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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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Streaming Video Enhancement

Something new and interesting is the ability to insert full-motion video into the 3D pipeline, rather than just displaying it as an overlay.  Just like in the RADEON 9000, the FULLSTREAM technology not only inserts the video into the 3D pipeline, it allows the GPU to OPERATE on the video, smoothing out blocky, low resolution video. Also, the VIDEOSHADER engine uses the GPU's shader programs to apply real-time noise filtering to video, further clearing up the output.  There is also a Cobra engine in the chip which can help with encoding of MPEG-2 video as well as further cleanup of video streams whether encoding or decoding and playing back, but this is only enabled in All-In-Wonder versions of the 9700 series cards.

The CATALYST Drivers

ATI's CATALYST 3.1 drivers are excellent, as you can see here. They're beautiful to look at, and fairly easy to use, though there are a lot of different dialogs. The CATALYST 3.1 drivers actually consist of 2 components (possibly to avoid patent issues with NVIDIA's style of releasing drivers): the driver component and the interface component, so if you don't want all of the ATI configuration options, it's not necessary to install them.  However, we recommend installing them, because the advanced options that they give access to are most of the reason for owning a high-end card like this.

The monitor screen size can be adjusted in the drivers, so that the controls in the monitor don't have to be bothered with.

The Direct3D and OpenGL settings offer an incredible level of precision, with the ability to play with mipmaping, SMOOTHVISION, and texture quality individually.  We'll be testing several of the preset modes later on.  Just as a summary, SMOOTHVISION is ATI's anti-aliasing/ansiotropic filtering engine.  In 9700 Pro, only multisampling AA algorithms are used. The 2X, 4X, and 6X positions indicate the number of extra samples taken at different points.  The more samples are taken the more work the GPU must do, and therefore more performance is lost (but the more quality is gained). Ansiotropic filtering is used to blend individual textures together more smoothly, by combining multiple samples.  The more samples taken, the smoother things look, but the more performance drops.  The two options described above have a checkbox that allows whatever application is running to select these settings on its own, or override the application settings by unchecking it.

Texture quality just indicates the level of detail of the textures to use.  Higher quality textures use up more resources like GPU time and video RAM.  Mipmapping is what happens when a texture starts to zoom in; a higher-resolution texture is substituted for the previous one.  Adjusting mipmap quality adjusts the detail level of the base mipmap.  Higher quality base mipmaps take up more resources. 

TRUFORM technology was explained previously, in the ATI's Own Features section. Located here is an option where it can be globally disabled, disallowing applications any access to it, in case you don't want to bother with it.

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