded. By offloading this function to the graphics card, the CPU is free to perform other tasks. ATI is the only graphics maker to support iDCT in hardware on something other than a dedicated MPEG-2 decoder card.

On the desktop, that means lowered CPU utilization so that other tasks can be performed. But in the mobile environment, that lowered CPU utilization translates into longer battery life while watching a DVD movie. ATI actually offered iDCT support in the original Rage Mobility for notebooks, part of the reason that they've been able to gain almost 40% of the mobile graphics market.

The next key to ATI's infamous DVD support is hardware support for DVD subpicture. DVD subpicture is a very commonly used feature that allows you to display graphics over video such as subtitles or menu features, both of which are commonly used in DVD movies.

In order to place a subpicture over a DVD stream, the subpicture (a compressed bitmap) is decompressed and outputted to the screen on the fly. While this isn't the most CPU intensive part of playing back a DVD, it does contribute to some of the CPU load associated with DVD playback where there is excessive use of the subpicture feature. Performing this in hardware allows for the decompression of the subpicture on the fly as it sends it to the DAC for output. This only reduces memory bandwidth and CPU utilization by a small percentage but it does help. However, without support for DVD subpicture in hardware, you get a dithered approximation of the image that is supposed to be translucent.

The Rage 128 series also has built in hardware motion compensation, filtered XY scaling, etc. just like virtually every other card on the market today. All this combined helps to ensure a constant frame rate, even on lower end systems, with virtually no dropped frames. Not to mention quality that rivals stand alone DVD players.

But what good is great DVD decoding if you have to watch in on a 14" or 15" flat panel? Sure it comes in handy if you're on a trip or a long flight and feel like watching a movie, but DVD was really meant for the big screen. ATI realized this fact and equipped the Mobility 128 with an on-chip 10-bit TV encoder that can output resolutions up to 1024x768. As such, OEM's using the Mobility 128 for their notebooks should be able to implement TV-out at virtually no cost to the consumer. TV-out on a notebook isn't just for watching movies or playing games, but can also be quite useful if you need to make a presentation while you're on the road.



Dual Display

Much like the Matrox G400's Dual Head feature, the Mobility 128 is capable of driving two different displays with different content on each or the same content as desired. One display will of course be the notebook's built-in flat panel, but the other can be the TV-out, an external analog monitor, or even an external DVI flat panel. Whether or not we see any OEM's actually implement a DVI interface is up to them, but the Mobility 128 does make the option available.

Available resolutions are limited only by the available frame buffer and with 8MB of external frame buffer, for a total of 16MB, two 1600x1200 displays in 2D are possible. One of the displays is capable of running in 3D, but not both. Interestingly, ATI is pushing a new resolution that we haven't seen before - 1400x1050 - that slots right between 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. They believe that this will become the new standard for high res 15" panels.

As mentioned previously, no additional hardware beyond connectors and support on the PCB are required for these features - it's all built into the single chip Mobility 128. Dual display is accomplished through Windows 98's support for multi-monitor setups, so it won't work under NT4. However, once drivers are developed for Windows 2000, it should work there as well. Dual display was also available in ATI's original Rage Mobility chip.

Filtered Ratiometric Expansion

"Filtered Ratiometric Expansion" is a big fancy term that sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. At least the concept is easy, while the implementation certainly isn't - just ask the ATI engineer that had to do it ;)

You may have noticed that most notebooks out there don't handle resolutions other than the flat panel's native resolution very well. Either the image will only take up part of the screen or a low quality scaling job will be applied to the display which results in extremely jagged output. This is because, unlike a conventional CRT monitor, flat panel displays have a fixed number of pixels that are addressed individually.

For the most part, this isn't a huge deal since it usually makes the most sense to run your notebook at its native resolution anyway. The problem crops up the most in full screen DOS sessions or in games, but can also be seen during the Windows 98 boot screen and sometimes the BIOS screen.

