Wednesday, July 17th, we attended the launch event for
ATI?s latest high-end graphics processor, the R300.
ATI has hosted similar events in the past, but without
fail, NVIDIA would release a driver update within days and
spoil the celebration. This time was different
though ? ATI representatives knew beforehand that R300
wasn?t going to be bested by any software enhancement.
covered the technology behind the RADEON 9700 (the first
card based on the R300 VPU)
in a previous piece,
here. So, rather than rehash the details
that have already been covered, I?d like to jump right in
to a brief analysis of how the card behaved. Please
note that these tests were run on systems configured by
ATI, and while I thoroughly checked each machine involved,
these are not benchmarks taken in our own lab with retail
hardware. In fact, The RADEON 9700 board we tested
utilized a 325MHz core and 310MHz DDR memory.
Specifications that have not yet been finalized for the
retail product. It is pretty amazing that ATI was
able to hit 325MHz in the first place, considering Matrox
was only able to hit 220MHz with its 80 million transistor
Parhelia, on a similar .15-micron process.
even ran any benchmarks, ATI displayed a few demos.
The first and most impressive was a simple black and white
pinwheel from the DirectX 8 software development kit.
One system ran a GeForce4 Ti 4600, while the other
featured the RADEON 9700. The test was admittedly
simplistic (thus not representative of how a game would
perform), yet still managed to show the RADEON 9700 triple
the Ti 4600?s speed. Moreover, the 9700 boasted
quality significantly better than the GeForce4 and
infinitely better than the RADEON 8500 predecessor.
ATI explained that several factors come into play for the
final result ? an improved multi-sampling algorithm, color
processing, and sub-pixel precision are three of the most
important. Undoubtedly, 19.8GB per second of memory
throughput also helped, considering the
bandwidth-intensive nature of anti-aliasing.
you will note that these graphs we've detail here are
"relative" performance metrics, rather than actual frame
rates. Since the Radeon 9700 is technically not
ready for full retail release, ATi has asked us to respect
an embargo on frame rate scores, from the benchmark tests
we performed at the launch event. We will be
following up with a full review and benchmark analysis of
the Radeon 9700, when we receive boards in the HotHardware
Lab in a few short weeks.
Quake III: Arena
on a Classic Benchmark
fired up Quake III: Arena and turned on 4-sample
anti-aliasing. Imagine my surprise when the RADEON
9700 delivered 120 percent more performance than the
GeForce4 Ti 4600 at 1600x1200, very nearly three-digit
frame rates. Dropping the resolution to 1280x1024
delivered similar results ? a 110 percent increase
compared to the Ti 4600. 1024x768 is still very
popular for those with small monitors, but isn?t as
demanding as the higher resolutions. As a result,
the RADEON 9700 scores 80 percent higher than the high-end
GeForce4. With 16-sample anisotropic filtering
enabled on the RADEON 9700 and 4-sample enabled on the
GeForce4, the results are very similar. There is
clearly no reason to play older games like Quake III at
low resolutions any more. The combination of high
resolutions, anti-aliasing and filtering make for stunning
Unreal Tournament 2003, 3D Mark 2001 SE, Comanche 4 and