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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [03.09.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson

Card manufacturer: Powercolor
GPU Manufacturer: ATI

MSRP: $370
Street: $240-290

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I know what you're saying.  "Man, isn't it fast ENOUGH????"  Well, yes, but who says it can't go FASTER?  Come on, you want to know, don't you? Just give in to the urge. If it can do so well at 315 MHz, think of what a speed bump would do for it?  Let's find out.

Mileage may vary depending on the individual chip; there's as much chance of finding a 400 MHz overclocking king as a limp wimp that will only make it to 320 MHz.  But "limp" doesn't seem to be in the 9700's vocabulary:  ours made it to 385 MHz core speed, though memory topped out at 335 MHz DDR memory speed (effectively 670 MHz )  So what kind of performance increase did that provide?  See for yourself:

7 fps gain in UT 2003 Antelus flyby.  Not bad, hmmm?  And if you're thinking that the lack of a big memory OC may have constricted performance, think again.  We topped the memory out FIRST, and then started inching the GPU up.  Even with the memory speed staying steady, performance just kept creeping up, and up, and up, until it finally crashed at about 390 core speed. And THAT OC job was done with STOCK cooling!

Remember, critical items in overclocking a GPU are airflow and cooling, as well as just luck in the quality of the GPU that you ended up with.  Also, neither HCW nor Powercolor will take any responsibility for any damage you do to your video card while you try to overclock it.  You break it, it's your fault, and it's up to you to replace it yourself.  Of course, you realize we only say that to keep people who don't have any business overclocking a CLOCK from overclocking their new $300 video card, right?  Right?  Good, because overclocks of this nature actually seem to be fairly COMMON on RADEON 9700 Pro chips.  Several sites have tested their overclocking potential, and many of them seem to be able to push the core up near the 400 MHz area.  I wonder how far it could get with some custom cooling?

Well, it seems like the RADEON 9700 Pro's reputation is certainly justified, when it comes to DirectX performance.  Its OpenGL performance could be a bit better, however, so it depends on what games you play and what mode you play them in.  Obviously, DirectX mode is the way to go with ATI, as it creams other cards.  If you're forced to use OpenGL mode, don't despair: it's still fast; it's just not as fast as it could be.

The integration of AA and Ansio filtering into standard quality settings will increase their day-to-day use as a general quality enhancer, and this card can certainly handle the extra load.  AND the amount of manual tweaking that can be done to quality levels is unparalleled. Ansio filtering doesn't take much in the way of GPU time, but it as noticeable a quality enhancer as the AA engine. Combine them and you have one of the best performing, best looking enhancement engines around.

While TRUFORM didn't impress, the rest of the card MORE than makes up for it.  The RADEON 9700 Pro is the king of performance for now, and worth every cent you pay for it.  And with the RADEON 9800 series and GeForceFX 5800 being just on the horizon, retailers will start dropping prices on these excellent cards. Add a custom cooler, and you might even be able to pump this thing up a ways yourself. Truly Hard2TheCORE!

A note from the Editor in Chief

I had been using the Radeon 9700 Pro for a while now, and have come across something that most people won't have noticed in short term testing: Driver Compatibility.

One thing I have noticed with the Radeon 9700, was that every time a new game came out, there would be some minor problems with the current driver set.  You usually have to wait a week or two for a new driver set to be released, then you get full use of the game.  Some games even package beta drivers, because otherwise you wouldn't be able to play at all!

Currently, the biggest "new" games out right now are Splinter Cell and Freelancer.  Both were released after the 3.1 driver release.  I have both games.

In Freelancer, there is a known issue with the hardware mouse cursor.  To be able to play the game, you must turn mouse acceleration down one notch in your control panel.

In Splinter Cell, there seems to be an issue with the lighting when AA is enabled.

These are both known issues, and will be fixed with a new driver release; something ATI owners have had to deal with the entire time they'd been using ATI products.  ATI is getting better at releasing new drivers on a timely basis, but is that good enough?

  • Excellent driver configurability
  • Blazing DirectX performance
  • Ansio and AA integrated into quality defaults
  • Quality settings VERY tweakable
  • Good AA performance
  • Memory bandwidth to burn
  • Great multi-monitor support
  • Core very overclockable with default cooling

  • OpenGL support could be better
  • TRUFORM truly sucks
  • Number of driver dialogs could be trimmed a bit
  • Memory can't OC much (like you really NEED more bandwidth???)

Final Score: 96%