ATI's solution is filtered ratiometric expansion, which basically means that it takes a low res image and scales it cleanly up to the native resolution of the panel you're using. However, the key is that it scales it smoothly through filtering. It's similar to the filtering a 3D accelerated uses to prevent pixelation when you walk right up to a wall or that most graphics cards do when you playback a movie full screen. The Mobility 128 is capable of scaling resolutions up to 1280x1024 to the panel's native resolution (for panels up to 1600x1200).

Since we were testing on a desktop platform with an analog monitor, we were unable to explore this features. The Rage Mobility also has this feature and feedback from owners of such notebooks has generally been positive. ATI claims that since it is implemented in hardware, there is currently only a 2-3% performance drop when it is enabled while playing games or watching a DVD movie. While 3-4% certainly isn't much, the good news is that ATI expects this to drop to 0% in future revisions of the chipset.



The Card


Click to Enlarge

We received a sample Rage Mobility 128 chip mounted on a a somewhat strange AGP 2X PCB. The strangeness of the PCB comes from the fact that it is merely an engineering sample to help test the functionality of the Mobility 128 while it must also include all the options that a notebook implementation of the chip would have. Thus, we get a variety of connectors onboard, including an internal flat panel connector at the top of the board and external flat panel and standard DB15 analog monitor connector at the back of the board.

But more interesting is the lack of support components on the PCB. We find a memory upgrade socket, one voltage regulator, a clock crystal, a flash ROM chip for the BIOS, and the usual capacitors and resistors. Everything else is for debugging purposes, which is certainly a testament to the extremely integrated nature of the Mobility 128. In an actual notebook, a lot of this would most likely be eliminated - the flash ROM would be integrated with the system BIOS and its doubtful the graphics chip would get its own voltage regulator.

The Mobility 128 chip itself is just about in the center of the board and looks like a relatively large BGA chip, approximately the size of a i443BX North Bridge. As mentioned previously, it includes 8MB of memory integrated into the package, but not into the die. Unlike some other chips that feature memory in the same package as the core, the memory bus is only 64 bits wide. There was no heatsink attached to our sample and chip was barely warm to the touch during operation. We did however note that there were two small holes and a silk screen image of the area that a low profile heatsink might require.


Click to Enlarge

We were also supplied with an 8MB memory upgrade module that featured 7ns Samsung SGRAM chips. When installed, the total memory is brought up to 16MB and the memory bus is now a full 128 bits wide. We doubt that many notebook manufacturers will actually offer a memory upgrade slot, but the possibility is always there.

 

Overclocking

Overclocking the Rage Mobility 128 will most likely be a tricky thing to accomplish. We'll state first that we were not able to do so solely because we could not find an overclocking utility that recognized the Mobility 128 - not too surprising since it's not even really out yet. More than likely, this will change once notebooks are actually available with the chip.

However, the mobile environment is not exactly the most overclocking friendly. The biggest problem is cooling as the inside of the notebook is quite cramped while the OEM may or may not have included a heatsink on the graphics chip. In fact, our sample did not include a heatsink as it was barely warm to the touch without one. Further, it's not clear whether the memory clock can run asynchronously with the core clock since it is included in the same chip packaging. Our sample ran at the final clock speed of 105 MHz core and 105 MHz memory. Finally, if you do overclock, we'd only recommend you do so while on AC power as any increase in clock speed will increase the power draw of the chip.

We'll revisit the overclocking aspect of the Mobility 128 when actual shipping notebooks are available.



Driver Support

At the moment, ATI has only provided us with Windows 98 drivers for the Mobility 128 and that is what we tested with. Since the Mobility 128 core is virtually identical to the Rage 128 Pro, we expect that adding support for Windows NT 4 and Windows 2000 to be a trivial matter for ATI. And with OEM's demanding such support, since they've already begun to ship notebooks with Windows 2000, it seems ATI has little choice but to support those OS's.

