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Guest seanw

Video Card Info. F.Y.I.

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Well, there are so many questions asked about video cards on this and many other forums. Several days ago, had this article from some magazine e-mailed to me by a friend and decided to share it on this forum. (Author, Magazine/publication unknown. If any one has read this before & know the source, please post it here so they get the credits they deserve)Here it is..........................SE Videocards: What are you really getting? BackroundFor years, the expression "Special Edition" (SE) was basically an automotive term. It meant the vehicle was above and beyond the standard offering. It might have a larger engine, sport suspension or a tweaked out interior. Whatever was done, you knew it would be something special. Then a few years ago, manufacturers started offering SE versions of their videocards. However, for videocards, the SE designation meant just the opposite...the manufacturer was usually offering something that was less than their standard product.In the cutthroat videocard industry, OEM's are looking for any way possible to gain an advantage. So OEM's started asking videocard companies like ATI and NVIDIA if they could modify standard products to be more "cost effective" or to fill perceived holes in the product lines. It's out of that environment that the SE cards were born.Typically, there are five methods card manufacturers may employ to reduce the cost of their products: use a PCB (printed circuit board) with fewer layers, use slower memory, use GPU's (graphics processing unit) with lower clock speeds, reduce the number of memory pathways or use a GPU that has been crippled (i.e. reduced number of pixel pipelines). In many cases, multiple methods may be combined to produce these more cost effective solutions. It's usually these modified offerings that carry the moniker "SE."The ConfusionThere is nothing inherently wrong with a manufacturer doing something to make a more cost effective solution. The problem arises because there is rarely documentation for "SE" cards...and this is where it becomes a case of "buyer beware."Currently, ATI has the following GPU's listed in their RADEON 9XXX line of cards:RADEON 9800 XTRADEON 9800 PRORADEON 9800RADEON 9600 XTRADEON 9600 PRORADEON 9600RADEON 9200 PRORADEON 9200 RADEON 9200 SERADEON 9700According to that page, there is only one official SE card, the 9200 SE. If you look on the 9200 Specifications page, there is little information to differentiate the 9200 SE versus the 9200. It's only in this Product Comparison that you see that the 9200 SE has only a 64-bit memory interface. That is a significantly narrow memory pipe that will be a bottleneck to data transfers. Another point of mention is the lack of clock and memory speeds on the 9200 Product Comparison page. Many times a manufacturer will allow add-in card companies to set their own speeds. So even two cards with the same chipsets may not have the same clock speeds.Even though the 9200 SE is the only SE card that appears on the main RADEON page, it is not the only ATI-based SE card that appears on Pricewatch. There you will find the 9600 SE and the 9800 SE as well.While the 9600 SE does not appear on the main RADEON page, it does show up on the 9600 page. Looking at the Comparison Chart, we see that the 9600 SE only has a 64-bit memory interface. Again, that severely hurts that chipset's ability to transfer data.On the otherhand, the 9800 SE is a bit of a mystery. A search on ATI's site turns up no mention of that chipset. This article on the Xbit website offers some insight into the 9800 SE. Unfortunately, it appears that even the 9800 SE will have two versions.The first version of the RADEON 9800 SE will be made on simplified 6-layer PCB and feature 128-bit memory bus for 128MB of DDR SDRAM. The RADEON 9800 SE graphics chip will have only four active rendering pipelines. ATI Technologies again simply disables half of the VPU

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