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IBM ThinkPad A31p -<BR>An Exclusive First Look
Краткое содержание статьи: It's a workstation replacement powered by the P4 Mobile 1.7 GHz, and a Radeon Mobility 7800 FireGL graphics subsystem. We got our hands on one of the very first review systems from IBM to bring you this report.

IBM ThinkPad A31p -<BR>An Exclusive First Look


Редакция THG,  6 марта 2002
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The Fire Inside - The ATI Mobility Fire GL 7800

The Fire Inside - The ATI Mobility Fire GL 7800

The ATi Mobility Fire GL 7800 is built upon the Mobility Radeon 7500. We took an in-depth look at the Mobility Radeon 7500 in the following article: The Mobility Radeon 7500 - NVIDIA and ATI Go Head to Head In The Mobile Market. At the time this article was originally written, only one notebook then shipping contained the Mobility Radeon 7500, and the Mobility Fire GL 7800 was not yet on the horizon. With the launch of the Pentium 4m, this is about to change.

It is important to understand that the Mobility Fire GL 7800 is built using the same GPU and technology as the Mobility Radeon 7500, with the main difference between the two of them being the drivers. You might remember the name 'FireGL' from the good old days when Diamond was still around. 'FireGL' stood for Diamond's professional OpenGL cards, designed by a special team located in the beautiful town of Starnberg, south of Munich, in Germany. ATi acquired FireGL about a year ago, and now the Starnberg specialists are responsible for ATi's high-end OpenGL workstation products that give NVIDIA's Quadros a very good run for its money. This team is also responsible for all of ATi's professional OpenGL drivers. The drivers for the Mobility Fire GL 7800 feature optimizations that are directly targeted at providing performance for professional OpenGL applications, CAD Development, and digital content creation. The Mobility Fire GL 7800 drivers are ISV certification-ready from ATi, but each OEM must individually get the entire platform ISV certified. We found the Mobility Fire GL 7800 drivers to be exceptionally stable and to provide excellent performance on the applications toward which these drivers are targeted.

The Mobility Fire GL 7800 includes the same technology that is found in the Mobility Radeon 7500, so you will find the same Charisma Engine, Pixel Tapestry technology, Hydravision, and Powerplay power management that is in the Mobility Radeon 7500. Like the Dell Inspiron 8100 that we looked at in the Mobility Radeon 7500 review, the IBM A31 series does not yet have a full implementation of ATi's Powerplay technology. We expect that to perhaps change during additional BIOS and driver revisions from IBM.

IBM markets the A31-line in both directions, as a desktop replacement with Mobility Radeon 7500, and as a workstation replacement unit with Mobility FireGL 7800. We now know that both graphics solutions use the same silicon, only the drivers are different. However, you don't need to fear that A31p-ThinkPads with the Mobility FireGL 7800 will run 2D or 3D-gaming applications worse than those with the Mobility Radeon 7500. The drivers for Mobility FireGL 7800 are an actual superset of the Mobility Radeon 7500 drivers. In other words, this means that the FireGL 7800 driver is able to do all the stuff that the Radeon 7500 driver can do, but it adds the support for professional OpenGL software, and comes with the certification of over 20 different ISVs.

The short time in which this review had to be finished did not allow us to test this new ThinkPad with professional OpenGL software. We will revisit this issue at a later stage.

The ATi Mobility Fire GL 7800 in our A31p was in the 64MB 128-bit DDR 4X AGP configuration. This configuration is standard on the A31p H6U, H5U, H4U, and H3U units. The A31 in the D6U, D5U, D4U, and D3U configuration, on the other hand, is configured with the ATi Mobility Radeon 7500 in a 32MB DDR 4X AGP configuration. It is easy to see that by offering the A31 configurations, IBM hopes to also open possible avenues into the desktop replacement market as well as the mobile workstation market.
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