ATI has also recently announced comprehensive support for Linux, including an SDK for adding full iDCT support for all Rage 128 based chips. While the Mobility 128 is not explicitly mentioned, it should be once again trivial to support it since the core is so similar to the Rage 128 Pro. The same goes for the X-server that supports the Rage 128 series. 3D support under Linux is not currently available, but is in the works. Back in October 1999, ATI announced its official support for Linux and endorsed the Open Source Movement, so Linux users can breathe a sigh of relief.

The Windows 98 drivers were solid in our short experience with them. Of course, this comes as no surprise since the Rage 128 core has changed little since its release over a year ago. This gave ATI ample time to tweak their drivers and get all the bugs out. Of course things still aren't perfect, but then again, nothing is ever perfect. Below are screenshots of the drivers in their current state. They look just like other ATI drivers so there's no reason to expect significant changes.

Driver Pictures



Preparing "The Test"

It was a bit tricky choosing the test bed for this review since the Mobility 128 will eventually be integrated into a complete notebook system. Our goal in the performance comparison was to simulate a notebook environment for the Mobility 128 and show how it would compare to a typical desktop system (not a bleeding edge one).

To simulate such an environment, we decided to go to use Pentium III processors with the i440BX chipset, currently the most common solution for mid-range to high-end notebooks. Intel even sells packages with both the processor and northbridge on a "mobile module".

Specifically, we selected the Pentium III 650E, 500E, and 400E. The 650E was chosen as it is currently the fastest available mobile processor on the market. It features Intel's Speed Step Technology, which reduces the CPU speed when on battery power. That brings us to the reason we picked the 500E - when on battery power, Speed Step drops the CPU frequency to 500 MHz. Finally, the 400E was chosen as the slowest mobile Pentium III currently available. The 400E is not available on the desktop, so we used a 533EB (normally 4x133=533) and underclocked it to 400 MHz (4x100).

We may see some notebooks using the Mobility 128 in conjunction with the mobile Celeron. However, it will probably be a newer Celeron based on the new Coppermine-128 core, which is identical to the Coppermine Pentium III core but with only 128KB of cache. Thus we had no way to simulate such circumstances and we expect performance in most apps to be similar at equivalent clock speeds.

Without a mobile Athlon, AMD is currently relegated to low-end notebooks that won't be using the Mobility 128 any time soon.

Selecting cards to compare the Mobility 128 to was equally complicated. We knew immediately we would have to compare to the desktop Rage Fury Pro, since the Mobility 128 features they feature the same Rage 128 Pro core. The NVIDIA RIVA TNT2 was selected as a good common baseline level of performance for the desktop that many AnandTech readers can relate to. The TNT2 M64 was thrown in to help illustrate the effects of a 64-bit memory bus as is the case when the Mobility 128 does not have the external 8MB memory upgrade.

Finally, to represent many current notebooks, we've thrown in the old ATI 3D Rage Pro Turbo, which performs like the mobile Rage LT Pro that is still used in many laptops today. Our Rage Pro board featured 4MB, which is probably more than some notebooks using the Rage LT Pro. We only ran 16-bit numbers on the Rage Pro Turbo as performance was already excruciatingly slow at 16-bit. We also only ran resolutions up to 800x600 for this chip since at 1024x768 it ran out of memory. Further, Unreal Tournament simply would not run in full screen on the Rage Pro Turbo. Now do you see the urgent need for better 3D solutions for notebooks? ;)

ATI's original Rage Mobility is also very common in notebooks today and is an enhanced version of the Rage LT Pro that makes it slightly faster. Unfortunately, we had no good way to simulate its performance, but it's not leaps and bounds ahead of the Rage LT Pro/3D Rage Pro we're using anyway.

Note that all the desktop cards, except the 3D Rage Pro, have significantly more memory than the Rage Mobility 128. This will always be the case when comparing the mobile environment to the desktop.

