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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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If all of this seems intimidating, then just go with using the predefined settings slider, which offers 5 settings from Performance to Quality.  Interestingly enough, both refer to the middle position as Balanced, and the rest of the settings have the same names.  But the rest of the settings in the...well, SETTINGS differ.  Here's how the various pre-defined modes in Direct3D and OpenGL stack up: 

Direct3D

Settings

Optimal Performance

High Performance

Balanced

High Quality

Optimal Quality

AntiAliasing

Application

Application

Application

2X

4X

Ansiotropic Filtering

Application

Application

Application

8X Quality

16X Quality

Textures

P1

Q1

Quality

Quality

Quality

MipMap

P1

Q1

Quality

Quality

Quality

Truform

Disabled

Disabled

Disabled

Disabled

Disabled

 OpenGL

Settings

Optimal
Performance

High Performance

Balanced

High
Quality

Optimal
Quality

AntiAliasing

Application

Application

Application

2X

4X

Ansiotropic Filtering

Application

Application

Application

8X Quality

16X Quality

Textures

Performance

P1

Q1

Q1

Quality

MipMap

P1

Q1

Quality

Quality

Quality

Truform

Disabled

Disabled

Disabled

Disabled

Disabled

As you can see, the Direct3D and OpenGL opinions of the various modes differ a little, and going beyond "Balanced" mode AUTOMATICALLY invokes the SMOOTHVISION AA and Ansio engine, overriding any application settings for AA and Ansio (important to keep in mind if you're running the latest, most stressful game of all time). If you want to increase quality without activating one or both of those options, it's necessary to override the defaults and manually choose the detail levels.

HYDRAVISION

The multiple monitors and TV-out functions deserve a bit of explanation.  The RADEON 9700 Pro card actually supports a total of 3 outputs at once, but it's limited to 2 analog and 1 digital.  So the DVI, VGA, and TV-Out can be used all at once, but the DVI must be connected to a flat panel, and not to a second VGA monitor through the included DVI to VGA adapter.

Something nice is the ability to save your multi-monitor configuration as a scheme, to make it very easy to switch between commonly used configurations.

Not only does it support the typical extension of the desktop by length and width, but it also offers multiple desktops like NVIDIA's nView.  ATI also supports some of the same special effects as NVIDIA such as transparent windows, but ATI also can give windows a shadow effect.  Many of the multi-monitor options are almost the same as the options in nView for NVIDIA cards; they're simply located in a different place.

The TV advanced properties also include flicker-reduction, by the way.

The Test

We're testing this card against a TI4200 based video card, just for a reference. Here's a breakdown on how these video cards compare: 

Card

GF4TI4200

ATI Radeon9700Pro

GPU Speed

225 MHz

325 MHz

RAM Technology

64 MB DDR
(128 bit, Crossbar)

128 MB DDR (256 bit, Crossbar, HyperZ III compression)

RAM Speed (actual)

250 MHz

310 MHz

Bandwidth

8 GB/sec

19.84 GB/sec

Pixel Pipes

4 (64 bit)

8 (96 bit)

Texture Units

2 per pipe

1 per pipe

Textures per pass (not per clock)

8

16

Pixel Shaders

Yes

Yes (Floating point)

Vertex Shaders

Hardware (2 units)

Hardware (4 units)

Multi-Monitor

Yes

Yes

AntiAliasing

4XS

SMOOTHVISION (6X)

Z-Culling

Yes

HyperZ III

DirectX

8

9

MSRP (US$)

$130

$370

Even by the specifications, this should not be a terribly close contest. The Powercolor card out-specs the TI4200 in every way.  But, then again, the SiS Xabre600 we reviewed recently out-specced the TI4200 as well, but lost badly, so if you're just looking at specs on paper, you can't really be sure WHAT will happen. Plus, this RADEON is a DirectX9 card, so we're especially interested in seeing the DirectX9 figures in these tests.

Test system:
Pentium 2.4 GHz Northwood
512 MB DDR266 RAM
Abit IT7 motherboard (I845E chipset)
On-board audio
Western Digital 800JB HDD on chipset controller
Microtek 17 inch flat-panel display

TI4200 - Detonator driver version 41.09
Powercolor RADEON 9700 Pro - CATALYST Driver version 3.1

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