Biting The Hand It Feeds . . .

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There’s a bunch of reviews of the ATI Radeon 9600XT out there. The numbers say it still isn’t in the same class as the 9700 or better (despite rumors to the contrary), and sometimes, even the reviewers say the same thing. 🙂 Sometimes even emphatically.

But, in a new type of spin for negative reviews, ATI is apparently sending out word to ignore the reviews because the reviewer samples are no good anymore and that REAL 9600XT will be faster.

Yeah, right.

What could ATI do to the GPU that might possibly change that overall picture? It’s not like it’s close except for those benchmarks where just about anything does about the same.

Certainly not by increasing the default speed of the GPU. Go here, and you’ll see what cranking the GPU up another 100MHz does. That just makes it look less lame against the 9700 or better, not equivalent.

In any event, no matter how fast ATI cries to crank up the GPU (which probably won’t even be an extra 100MHz, much less more), the restricted memory bandwidth and pipelines of the crippled 9600 is going to kill it.

And getting a coupon for Half Life 2 isn’t going to change that.

I know it isn’t ATI’s fault, but I get visions when I see a bundled coupon for a game that won’t be out for months called a big reason to buy this card in the Era of Instant Gratification. I see a new kind of LAN party. People won’t bring computers; they’ll just bring their coupons and frag each other verbally.

“My coupon is faster than yours.”

“Wow, what’s the frame rate on that coupon?”

“I just fragged your coupon with my coupon!!” “No, you didn’t.” 🙂

What ATI Ought To Do

Forget this crippled bandwidth and reduced pipelines. Forget the SEs, which are beginning to stand for “Sh*tty Editions” when it comes to ATI. Provide the eight pipelines, provide the 256-bit memory bus. Keep the memory on the slow side to justify the higher end products.

Or better yet, just sell Radeon 9700s at around $150-$175 and forget this 9600 stuff.

For anybody who upgrades fairly frequently, any card bought at this time isn’t going to have much of a useful life, more like a half-life (pun intended). Twelve-eighteen months from now, anybody buying a second-generation Hammer or Tejas system will want (or likely need) a new video card because the hot video cards will be PCI Express cards.

A lot of people with old cards are looking for a card good enough to play the upcoming games decently on their older systems. If you try to squeeze blood out of these rocks, they’re just as likely as not going to decide to pass on a new video card and the new games, too.

Would ATI lose a bit of revenue as a result? Well, it might affect the ASP a bit, but there’s another factor in play. ATI has nVidia on the ropes. Why play “my crippled card is better than yours” when you can beat up on nVidia’s cripple by selling an golden oldie for a bit less.

It should be doable. ATI is selling 9800 non-pros to Dell. They’re retailing them for an effective price of less than $200, and I’m sure they’re making some money on the deal.

Going with a 9700 as a middle-range card could shift current nVidia users over to the ATI camp pretty well.



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