The ATi Radeon 9600 Pro Debut
Decent card, fuzzy naming convention

By - Marco Chiappetta
April 16, 2003

As the chipsets powering today's video cards have gotten faster and more powerful, more attention has been paid to image quality than ever before.  It is no longer acceptable to produce video cards with sub-par Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering performance.  Both ATi and NVIDIA have made great strides in this area.  Just ask anyone running Unreal Tournament 2003 on a Radeon 9700 Pro at 1280x960 with 6X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled!  We took a number of screenshots with the Radeon 9600 Pro to demonstrate its AA and Aniso capabilities.

Screenshots with Antialiasing Enabled
This should give you some idea...

This first group of screenshots was taken with a "Pin-Wheel" demo given to us by ATi.  This simple tool is very useful to show the affects of Antialiasing on lines running in different directions..


PIN-WHEEL: NO AA

PIN-WHEEL: 2X AA
 

PIN-WHEEL: 4X AA
 

PIN-WHEEL: 6X AA

As you can see in the first, non-AA screenshot, the lines at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock are very jagged.  The jaggies don't seem as pronounced at the other angles, but they are most definitely there.  As you run through the screenshots with the different AA methods enabled, you can clealy see the dramatic improvement in quality.  Open the non-AA and 6X AA shots simultaneously and switch between them and you'll see just how much of an improvement AA makes.  Pay special attention to the center of the images.

We're fairly certain none of you are playing any games with this gorgeous pin-wheel as a centerpiece, so we also took some actual in-game screenshots using Unreal Tournament 2003.


UT 2003 NO AA


UT 2003 NO AA
ENLARGED 500%


UT 2003 2X AA


UT 2003 2X AA
ENLARGED 500%


UT 2003 4XAA


UT 2003 4X AA
ENLARGED 500%

 

UT 2003 6X AA


UT 2003 6X AA
ENLARGED 500%

 

UT 2003 6X AA + ANISO


UT 2003 6X AA + ANISO
ENLARGED 500%

The screenshots above are from the "Asbestos" DM map.  They were taken at a resolution of 1024x768.  We snapped off some screenshots using all of the different Antialiasing methods available with the Radeon 9600 Pro, and in the last shot we enabled 16X Anisotropic filtering as well.  We took a portion from the upper left corner of each screenshot and enlarged it 500% to get a clear indication of how the Radeon's AA technique was affecting the image.  As you can see, with each successive level of Antialiasing jagged edges become less and less prevalent.  As you'll see a later on in the benchmarks, the Radeon 9600 Pro maintained playable, or almost playable, frame-rates with all of these settings.

In Game Screenshots with Anisotropic Filtering using Quake 3 Arena
Quick and Dirty Screenies

We also took a few screenshots with Quake 3 Arena, with all of the different levels of Anisotropic filtering available with the Radeon 9600 Pro.  With Quake 3, you can enable a feature that essentially color codes each mip-map level to demonstrate the transition from one level to another..
 


QUAKE 3 NO ANISO


QUAKE 3 NO ANISO WITH
COLORED MIP-MAPS


QUAKE 3 2X ANISO


QUAKE 3 2X ANISO WITH
COLORED MIP-MAPS


QUAKE 3 4X ANISO


QUAKE 3 4X ANISO WITH
COLORED MIP-MAPS

 

QUAKE 3 8X ANISO


QUAKE 3 8X ANISO
COLORED MIP-MAPS

 

QUAKE 3 16X ANISO


QUAKE 3 16X ANISO
COLORED MIP-MAPS

To vastly oversimplify what it happening here, think of each band of color in the screenshots above as having a different level of detail.  The closer you are to the "front" of the image, the higher the detail level.  As you can see, as the level of Anisotropic filtering is raised, the screen area with the highest level of detail gets larger and larger and extends further "back" into the image.  Like the UT2003 images, these were taken at a resolution of 1024x768, but were using ATi's "Quality" Anisotropic filtering method.  We've included the un-banded screenshots also so you can see exactly how the Anisotropic filtering is affecting the clarity of the image.  Pay attention to the center portion of the floor as you browse through the different screenshots.  Overall, we were impressed with the in-game image quality produced by the Radeon 9600 Pro.

We should also mention that 2D image quality was quite good.  ATi historically has not had a problem with their 2D quality, and with its dual 400MHz RAMDACs the Radeon 9600 Pro continues that tradition.  We tested the card over the course of about 5 days using a Sony 17" Flat-CRT.  At every resolution, ranging from 800x600 to 1600x1200 the image was crisp and clear, with smooth, even color levels.

Let's Look at Some Numbers