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