Our test system consisted of the
Radeon 9700 Atlantis Pro (Drivers - Catalyst Version 0.23)
NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4600 Reference Board (Drivers - Version
Hardware and Software:
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz
ASUS P4B533-E Motherboard -
512MB PC3200 Corsair CAS2
IBM 30GB ATA-100 7200RPM
On board sound
WinXP Professional w/ SP1
Intel Chipset Drivers
We've shown you a few screen
shots of the new ATi Catalyst drivers, in previous articles.
Not much has changed since we've looked at them last but
we've captured a few control panel tabs here for you anyway.
ATi's drivers certainly have
come a long way, in terms of performance, stability and
functionality. There are an impressive array of quality
settings available to the end user, for adjustment in areas
such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, Texture
Sharpness and MipMap Level detail. We have to say that
driver stability across a multitude of platforms, doesn't
quite feel up to the level of NVIDIA's product but it is
certainly up to a level of quality now that we feel
confident in recommending the product to our readers.
We should also note that at
least one i850E motherboard in our lab, the Asus P4T533,
absolutely refused to boot with the Sapphire Radeon 9700 and
only posted machine language garble on our monitor.
However, as we've come to find out, this particular
motherboard has issues with Radeon 9700 cards in general and
is desperately in need of a BIOS fix. So we won't hold
that against the Sapphire product, as it worked flawlessly
in several other boards we tried during testing.
Sapphire Radeon 9700 Atlantis Pro
limited success with overclocking Radeon 9700 cards from ATi
here in the HotHardware Torture Chambers. It seems
that, at least for the ATi branded variants we've had the
pleasure of testing, the upper limits are right around
340MHz core clock speed and 340MHz (680MHz DDR) memory clock
speed, at least without serious graphical anomalies.
Here's what the Sapphire Radeon 9700 Pro was able to
We were more
than impressed to see that the core held up nicely all the
way up to 375MHz, with the test case closed and no
additional cooling. We typically like to overclock
test products around the lab in a closed chassis
environment, since it is more typical of the average end
user's setup. At 375MHz core, there were no graphical
glitches and the core was stable for the several runs of
3DMark 2001SE that we tested. We were able to coax the
memory bus on the card up to 350MHz (700MHz DDR) but that
was all the Samsung chips could handle before they would pop
pixels and tear textures. Regardless, these were
the highest clock speeds we've seen to date, from any Radeon
9700 that we've tested.
We'll toss in
the standard disclaimer here, since there is always a slight
chance that OEMs "cherry pick" cards for our review.
However, we can't help but be impressed at how well the core
speed scaled, with that fancy looking heat sink and fan
combo on top.
Here are the
fruits of our overclocking labor, as represented in some
3DMark 2001SE testing.
As you'll note in the above
graph, we're only comparing this Radeon 9700 product to the
GeForce 4 Ti 4600 here and for this entire analysis. The
reason for this here is that 99.99% of all graphics cards,
built on the same core chipset and memory, perform within 2
- 5% of each other, while at stock clock speeds. There
wasn't much point in comparing it to the ATi Radeon 9700,
with perhaps the exception of an overclocking test, as the
scores would be very similar.
What we thought was a more
interesting metric, was to see how the Sapphire Radeon 9700
Pro performed versus a GeForce 4 Ti 4600, with NVIDIA's latest
release of the Detonator 40.72 drivers and the R9700 with
the latest Catalyst version. NVIDIA claims up to a 25%
performance improvement, depending on the application, with
this latest driver release. ATi has been working hard
as well, getting their driver suite stabilized and
optimized. Let's have a look at what today's leading
3D Powerhouses are capable of.
Screenshots and Unreal Tournament 2003 Benchmarking