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ATI Rage128 Orion vs IXMicro Game Rocket
Rage128 vs 3Dfx Banshee Video Card Comparison
Review date: 7/13/99
3D Tests Results
Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Movie Playback | Controls/Design | Summary
3D Performance
Evaluation of 3D performance was based on using the cards in several real world 3D applications and 3D benchmarks. RaveBench and Walker benchmarks were used to provide more accurate comparisons of performance than my "seat of the pants" judgements from observing applications performance.

The ATI Rage128's RAVE and full OpenGL support is a major bonus for both applications and games. IXmicro (via VillageTronic I suspect) promises RAVE drivers soon and OpenGL later in the year. OpenGL game support is available for the GameRocket (and other 3Dfx chip cards) via the Mesa3DfxEngine extension, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that OpenGL applications like NewTek's excellent Lightwave 3D (v5.6D) also seemed to work fine in OpenGL preview mode. I'm not sure if Lightwave was reverting to a software-only OpenGL or was using the Mesa3DfxEngine extension. In my admittedly limited Lightwave 3D tests, performance was similar to the hardware-accelerated Rage128. The Rage128 was a bit more responsive but the average person would be hard pressed to detect the difference. For serious Lightwave 3D users however, the native Apple OpenGL support and compatibility make the Rage128 the preferred and safer choice.

3D Applications:
I tested the cards with both Infini-D 4.01 and Lightwave3D. Infini-D 4.01 tests were run with the camera view set to "best interactive" rendering engine to allow shaded objects to be moved in real time (using models from the Ch. 7 tutorial file). Infini-D's camera view seemed to be slightly smoother with the ATI Rage128 card but Infini-D doesn't seem to show a lot of difference. CPU speed seems to be the major booster of Infini-D performance.

Lightwave 3D performance was the best I've seen from any Mac graphics cards to date. I could select OpenGL textured layout mode; which really improves productivity during arranging scenes and viewing previews of animations. As with any 3D application, a fast CPU and plenty of RAM are also primary requirements, but a fast graphics card is a key part of the total system performance equation. Considering the Rage128's performance exceeds that of very expensive ($2000+) Glint based cards of the past (i.e. RenderPix, Thunder3D), I think it's an amazing value at the price (appx $160 after rebate). And you get 2D performance that is many times faster than the lackluster Glint chip capabilities in the bargain. Even the GameRocket provided as good or better Lightwave performance as my Thunder3D card by Radius and it also leaves the Thunder3D in the dust in 2D speed.

I captured screenshots from two Lightwave 3D sample scenes and generated OpenGL shaded previews with both cards. As the screens below show, the results were surprisingly similar. The ATI Rage128 was a bit more responsive in shaded view, but I was amazed that the Game Rocket ran shaded views at all.


OpenGL Apps Winner:
The Rage128's native Apple OpenGL makes it the better choice.


Quickdraw 3D RAVE Benchmarks:
I used Village Tronic's RaveBench 1.1.1 as both a benchmark and visual features check of the cards. It runs several tests of texture mapping, transparency, movement, and environment mapping functions. Again the lack of driver support (hardware acceleration) with the Game Rocket is a negative not only in speed but in features (no transparency or environment mapping support). With no RAVE driver, the GameRocket used Apple's standard software accelerated RAVE and it showed. As shown in my past reviews of many brands of Mac graphics cards, ATI has consistently had the best RAVE support. Most other brands either didn't support it at all or had missing features and compatibility issues with many RAVE apps like games.

Charts below several comparisons (by machine type) at the 640x480 test size. Since RaveBench can only compare two cards, several charts are required for a comparison of three systems. For reference, I've included PowerCenter Pro results comparing the ATI RagePro 3D card to the Rage128 to show owners of that popular card what boost the Rage128 provides over the previous generation RagePro chip based cards.

