ATI made some serious waves with their Radeon 8500 release, which pushed the envelope in terms of both speed and features, and gave the high-end GeForce3 Ti 500 a good run for its money. The current 3D video climate is quite a bit different, with NVIDIA introducing the high-end GeForce4 and hitting the low-end market just as hard with the GeForce4 MX. There is also the impressive GeForce3 line to contend with, as NVIDIA now has a card for virtually any budget.
ATI has reacted not with a newer or faster chip, but by increasing their on-board card memory. The Radeon 8500 received an injection of 128-MB of high-speed DDR; but there was still a large gap between the initial Radeon 8500 and the Radeon 7500. To fill this market need, ATI also introduced a 128-MB value product called the Radeon 8500LE, which is basically a lower-clocked version of the Radeon 8500.
This strategy offers up several valid questions. Does the extra DDR memory actually translate into higher performance? Have the new ATI drivers made good on their promise of better stability and higher framerates? And maybe most important of all, how does the price-performance of the Radeon 8500LE match up to both the ATI and NVIDIA competition. Keep reading for our take on these questions, and if an extra 64-MB is actually the answer.