Radeon 64MB DDR
Radeon almost makes up for the lame performance of
previous ATI boards.
string of near misses, ATI (www.ati.com)
finally scored a winner with the Radeon 64MB DDR. With a full feature
set-including an advanced T&L implementation and some nifty
z-buffer enhancements-the Radeon is the first card to hold its own
against the mighty GeForce 2 GTS.
only does the card boast awe-inspiring frame rates, it also offers
superb visual quality, putting nVidia cards to shame and rivaling the
Matrox G400, the current visual-quality champ.
So how did ATI finally get 3D acceleration right? First, the chipset
employs new z-buffering techniques (dubbed HyperZ), which optimize the
memory bus. Second, each of the Radeon's two pixel pipelines can apply
three textures every clock cycle. This allows for complex multitexturing
and blending operations in a single pass (GeForce 2's two pixel
pipelines can apply only two textures each cycle). Third, the Radeon has
an advanced T&L engine (called Charisma) that is capable of pushing
30 million triangles per second, and supports advanced character
modeling features such as four-matrix vertex blending.
As 3D chipsets
become more and more powerful, onboard video memory has more and more
trouble keeping up with the pace of rendering. ATI's HyperZ techniques
mitigate this bottlenecking by applying lossless compression to z-buffer
information. Using HyperZ, along with a few other tweaks, ATI has been
able to turbocharge the Radeon's memory bus with 20 percent more
performance. When that performance increase is combined with 183MHz DDR
SDRAM (which is about 10 percent faster than the 166MHz DDR RAM found on
standard GeForce 2 cards), the Radeon performs with aplomb at
resolutions up to 1280x1024.
So the memory bus is theoretically 20 percent faster-that's just dandy.
But what kind of performance boost does that give us in the real world?
We found the Radeon performed as well as, or better than, GeForce
2-based cards in every benchmark. With a score of 66.4fps in our Quake
III demo001 benchmark, the Radeon easily surpassed its closest
competition. And we expect to see performance improvements as the driver
gnome at ATI further tweaks the drivers.
Visual quality was superb as well. While running our Quake III
benchmarks in the Lab, even the most jaded lab monkeys did a double-take
at the rich, vibrant colors that the Radeon was pumping out in full 3D
glory. See our screenshots in the Videocard
section of the site, by clicking on Visual Quality.
Our only real gripe with the Radeon is its lackluster 2D performance.
Regardless, even "slow" 2D is pretty damn fast, and it's
possible that driver revisions will help improve 2D application
performance in the future. We also had some problems when testing the
Radeon on our Athlon test system, but they were solved by downloading
the 4-in-1 driver from VIA's web site. The Radeon is a total package,
combining blazing-fast, spectacular-looking 3D with excellent DVD
playback. We're thrilled that there's finally competition for the