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ATI RADEON 9250 Shootout
By Vijay Anand
Category : Graphics
Published by Jimmy Tang on Tuesday, 28th September, 2004


Reasons To Invest In Entry-Level Graphics Cards

Besides those with low budget, very simple gaming needs or just require a graphics adaptor for office computing, there is yet another group of users who would be rather keen on entry level graphics cards. Motherboards have long had variants that have integrated graphics and although they may have what it takes to deliver basic needs of their intended group of users, its display output quality is far from perfection for high resolution computing. In all our years of reviewing, most, if not all, integrated graphics solutions (including the very latest Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900) have clarity and sharpness issues when utilizing resolutions greater than 1024x768 and/or coupling it with high refresh rates like 100Hz for flicker free operation of CRT monitors. Blurry display, undefined text are common symptoms when pushing the threshold of integrated graphics.

If you had the notion that only CRT monitors are affected, take note that most LCD monitors these days have a native resolution of 1280x1024 (which we sighted as a problem for integrated graphics) and unless the signal quality is good (which isn't at that resolution), the sharp output capabilities of these displays only make matters worse. Additionally, all motherboards with integrated graphics offer only analog VGA output. DVI output for LCD monitors is normally an option via add-in boards. TV output, although available on the nForce2 IGP and RADEON 9100 IGP, is not available on the far more widespread Intel Extreme Graphics solutions. Once you factor in all these, the premium paid for integrated graphics could be better saved for a discrete graphics solution, which is a decent option for not much more. Plus, with their dedicated frame buffer and memory interface, they yield much better performance than integrated counterparts.

The limitations and issues discussed here are not only reminiscent of motherboards with built-in graphics but also small form factor (SFF) machines, which mostly offer integrated graphics as well. As you can see, there are many non-gaming system owners who are perfectly eligible for graphics card upgrades such as those based on the new RADEON 9250.

From bottom-up, there are the seven ATI RADEON 9250 graphics card contenders in this shootout, namely HIS, Sapphire, Gigabyte, ASUS, PowerColor, GeCube and ELSA.

Now that we have highlighted the intended user group of these entry-level graphics cards, we detail the complete specs of a typical ATI RADEON 9250 graphics card below. In this RADEON 9250 shootout, we have a total of seven contenders vying for your attention and they are from ASUS, ELSA, GeCube, Gigabyte, HIS, PowerColor and Sapphire.

ATI RADEON 9250 Technical Specifications
Graphics Engine
  • ATI RADEON 9250 Visual Processing Unit (VPU)
  • Stock VPU clock = 240MHz
  • Four parallel rendering pipelines
  • One geometry engine
  • 128-bit or 64-bit DDR memory interface
  • AGP 8X support
  • CHARISMA ENGINE™ II
    • Four parallel rendering pipelines process up to 1.1 billion pixels per second
    • 2nd generation hardware transform & lighting engine
  • SMARTSHADER™ 1.0
    • Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 8.1 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
    • 1.1 vertex shaders support vertex programs up to 128 instructions
    • 1.4 pixel shaders support up to 22 instructions and up to 6 textures per rendering pass
    • Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL® via extensions
  • SMOOTHVISION™ 1.0
    • 2x/4x/6x full scene anti-aliasing modes (with user selectable performance and quality modes)
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes
  • HYPER Z™ II
    • Lossless Z-Buffer compression
    • Fast Z-Buffer Clear
  • TRUFORM™ 1.0
  • VIDEO IMMERSION™ II
  • FULLSTREAM™ video de-blocking technology
  • MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and YUV to RGB color space conversion
  • All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
  • Adaptive de-interlacing
  • Dual integrated display controllers
  • Optimized for Pentium® 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon™ 3DNow!
Graphics Memory
  • 256MB / 128MB DDR SDRAM
  • Default Memory clock = 400MHz DDR
RAMDAC
  • Dual integrated 10-bit/channel 400 MHz DACs (support resolutions of 2048x1536@85Hz)
  • Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 compliant)
Video Decoder / Encoder
  • VPU integrated NTSC/PAL TV Encoder support resolutions up to 1024x768
  • Video decoder optional with ATI RAGE THEATRE chip
Connectors
  • 1x analog RGB, 15-pin D-sub VGA connector
  • 1x DVI-I connector (for Digital Flat Panel displays)
  • 1x mini-DIN / S-Video connector (for VIVO or Integrated video output respectively)
Driver Support
  • Driver support for Windows 98 /98SE /Me / 2000 / XP
Other Information
  • AGP 2.0 / 3.0 slot required (1.5V)
  • 1 PCI-assigned IRQ Required

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