ATi Radeon X700 XT - ATi's Answer To The GeForce 6600
Unreal Tournament 2004
In our Unreal Tournament 2004 testing, a battleground on which NVIDIA typically claims the larger majority of competitive turf, you'll see a very different picture on performance painted with these new mid-range cards. It seems ATi has been hard at work optimizing for UT2004 performance.
|Epic's "Unreal" games have been wildly popular ever since the original Unreal was released in the late '90s. Unreal, Unreal Tournament, and then Unreal Tournament 2003 rapidly became some of our favorites for both benchmarking and for killing a few hours when our schedules permitted it. Epic recently released the latest addition to the franchise, Unreal Tournament 2004. We used a patched (v3120) full version of the game to benchmark these cards at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,600 x 1,200, without any anti-aliasing, with 4x AA, and lastly with 4X AA and 16X aniso. In addition, we used a custom recorded demo of a multiplayer match for our benchmark runs.|
** Please note in the following tests, we took scores with ATi's new Catalyst A.I. driver set to the "high" and "low" settings in the control panel. In the graphs below "4X AA/ 8X AF (High)" is representative of Cat. A.I. settings for the X700 set to "high" in the control panel. 4X AA / 8X AF (Low) is representative of Catalyst A.I. settings at "low" for the X700 and the standard 4X AA / 8X Aniso Filtering settings in NVIDIA's driver control panel.
As you can see, performance between the two new mid-range PCIe cards, the X700 XT and the GeForce 6600 GT, is pretty much a horse race at 1,024 X 768. However, invoke ATi's Catalyst A.I. "high" function setting, and the AA / Aniso Filtering enhanced scores increased dramatically for the X700 XT. We picked up a 13% gain over the standard setting and a 12% overall advantage over the GeForce 6600 GT.
We asked ATi's public relations manager, Jon Carvill, what specifically the drivers were doing with Catalyst A.I. set to its high setting, and here's what he told us:
"Unreal Tournament 2003/Unreal Tournament 2004: The CATALYST driver has been modified so that the anisotropic filtering type (bilinear, trilinear, or a combination of both) is now always determined by the application. In previous CATALYST drivers (for all Direct3D applications) if the user enabled 'quality' anisotropic filtering, only the first stage of textures had trilinear filtering applied, whereas the rest of the texture stages had bilinear filtering applied. Starting with CATALYST 4.10, the filtering type used on each stage is now solely determined by the application. For Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004 CATALYST A.I. performs an advanced level of texture analysis to provide identical image quality as when CATALYST A.I. is disabled but with significantly higher performance."
So to boil things down a bit further, this new Catalyst A.I. driver functionality is using the host CPU to perform detailed analysis of texture surfaces in real-time and then applying the best combination of filtering techniques for best overall image quality and speed.
At higher 1,600 X 1,200 resolutions, the gap widens even further for the X700 XT, where it captures a 43% lead with 4X AA and 8X AF enabled. Without any additional pixel processing, at default settings, the scores between the GeForce 6600 and X700 XT are within 5% of each other.