The Chip(s) (continued)

The integrated memory Mobility Radeon 9000 and the discrete Mobility Radeon 9000 are not the only two versions of the chip. With the Mobility Radeon 9000 ATI expands its product line to include the first video chip designed specifically for desknote computers.

We first got wind of the desknote computer configuration three months ago when we took a look at the ECS i-Buddie 4. It was then that we initially expressed our excitement over the concept of having a desktop machine in the amount of space normally reserved for laptops. In fact, the largest complaint we have had about desknote systems is the graphics solutions that they employ; usually low-end integrated graphics chips. We initially suggested that perhaps an nForce chipset would make for a good desknote solution, but clearly a high-end discrete graphics chip would be even better. Unfortunately, desktop graphics chips were not designed to work well in the confides of a notebook system and mobile graphics chips were not designed to work without batteries.

The desknote variant of the Mobility Radeon 9000 addresses these problems. Although the chip is not physically different than the discrete Mobility Radeon 9000 that will soon be found in notebooks, it runs at a higher clock speed. ATI is able to clock the desknote Mobility Radeon 9000 at higher speeds because the thermal requirements of a desknote system are not as stringent. Plus the company did not need to worry about what a high clock speed will do a notebook's battery life.

ATI is no fool for jumping onto the desknote bandwagon. The concept has been met with wide praise from users, who pay less for a portable system, to OEMs, who make larger profits by using desktop parts. Just ask ECS, a motherboard company who turned the idea of a desknote system into what has become their most profitable product. People are buying these systems and if ATI has its way we will find the Mobility Radeon 9000 at the heart of many desknote computers.

The final version of the Mobility Radeon 9000 will be a workstation variant of the chip. Like the desknote version of the Mobility Radeon 9000, this chip will not be physically different than the Mobility Radeon 9000 but will ship with a new OpenGL driver for workstation class machines; drivers developed by the FireGL team.

All the chips are actually pin compatible with one another and the older Mobility Radeon 7500, as they are all made in a 31x31 BGA package. Thanks to this, ATI has a unique vision of the future. What they see is one mobile motherboard design being used in everything from the value segment to the high-end segment. Ideally for ATI, a manufacturer will produce one design that accepts the Radeon IGP north and south bridges as well as includes space for the Mobility Radeon 7500 and the Mobility Radeon 9000. The value segment notebook would use this motherboard and include Radeon IGP and only the Radeon IGP in the system. The main stream notebooks would include the Radeon IGP as a chipset solution and a discrete Mobility Radeon 7500 as a video solution. Finally, the high-end notebook would consist of the Radeon IGP chipset and a separate Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics chip.

FLEXFIT: ATI's strategy for notebook domination.

Of course, one of the first questions we asked upon first hearing about the Mobility Radeon 9000 is what clock speed the various versions of the chip will be running at. It seems that the maximum speeds that the Mobility Radeon 9000 for notebooks will support is 250MHz in the core and 230MHz for the memory. This places the highest clocked Mobility Radeon 9000 at a clock speed slightly lower than the desktop Radeon 9000 Pro's speed of 270/275MHz but higher than the standard Radeon 9000 speed of 250/200MHz.

Since it is up to OEM designers to decide exactly how fast they clock their specific Mobility Radeon 9000 solution it is likely that we will see some notebooks using chips clocked below the 250/230MHz limit. There is also a limitation that keeps the memory on chip Mobility Radeon 9000 from running memory clock speeds equal to those of the discrete memory parts. It is likely that the memory on chip Mobility Radeon 9000 chips will be clocked at around 250/200MHz or 250/220MHz in most instances. NVIDIA had a similar clock limitation with their MAP chips which ran at clock speeds slower than the discrete parts. At a 220MHz memory bus frequency, the performance of the memory on chip Mobility Radeon 9000 should not be much lower than the performance of a discrete part running a 230MHz memory clock.

The desknote Mobility Radeon 9000 is able to be clocked much higher for the reasons previously mentioned. This means that the desknote variant of the Mobility Radeon 9000 will be able to run at 270/270MHz, putting it at essentially the same speed as the desktop Radeon 9000 Pro.

The Chip(s) The Contenders

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