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RADEON 9700 Performance Update
Date: Jul 21, 2002
Author: HH Editor
RADEON 9700 Performance Update - Page 1

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 

RADEON 9700 Performance Update - Page 2

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

By -Chris Angelini
July 20th, 2002

Unreal Tournament 2003
Fastest Hardware on a Future Benchmark

The Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmark is much more modern than Quake III.  So much so, in fact, that obtaining a copy is more painful than pulling teeth.  Again, I enabled 4-sample anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering at 1600x1200.  Not surprisingly, the RADEON 9700 scored 80 percent higher than the GeForce4 Ti 4600, again with perfectly playable frame rates in the demo.

3D Mark 2001 SE
Fastest Hardware on a Synthetic Benchmark

3D Mark 2001 SE is another popular graphics metric that returns a synthetic result based on a series of rendered tests, including specialized DirectX 8 techniques, like pixel and vertex shaders.  I ran the default benchmarking configuration (1024x768) with the exception of 4-sample anti-aliasing enabled once again.  The end result is ATI?s RADEON 9700 outperforming the GeForce4 Ti 4600 by 70 percent.  Once DirectX 9 is released, expect to see a successor to 3D Mark 2001 capable of testing the RADEON 9700, NV30 and some of the features on Matrox's Parhelia.

Comanche 4
Fastest Hardware on a DirectX 8 Benchmark

Comanche 4 makes a great processor test, but at 1600x1200 with 4-sample anti-aliasing enabled, it is also able to stress video cards.  The RADEON 9700 again shows its prowess, besting the GeForce4 Ti 4600 by more than 80 percent.

To begin with, we were very impressed with how well the RADEON 9700 performs.  The leap in performance ATI has taken, from the RADEON 8500 to the 9700, is nothing short of amazing.  Beating the GeForce4 Ti 4600 hands down on just about any benchmark, is simply icing on ATI?s cake. 

A couple of things should be noted about the benchmarks.  First, you?ll notice that all of the tests were run with 4-sample anti-aliasing enabled.  The RADEON 9700 does exceptionally well with anti-aliasing, while the GeForce4 takes a substantial hit.  Similarly, the 9700 takes virtually no performance penalty with anisotropic filtering.  In comparison, the GeForce4 suffers a bit in OpenGL and doesn?t even support anisotropic filtering yet in Direct3D.  When retail boards hit store shelves in less than a month (according to ATI) it will be seen that the difference between the GeForce4 and RADEON 9700 is smaller without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering. Regardless, the RADEON 9700 is a faster card in every situation we?ve been able to test thus far.

NVIDIA is quick to point out that the NV30 is on its way, with a vengeance.  We have no doubt that NV30 will be a tremendous performer when it is released.  For the time being however, ATI has turned over an ace (not to mention one hell of a face card with the RADEON 9000 Pro for mainstream users).  At least for the next couple of months, it will be tough for any manufacturer to beat that blackjack.  Expect a full barrage of benchmarks once ATI delivers retail-quality product to the HotHardware Labs,  in a few weeks. 


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