The mainstream video card market has historically been one where the last-generation high-end cards slowly become less expensive, and then filter down to the masses. This is true whether figuratively, such as with the Radeon 9700 Pro, or with the use of a slightly-enhanced last-gen design, like with the GeForce FX 5900XT. This strategy has worked quite well in the past, but lately the mainstream market has become increasingly competitive, and ATI and NVIDIA are looking to transition current-generation parts into the mainstream. ATI has recently announced the introduction of the Radeon X700 line, which does just that, and utilizes Radeon X800-based technology in a mainstream video card.
The Radeon X700 line of cards is built on the RV410, which is a 0.11-micron core, and has all the basic core features and technologies as the higher-end Radeon X800-based products. Naturally, the Radeon X700's design is not as powerful as the X800 Pro (12 pipelines) or X800 XT (16 pipelines), but it does feature a healthy 8 pixel pipelines and 6 vertex pipelines. The Radeon X700 feature list is also current, and includes SmoothVision HD, VideoShader HD and HyperZ HD. The cards are also fully DirectX 9 compliant, and the SmartShader HD ensures full Vertex Shader and Extended Pixel Shader support.
The memory subsystem has also been toned down slightly, and while the Radeon X700 Pro and XT cards do include high-end GDDR3, these utilize a 128-bit memory interface, rather than the 256-bit found on the higher-end models. The announced Radeon X700-based cards are differentiated by core and memory clock speeds, and memory capacity. The Radeon X700 XT is the higher-clocked model, sporting 475 MHz core and 525 MHz (effective 1.05 GHz) memory and ships in a 128-MB configuration. The Radeon X700 Pro doubles the card memory to 256-MB, while lowering clock speeds to 425 MHz core and 432 MHz (effective 864 MHz) memory. The Radeon X700 XT is designed for top-end mainstream gaming, while the X700 Pro is more for general use, including gaming, video editing and home multimedia.
The Radeon X700 Pro 256-MB card follows the standard ATI format, and ships on a fire engine red PCB, while maintaining a very basic layout. Other than the heatsink-fan, there are really not a lot of onboard components. The HSF is a rather unusual design, and includes dual in/out fan ports, all in an innovative L-shaped configuration. The Radeon X700 line follows the Radeon 9600 board design, and does not require external power of any kind, and naturally, requires only a single slot.
Currently, the Radeon X700 cards are PCI Express only, although AGP designs may come along at a future date. The features and connectors of the Radeon X700 Pro 256-MB are quite standard, including VGA-out and DVI-I connectors, along with an S-Video/TV-out port. The ATI Radeon X700 models do not include VIVO support, but the capability is there for 3rd-party vendors.