When ATI introduced the RS300, many expected the fastest integrated graphics solution for the Pentium 4 to make quite a splash. After all, the Intel 865G was a top seller with graphics performance that was clearly inferior to the ATI Radeon 9100 IGP. But several things held back that kind of wide acceptance in the first chipset.
Many buying the 865G looked at it first as a chipset, and they didn't care as much about on-board graphics performance; the ATI RS300 was just not up to the base performance levels of the 865G. Those who were shopping for an all-in-one integrated graphics solution were more than a bit confused that the 9100 IGP was Direct X 8.1 when both nVidia and ATI themselves were proclaiming the merits of Direct X 9.
In addition, the 865 chipset family was the favorite of many overclockers, reaching incredible overclocks with the cheaper P4 processors, while the ATI RS300 was a mediocre overclocker at best. For some shopping for an integrated Pentium 4 solution, the features were very important; the RS300 lacked some of the leading features of the Intel 865G.
ATI may have fallen a bit short of the mark in the first go-around, but ATI is a company that understands competition. After a closer look at the 865G, their answer is the just released RS350. As you will see in our closer look at the Reference Board, ATI has looked at all these areas that were concerns to buyers.
The new RS350 is now said to be fully ready to compete with the best Intel chipsets, performing as well as the Intel 865/875 as a chipset, and with the added advantage of the best Integrated Graphics available for the Intel platform. Yes, the RS350 is still Direct X 8.1, but ATI has also tweaked the chipset for best operation with Direct X 9.0B, and it runs all the Direct X 9 titles we fed it in our tests.
In a look to the future, the new 9100 IGP PRO chipset is also capable of supporting both current Socket 478 CPUs as well as future Socket 775 processors. The RS350 can drive either socket, supporting Northwood, Prescott, and Pentium 4 EE. ATI has also updated the RS350 Southbridge. The IXP320 has added support for 8 USB 2.0 ports and 2 SATA ports, matching the specifications and features of Intel's 865G chipset.
On paper, the ATI RS350 certainly looks like all the things that we wished for when ATI first launched a Radeon Integrated Graphics solution. Does the performance match the expectations?