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

MSRP: $399.00


So how do these levels look in the game?  See for yourself:

You can see the detail level increase steadily up to Balanced mode.  Once SMOOTHVISION enables itself, everything starts looking a LOT more crisp and clear than you may have ever seen on a 3D card.  It seems like, now that cards are coming out that can handle it, it was a pretty good idea to incorporate FSAA into the general quality settings. And that's not even counting what the Ansiotropic filtering is doing too, since that's mixed in here as well.

We'd still like to look at Ansiotropic filtering and FSAA individually though, to see exactly which is doing what, and how well.  First, we'll have a look at some Ansio-only tests, run using Ansio Quality mode.

It doesn't look like Ansio causes a whole lot of drop in performance. 30 FPS total drop isn't a lot when you consider how much extra work the GPU is supposed to be doing.  Of course, mileage may vary depending on the amount of detail in a game, but in UT2003, it seems like you may as well leave Ansio cranked to the max. Also, it appears that minimal Ansio is enabled at all times, since the difference between Application and 2x is virtually nil. Now, how does it look?

That little performance drop for that much extra texture quality?  I'll take it!  However, once Ansio hits about 8x, it doesn't seem to get noticeably better.  Maybe that's why that's the setting used in the "Optimal Quality" position.  In this test, 2x & 4x looked identical, and 8x & 16x looked identical.  Results will vary by game and circumstance.

And finally, we have the obligatory FSAA tests and analysis, which everyone has come to expect.  The 9700 Pro's AA engine is so good, that they made it an integral part of the standard quality settings at certain levels, but we want to see how it runs solo.

Well, it appears that most of the drop in the Quality tests was due to the AA engine, and not the Ansio engine.  There's a monster of a drop just when invoking 2x multisampling in UT2003.  However, once you've taken that drop, I guess you may as well go for it all, since performance loss after the initial hit is comparatively minimal. But is it worth the FPS loss?  Seeing is believing:

Yes, yes, and YES!  ATI really has something going as far as their image quality goes.  It appears that their quality enhancers run very efficiently and produce stunning output, whether on their own or combined together in the Quality settings slider.  Despite the OpenGL performance, this card has a LOT going for it. However, ATI packed in one more quality enhancer that we haven't completely looked at yet:

TRUFORM testing

This DOES come within the "Image Quality" sphere after all, so we're putting it here. After all, we know what it's supposed to do, and how it's supposed to do it, but we don't know what effect it has on quality and performance in actual game engines.

Serious Sam 2 supports TRUFORM according to ATI.  The first tough job we had was to get identical screenshots of objects being TRUFORMed. We ended up using the demo version of Serious Sam: Second Encounter for this task, as well as for checking for any performance loss (even though taking multiple screen grabs in Sam is a REAL pain).  The Serious engine offers the option of only TRUFORMing models that are designed for the process, or applying it to all models, which should be a VERY interesting test, which was run under OpenGL.

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