RADEON 9700 Performance Update

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ATI RADEON 9700 Relative Performance Update
Performance Analysis With The GeForce4 Ti 4600 As The Yardstick

By -Chris Angelini
July 20th, 2002

On 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.

We 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.

Before we 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.

Finally, 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
Fastest Hardware on a Classic Benchmark

Next, we 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 graphics.

Unreal Tournament 2003, 3D Mark 2001 SE, Comanche 4 and the Conclusion 

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