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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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DX8 Professional Rendering - Codecreatures

This mark used to be struggle for any card, but now technology is starting to catch up with it a bit.  It's still one of the most stressful benchmarks out there, but I await the day when a card can blow it out of the water.

And that day has come!  The RADEON consistently gives DOUBLE the performance of the TI4200 in this heavy-duty professional-level rendering test.  Even for cards so different in price, this margin is a serious one, and a serious victory for the RADEON.

DirectX8 - Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo

The brand-new UT2003 engine offers us a great way for testing video cards on one of the more recent game engines. We use the HardOCP utility v2 to run flybys at highest possible detail on 3 maps, and provide the average FPS scores.

Remember how we mentioned some issues with the RADEON's OpenGL performance?  Well, UT2003 can make use of either Direct3D OR OpenGL, using the HardOCP utility. Not only that, but it uses either mode natively, unlike Serious Sam, which doesn't seem to.  So this should tell us for sure if there's a performance difference in ATI's OpenGL implementation. We ran it both ways, to see what sort of performance difference exists in each card when using the same engine.  To run this test, both cards were initially set to "balanced" mode, but if you'll remember from the settings chart, OpenGL does "balanced" a little differently.  Luckily, that didn't sneak by us:  we equalized things by overriding OpenGL, so that its settings would be identical to those in DirectX's "balanced" mode.  And here's how things came out:

As you can see, the RADEON’s performance drops 17-30 FPS (depending on the map used) when switched into OpenGL mode.  We also threw in TI4200 numbers using both modes, just for comparison. Notice the furthest apart the TI4200's numbers get is 8 FPS, and in one test the figures are identical. The RADEON wins this test, performance-wise, particularly in DirectX mode, where it's untouchable. But it also shows that its OpenGL engine, while it performs, needs a lot of work to bring it up to the performance that the GPU is capable of producing.

Image Quality and SMOOTHVISION

For all but one of these tests, we returned to UT2003, and used the Asbestos map at 1280x1024x32 resolution for benchmarks, and the Anubis map in flyby mode to take still frames for detail analysis.

As mentioned previously, the ATI CATALYST drivers allow for a LARGE variety of combinations of levels of quality and ansiotropic filtering, among others.  We tested the 5 built-in settings, from Performance, to Quality, as well as choosing 1 other custom configuration.  We invented the Max Performance setting because none of the defaults turn down detail as far as it can possibly go. In this setting, that's where they are.

It turns out there's a reason for it, since our little invented mode gets slightly slower performance than ATI's "Optimal Performance" mode. I guess they aren't kidding about the "Optimal" part.  Levels stay fairly steady until the SMOOTHVISION engine kicks in at "High Quality," where there's a drop.  But notice, even though it's a major drop, the game is still in the highly playable range of 89 FPS, and stays up there right up to the maximum setting, where it only drops to an average of 75 FPS.


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