The Card

The GV-R9700Pro shares much of its design with ATI's Radeon 9700 Pro card, even down to the red PCB. It's not too surprising that Gigabyte followed the design of ATI's card down to the board level, especially if you remember how closely NVIDIA's partners follow their reference designs. The only difference here is that ATI's "reference board" is their retail Radeon 9700 Pro, whereas you cannot purchase a reference Ti 4600 from NVIDIA.

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The main benefit of following ATI's design this closely is a significant reduction in time to market. By effectively mirroring ATI's card, Gigabyte can have their Radeon 9700 Pro card available with a minimal amount of engineering.

Despite the fact that Gigabyte closely followed ATI's reference design, the GV-R9700Pro we received was clearly an early engineering sample. For starters, the heatsink was very loosely attached to the PCB, a result of poor choices in plastic pins that keep the unit locked in place. The heatsink can be easily moved around and pulled off the surface of the GPU because it is not securely attached to the card; we wholeheartedly expect Gigabyte to fix this by the time final boards are ready, but we mention it as an indicator of how early of a sample this was.

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The rest of the board seems to be fairly complete and there are only a handful of changes between the GV-R9700Pro and the retail ATI-manufactured Radeon 9700 Pro. There is no heatspreader/EMI shield on the back of the power circuitry on the Gigabyte board, and in an effort to keep costs down we don't expect to see one on the final boards either.

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