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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [10.01.02]
Manufactured by: ATI

MSRP: $399.00


DirectX8 - AquaMark

Massive Development's engine is a nice looking one for DirectX8-compliant benchmarking, but will soon be replaced by AquaMark3.0, which will boast full DirectX9 support.


Both resolutions show an advantage for the RADEON card, though the higher, more stressful resolution shows a much greater advantage. There's just no way to beat the huge amount of bandwidth that the card has to tap.  1024x768x32 may be becoming CPU limited, since the scores are so close.

OpenGL - DroneZ

This is one of my personal favorite benchmarks to watch, because of the quality and artistry of the visual.  It also happens to be a really good benchmark, not only measuring FPS, but allowing us to have a look at triangles generated and amount of T&L/vertex operations performed. 

However, there appears to be a slight difficulty either with DroneZ or ATI's implementation of OpenGL features.  DroneZ was unable to access the shader programs in the RADEON, though it was able to access advanced OpenGL features (just not THAT advanced).  We emailed ATI about this issue, and they responded stating that ATI's current focus is on DirectX rather than OpenGL performance, so it's possible that future driver updates will improve things. Currently, the RADEON only support OpenGL vertex and pixel shaders in a few upcoming games, and not in any current Q3 engine game (they will be supported in Doom III of course, which is a ways from being released).

Still, even though the RADEON doesn't support shaders here, the game looks nice, and obviously gets pretty good performance.  However, the margin is narrower here than in most of our other benchmarks other than Aquamark.  It's possible that ATI's OpenGL implementation needs more optimization as well as improved shader support.

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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