ATI Radeon 9000 Pro – The GeForce4 MX Killerby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 18, 2002 5:00 AM EST
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It’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually selling in the market when all you hear about are the absolute fastest $400 video cards. A great many of us were more than eager to spend $600 on a speedy Voodoo2 SLI configuration seemingly ages ago, but in the days of 6-month product cycles, it is difficult to justify spending that much money on a graphics card.
Granted, ATI’s other launch today, the R300 based Radeon 9700, is an example of a product worth its $399 price tag; however, we must grant equal if not greater attention to solutions from ATI and NVIDIA that are priced well below that mark.
If you listened to your peers in the community, you would think that the vast majority of graphics cards sold were GeForce4s and no one would even come close to touching a GeForce4 MX. In reality, NVIDIA’s GeForce4 MX line has been selling like hotcakes and although we weren’t happy with NVIDIA’s naming scheme, resellers and OEMs were more than excited about the product.
The reason behind this is simple; it is the sub-$200 market that ships the largest volumes and thus the company that controls this segment commands the vast majority of the add-in card market. The lucrative nature of this sub-$200 market is the reason that ATI can continue to run a successful graphics business even when they don’t have the fastest graphics card on the block. For months the GeForce4 line eclipsed ATI’s Radeon 8500 and Radeon 8500LE yet ATI didn’t worry too much; while it is nice to have technological and performance leadership (it improves brand recognition tremendously), what makes you money is this large and mostly unexciting sub-$200 market.
We can break the sub-$200 market into further divisions, with the sub-$100 segment making up the majority of the add-in card market. That market is definitely uninteresting, as the primary competitors are the Radeon 7000, the GeForce4 MX 420 and even golden oldies such as the TNT2 and Rage 128 (they are still being sold, just not in retail channels).
It is this sub-$200 market that ATI’s latest mainstream chip, the RV250, is designed to go after. You can already tell a lot about the purpose of the chip by its name; the R200 was the Radeon 8500, ATI’s once top of the line part and the addition of the ‘V’ to any of ATI’s codenames dictates a lower-priced, value part. Incrementing the R200 codename by 50 and adding a V leaves you with the impression that in some ways the RV250 is superior to the R200 found in the Radeon 8500, and in some ways it’s worse.
This article is about finding out what’s better and what’s worse, so without further ado, let’s start dissecting the RV250.