Other competition in the notebook graphics market include NeoMagic and S3. Up until just recently, NeoMagic did not offer any reasonable level of 3D support. The new NeoMagic MagicMedia 256XL+ holds promise but the specs are vague and a sample was not available to AnandTech at the time of this review. S3 has the Savage/MX and Savage/IX on the way, but both offer performance that appears to be significantly below that of the Mobility 128, at least on paper. Samples of the Savage/MX and Savage/IX were also not available at the time of this review and the chips are different enough from the Savage3D and Savage4 that there was no good way to model it's performance on the desktop.

The Test

Windows 98 SE Test System

Hardware

CPU(s)

Intel Pentium III 650E
Intel Pentium III 500E
Intel Pentium III 533EB underclocked to 400

Motherboard AOpen AX6BC Pro Gold (i440BX)
Memory

128MB PC133 Corsair SDRAM

Hard Drive

IBM Deskstar 22GXP 22GB Ultra ATA 66 HDD

CDROM

Phillips 48X

Video Cards

ATI Rage Mobility 128 Prototype 8MB/16MB (default clock - 105/105)
ATI Rage Fury Pro 32MB (default clock - 125/143)
3D Rage Pro Turbo 4MB (default clock - 83/100)
NVIDIA RIVA TNT2 32MB (default clock - 125/150)
NVIDIA RIVA TNT2 M64 32MB (default clock - 125/150)

Software

Operating System

Windows 98 SE

Video Drivers

ATI Rage Mobility 128 - 4.11.1037B29
ATI Rage Fury Pro - 6.31CDH41
3D Rage Pro Turbo - J5.11.1B20
NVIDIA RIVA TNT2 / TNT2 M64 - Detonator 3.76

Benchmarking Applications

Gaming

id Software Quake III Arena demo001.dm3
GT Interactive Unreal Tournament 4.00 UTbench.dem
Rage Software Expendable Timedemo



Pentium III 650E - Quake III Arena

At 640x480x16, the Mobility 128 with 16MB is capable of hitting the magical 60 fps mark under Quake 3. Performance is behind the desktop Rage 128 Pro, but this is expected due to the lower core and memory clocks. The performance hit going from 16-bit to 32-bit is larger than normal thanks to the low memory clock of the Mobility 128.

With only 8MB, the Mobility 128 is relegated to a 64-bit memory bus, which severely degrades performance. Further, 8MB is a fairly small amount of memory these days and texture thrashing may easily occur in conjested situations. Unfortunately, we'll probably mainly see the 8MB configuration. Nevertheless, 47.5 fps is still playable performance.

As we'll see throughout the tests, the Rage Pro Turbo falls so far behind the pack that it's not even funny. We also found for the most part that only the precise numbers varied from CPU speed to CPU speed, while the finishing order remained the same.

Performance at 800x600x16 is still quite respectable and playable for the Mobility128 with 16MB. But that 64-bit memory bus is back again to really hinder the 8MB version, which is far less acceptable at 32.4 fps.



Interestingly, the Mobility 128 with 16MB actually beats out its higher clocked desktop sibling, the Rage 128 Pro. We're not exactly sure how to explain these results. It happens at every resolution under both Direct3D benchmarks, so our instincts tell us its something about the Direct3D drivers. Either the Mobility 128 featured a newer D3D driver that enhanced performance quite a bit or that driver does not have all functions implemented yet.

Otherwise, performance is quite good virtually matching the TNT2 when configured with 16MB. A major hit is taken with only 8MB as UT is a very texture intensive game. The effect is exacerbated with 32-bit color and/or higher resolutions.



Pentium III 650E - Expendable

Here we have results similar to those we found under Unreal Tournament, but this time, the Mobility 128/16MB pulls ahead of even the TNT2 at 640x480.



