ATi Radeon 9000 and Radeon 9700 Preview

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The ATi Radeon 9000 and Radeon 9700 Preview
ATi 's Next Generation Products Unveiled

By, Dave Altavilla
July 18, 2002


 

 

We'll continue here with an overview of the features incorporated into the Radeon 9700 and will then comment on the performance levels we saw in our briefing and what you can expect when the product hits the retail channel

Hyper-Z III:
This method of Z-Buffer Memory Compression as well as fast Z-Clear, is nothing new to the Radeon line of products.  It has been around since the original Radeon was launched.  However, this is the 3rd. generation of this technology and ATi has further optimized it for the R300 VPU architecture.  It affords up to a 50% reduction in memory bandwidth overhead.  This type of technology is something the Matrox Parhelia needs desperately.

TruForm 2.0 and Displacement Mapping:
TrueForm has also been refined but is pretty much the same technology as we saw in the Radeon 8500.  Specifically, TruForm 2.0 smoothes out low polygon count characters and objects generating a more natural looking shape with N-Path Higher Order Surface techniques.  Displacement Mapping was first shown to us by Matrox with the Parhelia.  Essentially, since this is now a feature set of DirectX 9, ATi supports it with the R300.  We were told that there is hardware support on chip but that some of it has to be done in software, since the part of the technology is Matrox proprietary.  Regardless, we were ensured that the performance was more than acceptable with Displacement Mapping technology running on the Radeon 9700.
 

Video Processing / VideoShader / FullStream:
It seems as though ATi has always been a leader in video processing, from their successful All In Wonder product line, to their full MPEG2 hardware decode support which arguably has the best quality in the business.  The same "video immersion" engine is used with the R300 but there are also few new features in hardware to support the FullStream technology that we noted earlier in this article.  "VideoShader" is the R300's hardware support for FullStream, ATi's method of "de-blocking" or smoothing out of pixels on low quality video streams.  The effect is quite prominent.  We saw a couple of real time demos of the technology in action and were impressed at how well it cleaned up the video stream.

Finally, VideoShader also has the ability to do real time integration of pixel shader functions with video data.  This can produce special effect on video streams and actually draw and animate a real time scene in a separate window.  We likened the effect to what was demonstrated in the music video for "Take on me" by that oh-so hip pop group "a-ha".  Here a live scene of the bands front man, passes from live video footage into an animated scene drawn in story board format.  The Radeon 9700 can render this effect in real time deriving the animated scene from the original video stream.
 

Dual Independent Display Controllers and DACs:
Lastly, the R300 VPU has Dual Integrated 400MHz DACs, which much like the Parhelia 512, operate with 10 bit precision.  This will drive simultaneous dual display output and most likely offer crisp desktop images at high resolutions and refresh rates.  The VPU also has a built in 165MHz TMDS Transmitter for driving flat panel displays.  So, although you won't get triple head "surround gaming" with the R9700, you can drive Dual VGA displays or a DVI and VGA combo setup.

 

R300 Performance Expectations And What We Saw The Radeon 9700 Do
A GeForce4 Ti 4600 Killer

This is the part we are sure you have all been waiting for.  At this point in time, although we were given a hands on demo of the Radeon 9700, we were not given a board to test in the HotHardware Lab.  However, we were able to garner specific data-points in our session with ATi and can comment for you on our expectation of the hardware.  First we were shown various technology demos, Code Creatures and NVIDIA's Chameleon Mark specifically.  All of these demos ran with complete fluidity and Chameleon Mark was clipping at a rate that seemed far faster than any NVIDIA product to date.  At this point we were getting a little excited and failed to record the actual frame rates.  Sorry!

However, once we settled into the demo a bit more, the fun really began when we asked the ATi team to enable AA and Aniso Filtering with the Unreal 2003 demo they were showing.  At one point they had the demo runing at a resolution of 1280X1024 with 16X Aniso (128 tap trilinear) Filtering with 6X AA enabled The frame rate we got at the end of the run was in the low 30s.  This is very impressive for sure.  The game moved without a hiccup and the images were simply gorgeous.  We then had them fire up Quake 3 Arena, even though the game engine is as old as the hills it seems, just to get a universal reference point on raw performance.  We had them set the resolution to 1600X1200 with 6X FAA and 16X Aniso Filtering, in there drivers.  What we saw was a jaw dropping 60+ frames per second!  Remember, this is 6X AA folks and a level of Aniso Filtering that would bring a Ti 4600 to it's knees, if it could support it. 

As a side note, all tests were run on a Pentium 4 2.2GHz machine with 512MB of RDRAM on an i850 chipset.  Here are a few shot of the tricked out rig that ATi was working with that day.

   

Our meeting with ATi and the R9700 lasted an hour and a half but left us thirsty for more time on the bench with it.  The detail we've given you here is only a quick take on what we believed to be actual performance of the card.  Since we weren't actually able to set up the test bed ourselves and run the benchmarks without our own OS installation etc, we're only giving you a first hand "impression" here.  We look forward to giving you a full benchmark review and showcase, when we get the card in house at HotHardware.Com in the near future.

 

The Eye Candy and More R9000 Details


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