|ATI updates the AIW again. For those that remember my ATI ALL-IN-WONDER RADEON 8500DV review which you can read by clicking here, I promised to cover the regular 64mb RADEON 8500 in a later review. That will wait for another day, as the AIW RADEON 128MB 8500 is a more timely card. I would strongly recommend reading the 8500DV review, as it covers the more important innovations for the RADEON 8500 including Smoothvision, SmartShaders, Pixel Tapestry II and more. I won't be rewriting the previous article here, so please read my previous review for the description of the RADEON 8500 feature set.|
ATI released the RADEON 8500 as the successor to their popular RADEON chipset in late autumn 2001. At the time, with a MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) of $299, they positioned it to compete against NVIDIAs fall offerings, the GeForce3 Ti500 and Ti200 at a lower price. Because of yields with the 8500, ATI was able to release the card at a clockspeed of 275MHz core/275 MHz memory (notice I never double DDR memory speeds), as compared to a GeForce3 Ti500 clockspeed of 240MHz core/250MHz memory.
At the time the 8500 was released several things served to cause the 8500 to have a "stunted" launch. First, although it was clocked (35MHz core/25MHz memory) faster than the equivalent GeForce3, the 8500 lost a majority of benchmarks to the GeForce3 Ti500. This can be attributed to the early nature of the drivers from ATI for a brand new architecture with many new features and unoptimized for games as of yet. Second, there were numerous complaints about playing games with the 8500. Again this can be attributed to the early nature of the drivers. Lastly, ATI introduced some optimizations to Quake3, which some considered cheating because it lowered the image quality while improving performance, but I considered an optimization that went wrong. ATI quickly overcame this, within a matter of days and now, the image quality is extremely good, and the speed has markedly increased as well.
Six months later, a lot has changed. First, ATI has released regular driver updates for the 8500, improving performance while not sacrificing image quality. This is important with any videocard. As any cards drivers mature, theres optimizations that can be made to the drivers that improve how they perform in a given application. ATI chose to release the card and improve performance as time goes along. Every videocard manufacturer does this.
In February of 2002, just five months after the original RADEON 8500 was released, ATI refreshed their product lineup with 128MB versions of the RADEON 8500. Sporting the same clockspeed as the 64MB versions, the extra memory is especially useful for high resolution anti-aliasing and stressful games which use a lot of big (2048x2048) textures. They also moved from a TSOP memory package to Tiny BGA (Ball Grid Array) which allowed more PCB board space.
ATI launched the AIW 128MB RADEON 8500 in March of 2002. The AIW 8500DV, which was their previous "do everything videocard", was released with a clockspeed of 230MHz/190MHz (core/memory). While this provided wonderful performance in this market segment, many were disappointed with the clockspeed. With the new 128MB version, this all changes. ATI released the card with a clockspeed of 275/275, which is the same as the high end retail 8500.
ATI is targeting this card at the demanding gamer that also wants the TV Tuner capabilities of the All In Wonder series. As their target for this card is not the digital video enthusiast, who would have and need Firewire connectivity, there are no IEEE 1394 ports on this card. Also missing is the digital tuner present on the AIW 8500DV. I'll cover the need for the digital tuner a little later in the review..
Founded in 1985, ATI Technologies Inc. is a world leader in the supply of graphics, video and multimedia solutions for the personal computer and Mac platforms. The pioneer, innovator and market leader in the graphics industry, ATI provides cutting-edge technologies for the PC, workstation, set-top box, game console and other consumer appliances markets. The Company has more than 1,900 employees supporting customers from its headquarters in Markham, Ontario, Canada, as well as from offices in Barbados, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States. ATI common shares trade on NASDAQ (ATYT) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (ATY).