Only a few weeks into the new year, Ati is surprising the mobile gaming crowd with a "new" DirectX 9 graphics chip, the Mobility Radeon 9700. The MR 9700's main task is to narrow the 3D performance gap between notebooks and desktop computers to a degree that is more than just noticeable. Also, ATI promises that, unlike its predecessor the MR 9600, this chip will be available in notebooks upon launch.
Don't be fooled by the name though. The Mobility Radeon 9700 is not a derivative of the desktop graphics chip Radeon 9700 / R300, although the 97XX name suggests just that. The difference between the two is that the Mobility Radeon follows a four pixel-pipeline design, while the desktop Radeon 9700 employs an eight-pipe design.
Block Diagram of the Mobility Radeon 9700
However, both VPUs are equipped with two shader units, making the Mobility Radeon 9700 a direct descendant of the desktop chip Radeon 9600 XT, alias the RV360.
The degree to which a notebook using the Mobility Radeon 9700 can come close to the 3D performance of a comparable desktop version represents a Holy Grail search, of sorts. After all, a chip like this practically begs to be compared to its desktop counterparts, the Radeon 9600, the Radeon 9600 XT or the NVIDIA 5700 Ultra.
Yet before we dive into the "notebook vs. desktop as gaming platform" comparison, let's take a moment to look at the Mobility Radeon 9700 and its important and new features, few though they may be.