Pentium III 500E - Quake III Arena



Pentium III 500E - Unreal Tournament



Pentium III 500E - Expendable



Pentium III 400E - Quake III Arena



Pentium III 400E - Unreal Tournament



Pentium III 400E - Expendable



Image Quality

Being based on the Rage 128 Pro core, we were not at all surprised to find image quality that was identical to the desktop Rage 128 Pro. On the desktop, the Rage 128 Pro is as good as it gets when rendering in 32-bit color. Unfortunately, dropping down to 16-bit color produces an odd dithering pattern that appears to shimmer. This dithering pattern is most noticeable when alpha blending is involved and does not appear on other graphics chips that have come through the AnandTech labs. The original Rage 128 was actually much worse in this respect and ATI made a special effort to minimize it in the Rage 128 Pro.

However, when you compare to other solutions in the notebook market, the Rage 128 Pro rendering is by far the best. Most mobile graphics parts don't even support 3D rendering, and those that do usually don't support the full spectrum of 3D rendering features that we expect in every desktop graphics part today. The S3 Mobile Savage appears to be the only solution that will be able to rival the Mobility 128 in the image quality department.



Final Words

Basically, if you want a notebook that offers reasonable 3D performance in the next few months, there's nothing better than the Rage Mobility 128. As of the product announcement on October 25, 1999, ATI claimed a price of $55 in quantities of 10,000 - that's nothing compared to the price of a good notebook. There's obviously quite a bit of room for improvement, but there's simply nothing that's been announced that even challenges the Mobility 128. As mentioned previously, we'd like to see ATI go to a 0.18 micron process, increase the clock, and integrate 16MB of embedded DRAM with a 256-bit bus. While it's certainly wishful thinking, it doesn't seem too far out of reach at this point and that would allow for a huge boost in performance.

Rumors have started circulating about an mobile NV11 part from NVIDIA. We haven't been able to confirm or deny such rumors, but throwing T&L and 4 texels per clock could certainly cause trouble for the Mobility 128. Nevertheless, these are still rumors, while the Mobility 128 is real and available today (more on availability below).

If you're a gamer and think you'd like to play on the road or would just rather take a notebook to LAN parties instead of a full desktop system, a notebook with the Rage Mobility 128 is a no brainer. The same is true if you need to do any sort of 3D work on the road or are just looking for a no-compromise desktop replacement. While it won't be as fast as the latest and greatest desktop offerings, it still offers reasonable performance. It's doubtful that notebooks will ever be able to fully catch up to desktop performance due to space and heat considerations. If you don't care too much about 3D support, but desire the other features of the Mobility 128, such as hardware DVD decoding, ratiometric expansion, etc., consider one of the other Mobility options from ATI.

If 3D performance is very important to you, definitely go for the additional 8MB of memory if you can - it widens the memory interface to 128-bit, which can result in significant performance increases as we've seen. While it is possible to offer a graphics memory upgrade slot, we doubt many OEM's will do so in the interest of saving space and cost. To complicate the situation even further, 8MB is already quite a bit of graphics memory for a notebook, so don't be surprised if the 16MB configuration is virtually impossible to find in all but the highest end models, if at all.

The big question is when will such notebooks be available. ATI's excellent relationship with Apple continues on as Apple is currently the only one shipping a Rage Mobility 128 based notebook at the moment with the new G3 Powerbook. No other design wins have been announced, but we suspect that as soon as ATI is able to ramp up production of the Mobility 128 to provide enough for Apple and then some, we'll see a flurry of announcements Major OEM's typically don't like to announce products until they are actually available for delivery.

ATI would not disclose any of those OEM's to us - all they would say is "announcements are coming soon" - but we can certainly speculate on our own. Of course there are the guys that have used ATI products for quite a while - Dell, Gateway, and IBM, although all 3 manufacturers also use NeoMagic chips in some of their products. Toshiba is also a likely candidate as ATI has already announced support for Toshiba's new 1400x1050 LCD's. Earlier this year, ATI got their first design win with Toshiba on the Satellite 1605CDS and 1625CDT.

Remember that when you buy a notebook, you buy a complete system, so don't ignore the rest of the system. Look for notebook reviews from AnandTech in the near future.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now