Well then, it's
update time. As we promised in our 10/22/01 release
review of the Radeon 8500 and 7500 series graphics cards,
we're back with an update on ATi's progress in the driver
department. Today, ATi will be releasing their 7.63.01
revision driver for both the Radeon 8500 and 7500 series
graphics cards. This "unified driver" has been
targeted by ATi to solve many of the issues that cropped up
in the initial release of their new generation product.
a conference call with ATi, we were told the following
improvements have been made to their drivers:
is now functional
issues with Quake related to conflicts in texture
resolutions have been resolved
control of image quality/performance trade-offs are now
available to the user
under WinXP is now on par with Win2K and WinME
and Bump Mapper Performance enhancements
issues with certain AMD platform motherboards with KT266
chipsets and select AMD760 chipsets, have been resolved
the scope of our
original Radeon 8500/7500 review, we are going to
specifically cover performance within the test system and
platform we worked in October. As such, we can not
prove out or disprove ATi claims for stability across AMD
based motherboards. We'll leave this for other sites
that worked with that type of test-bed initially.
Also, in the interest of time for the launch of these
drivers, we're only going to cover the Radeon 8500's
performance with these new drivers. We may come back
to the 7500 at a later date.
We're going to
just jump into the testing with both feet but before we do,
please take a look at our system specs as a refresher.
HotHardware's Test System
Full up Pentium 4
Intel Pentium 4 1.7GHz.
Abit TH7-RAID Pentium 4
256MB of Samsung PC800
nVidia GeForce3 Ti500
ATi Radeon 8500
IBM DTLA307030 30G ATA100
7200 RPM Hard Drive
Windows 2000 Professional
Direct X 8.0a and nVidia
Detonator 4 reference drivers version 21.83
ATi Performance Drivers
Intel chipset drivers
In this section
we intend to show you a little bit of what "SmoothVision",
ATi's Anti-Aliasing technique is all about. In this
revision of the drivers, the user is given AA levels that
can be set from 2X to 6X and everything in between.
Furthermore, there are two settings for AA in both OpenGL
and Direct3D mode, "Performance" and "Quality". Here
are some quick screenshots that show the various new driver
control panels that are available with these drivers.
SmoothVision D3D Quality
SmoothVision OpenGL Performance
SmoothVision OpenGL Quality
There is also a
tab for Direct3D Performance SmoothVision. It looks
the same as the others and we thought we would save
bandwidth and duplication on that one. As you can see,
in "Quality" mode, the max resolution for 4X AA is 1024X768.
In "Performance" mode, you can run 4X up to 1280X1024.
The real difference in both of these two modes is ATi's
method of AA. In Quality mode, the Radeon 8500 enables
its "programmable jitter table" to implement a higher end
level of AA that doesn't blur textures like traditional
means of anti-aliasing. In Performance mode, the R8500
utilizes traditional methods (as with nVidia's method) of
super-sampling anti-aliasing, which supposedly does blur
fine texture detail ever so slightly.
We'll give you a
few in game screenshots now and you can decide which is best
for you. Click images for full viewing. The
shots were taken from
Microsoft's Mid Town Madness 2. Games like driving
and flight sims, allow us to showcase AA modes fairly
it's quiz time... Which is the "best" setting here?
Frankly for us 4X Performance mode is more than adequate.
6X AA mode seems to deliver minimal gains versus 4X and
Performance mode versus Quality, is really hard to see any
difference at all. Perhaps that is because texture
detail in this particular game is not as detailed as with
recent DX8 titles. Regardless, frame rate is always
high on our list, so performance mode it is for the HH team.
You can make you own call here.
Still not quite ready for prime
We should point out that these ATi's drivers, with respect
to AA, are less then perfect still at this time. In
fact, we tested several games, including Microsoft's
"Motocross Madness", Redstorm's "Ghost Recon" and
"Black Thorn" (popular sequels to Rainbow Six), all which
did not work with SmoothVision and crashed immediately upon
running the titles with it enabled. In addition, a
demo of the hot new chopper sim title "Comanche 4" from
Novalogic, didn't run well with or without AA enabled.
There was a severe stuttering problem with this title and it
renders it unplayable at this time. However, we'll
also point out that this particular issue is with a
pre-release game demo and could in fact be fixed by the
developer when the full title is released.
Let's take a
look at what happens to frame rate when these settings are
Benchmarks, Max Payne, 3DMark and GL Excess