RaveBench 1.1.1 Results - 640x480

(The First Graph shows the performance gain from ATI's hardware RAVE driver)

RaveBench ATI RagePro 3D vs S3-Virge Mactell

As the above graphs demonstrate, the lack of a Banshee RAVE driver for hardware support makes a huge difference in performance. Without a RAVE driver, Environment Mapping and Transparency are not supported. It's not really a fair test, but just one to demonstrate the performance advantage that hardware driver support provides. Personally I'm a bit disturbed that even though the Banshee cards have been on the market for months (VillageTronic MP850), there is still no RAVE driver as of nearly mid-July. I suspect the 565 pixel format issue mentioned in my Interview with VillageTronic on their Banshee cards might be one reason for the delay as RAVE allows windowed 3D, and the pixel format conversion might result in a performance reduction or other problems. It will be interesting to see what RAVE performance is like when the drivers are released (promised 'very soon' I'm told).

ATI 3D vs 3DFx

Since the Game Rocket has no RAVE drivers I decided that for the PowerCenter Pro 210 tests a more interesting comparison would be the Rage128 versus the previous ATI RagePro 3D card. Interesting that the Mesh test was actually faster on the RagePro and this graph implies (to me) that RAVE acceleration is somewhat dependent on the CPU speed (a faster CPU would likely extend the advantage of the Rage128).

Again the ATI Rage128 walked away with the prize, understandable since the Game Rocket has no driver to support hardware accelerated RAVE.

For a explanation of RaveBench's tests, see my new Illustrated Guide to RaveBench.


Walker 1.1 Tests:
As I've done in most all my graphics cards reviews over the years, I ran tests in Lightwork's Walker 3D viewer with the 2D screen set to 1024x768, thousands colors (Walker used a 350x350 default window size). I used the lowest and highest polygon count scenes provided with Walker - the Corridor and Atrium. There was literally no difference in this test for 66 or 33MHz PCI slots in the B&W G3.

I list the lowest framerate seen in the rotation of the scene, as that indicates how the card handles the toughest part of the scene. For reference the max framerate is also shown.

The minimum framerates seen in two 360 degree spins for each of the three Walker scenes is shown below, with several more expensive cards shown for comparison:

Walker 1.1 Min-Max Framerates
Test
Atrium
16K Polygons
Corridor
49K Polygons
Comments
PowerCenter Pro 210
ATI RagePro 3D 4MB
14-50 fps
4-20.62 fps
ATI Univ.
drivers 4.0
PowerCenter Pro 210
Rage128 Orion
16-52 fps
4.19-21.19 fps
 
PowerCenter Pro 210
Game Rocket
8-18 fps
3.16-9.68 fps
 
9600/350
Rage128 Orion
22.28-74 fps
4.5-22 fps
 
9600/350
Game Rocket
9.68-24 fps
3.87-12 fps
 
B&W G3/400
Rage128 Orion
30.98-84 fps
9.38-40 fps
66MHz Slot
B&W G3/400
Game Rocket
18-38 fps
7.5-21.29 fps
66MHz Slot


In summary, the 3D benchmark and applications performance winner was the Rage128, due to its native driver support for hardware accelerated RAVE and OpenGL, both currently missing from the Game Rocket. I was glad to see that Lightwave 3D seemed to work with the Game Rocket, but again my tests were not a full workout and the native Apple/MacOS OpenGL support of the Rage128 make it the preferred card. The lack of RAVE hardware support is a big minus for the Game Rocket in my opinion, at least as far as overall value.

What is disturbing is the fact the card has been on the market for over 6 months yet the manufacturers have not been able to release Rave or OpenGL drivers as of the review date. Note how quickly Mesa3DfxEngine was created for the 3Dfx cards, perhaps they should hire the author who seems to be very talented. (All 3Dfx card owners owe him a big thanks - otherwise it would not be possible to play Quake 2 or 3 with a 3Dfx card.)


Based on the results of these tests, I rated the 3D (non-Game) performance/support of each card as follows:

  • ATI Rage128 Orion: 9
  • IXMicro Game Rocket: 5

I know that game performance is important in a consumer card to many of you, so the next page shows results I had running several popular 3D games like Quake 1, Quake 2, Q3test and Unreal .


Index of ATI Rage128 Orion vs IXMicro Game Rocket Review

Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Movie Playback | Controls/Design | Summary

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