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Viewfinder supports Radeon graphics chipset

By Chris Williams. Published: 3rd Sep 2003, 16:09:36 | Permalink | Printable

7500 and 7000 cards dealt and played

thumbnail of the ATI Radeon7500 cardWindfall Engineering have announced that the Viewfinder graphics card for RiscPCs and A7000s now supports the ATI Radeon chipset. A Viewfinder card works by interfacing with standard AGP graphics cards and fits into the podule bus to replace the onboard Acorn video chipset.

New Viewfinder cards will be fitted with either a Radeon 7500 or a Radeon 7000 card and existing Viewfinder users can upgrade to the newly supported cards too. Also, Windfall won't allow Viewfinder users to do a DIY upgrade, so presumably the card will have to be sent to Windfall for the upgrade.

The Radeon 7000 features 64MB of video memory and TV out capability. The Radeon 7500 has 128MB of video memory, TV out capability and second display support via a DVI connector. The TV out capability is reportedly working and supports resolutions of up to 1024x768 however the support for a second display output is still in development. When finished, it would allow users to view their desktop over two monitors.

The Radeon 7500's video memory and TV out capability puts the card ahead of the Iyonix's Nvidia GeForce2MX, however the Viewfinder card is somewhat strangled by the Acorn podule bus whereas the Iyonix has a much greater I/O bandwidth. According to Windfall's John Kortink, the Radeon chipset equals or slightly exceeds the acceleration performance and screen resolutions found in the Rage 128 Pro cards. The increased video memory would also allows more images to be cached on the card which serves to speed up rendering.

The RiscPC celebrates its 10th birthday next year and despite its age, hardware upgrades like the Viewfinder certainly help to breathe life into the architecture and ease the pain of relying on the Acorn era chipset. However, you can stretch a RiscPC only so much before it starts to melt. Is the Acorn architecture living on borrowed time purely because effort is still being poured into producing upgrades for such elderly machines? Crucially, could time spent on producing upgrades be spent on producing hardware drivers for the latest generation of RISC OS powered machines?

At least developments like Radeon chipset support should be keeping Castle on their toes. Who would want to be outshined by a RiscPC these days?

Update (Wed, 3 Sep 2003.19:16:45)
We're told the Radeon upgrade can be a DIY job by the user but the Radeon card must be bought from Windfall. Users therefore don't need to send back their Viewfinder cards, unless they feel they can't do the upgrade themselves.


Windfall website To upgrade to a Radeon 7000 costs 150 euros. To upgrade to a Radeon 7500 costs 200 euros. A new Viewfinder card with a Radeon 7000 fitted costs 250 euros. A new Viewfinder card with a Radeon 7500 fitted costs 300 euros. Prices include VAT.

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I can't see why Windfall don't like users to do their own upgrades to the cards, surely (as a guess) its just like changing an AGP card in a normal PC?

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 3/9/03 4:21PM
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I'd imagine there's a firmware upgrade to do too. Also, there are many types of AGP card, taking different voltages. So the worst case could be that he has to replace some of the power reg on the board, as well as replacing the card and socket.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 3/9/03 4:49PM
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You used to be able to do your own upgrade - the Rage128 to Xpert2000 I did myself.

I expect this requires more than replacing the card.

Damn and I have a spare 7200!

-- #include "sig.h"

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 3/9/03 5:02PM
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Downside to the Radeon7500 card? The have fans on! (Ie noise) Dualhead does sound quite yum though, especially if it can be DVI .

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 3/9/03 7:09PM
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The TV-out appeals to me too. Yet another thing for me to save up for:(


 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 3/9/03 8:00PM
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So what is the difference between a card bought from Windfall and a card bought from elsewhere then?

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 3/9/03 8:36PM
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andypoole: Everything else that comprises a ViewFinder.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 3/9/03 9:53PM
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What would be cool is if John could port this to the Iyonix. I would certainly pay for dual head. Very very handy for when programming.

 is a RISC OS Userdansguardian on 4/9/03 9:26AM
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These cards are AGP.

Iyonix doesn't have an AGP slot.

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 4/9/03 9:36AM
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There are PCI versions of the 7x00 family, designed for Macs originally, I think. They aren't unfeasibly expensive, either (sub 50ukp) so might be a worthwhile upgrade for the Iyonix. However, which the OS supporting the Nvidia board specifically, one has to wonder what compatibility issues might be introduced by changing graphics cards at this early stage of hardware-independance...

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 4/9/03 10:08AM
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I stand corrected.

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 4/9/03 12:34PM
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Everyone is forgetting the important difference between the old ATI cards (Rage 128 to XPert2000) and the new Radeon cards.

ATI no longer make cards, merely offer their chipset to other manufacturers, so there are many different cards offering the same chipset.

I can understand why they don't want users doing DIY upgrades. Trade price on a Radeon 7000 card is 22. Even if they charged for the necessary firmware, most people would be funny about paying more than 50 for the firmware. I know it's all R&D costs etc though before I get flamed to death!

 is a RISC OS Userrussebay on 4/9/03 1:16PM
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Russesbay: ATI do make their own cards still, there's "Built By ATI" and "Powered By ATI" (OK, ATI don't make 7x00 cards anymore) maybe you're confused with NVidia?

The problem with the cards that VF supports is that they're so old as to be hard to get hold of - you can't even get an 8500 these days let alone a 7500!

I'd have thought John would be better off supporting the 9100 really as that's the bottom of the currently available range, although technically overkill for the Podule bus.

Re. the NVidia in Iyonix - doesn't the HAL heavily rely on the GF2MX, not sure the level of abstraction there, but I doubt it would be easy to replace it with a Ti4200 or something.

JohnK was saying this is a DIY upgrade but you have to use the 7500 supplied by him for some reason, you can still use your old VF card. I suspect he is locking the firmware to the card or something....

-- #include "sig.h"

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 4/9/03 4:35PM
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Simo: Define "JohnK was saying" ... where? I've seen no news about this upgrade, other than this drobeticle.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 4/9/03 7:55PM
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On the windfall mailing list - where else? :)

 is a RISC OS Userdansguardian on 5/9/03 1:04AM
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Also, finally turned up on csa.announce.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 5/9/03 1:45AM
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dans: Ah. Fair nuf. Some of us aren't allowed on that list due to caring about free speech.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 5/9/03 3:50PM
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