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The Source for Mac Performance News and Reviews

Preview: ATI's OEM Radeon 9700 Pro Graphics Card
By Mike
Published: 4/4/2003

(Update: For performance tests of the later 9800 Pro card, see the Video topics page)

Intro/Specs | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance

2D Image Quality/Benchmarks/Scrolling Performance

2D Image Quality:
First I should mention the issue of image quality with analog/CRT displays. I use a Sony FW900 24" CRT for most of my card tests and have been disappointed in the past regarding sharpness at higher resolutions with many OEM cards. As I mentioned in last year's GeForce4 Titanium article, at 1600x1200 mode text in menus for instance were much less sharp than with other cards like the 8500. The OEM 9700 Pro card had clearly sharper small text at 1600x1200 mode compared to the Geforce4 Ti. (I have an early "short" GF4ti card, later models are the longer board version, but I do not know if they have changed the filtering on the later models to improve this.)
This would not be an issue for digital/LCD displays, but I'm mentioning it for users of CRT displays.

Resolutions/Refresh Rates:
Here's a list of resolutions with max refresh rates seen for each using the Display Control Panel in 10.2.4 with the Sony FW900. (however as with most current cards, resolutions at the higher end are typically 75-80Hz max. Personally I don't see flicker at 75Hz with my CRT displays.)

9700 resolutions table

Available resolutions/refresh will vary depending on your Monitor's capability. LCD displays for instance won't support the wide range of resolutions that a good CRT display will. The 9700 Pro, like the 9000 Pro and Geforce4Ti can drive two monitors simultaneously - either a mix of ADC+DVI, two DVI displays (w/ADC-DVI adapter), two CRT/VGA displays (with adapters), or two ADC displays (w/DVI-ADC adapter for the DVI port).

DVD Playback/CPU Usage:
Another observation I'll make here is regarding DVD Player CPU usage. Typically I have seen a bit better DVD player image quality with the ATI cards, and lower cpu usage as well. Granted many times you'll only be watching the movie so it doesn't matter what the CPU usage is, but running the terminal with "top -u" while playing the looping intro from the "Matrix" DVD showed the ATI cards typical usage in the low 20% (14-28% range but usually in the low 20's), where the GF4Ti and GF3 cards were in the low 30% typically (20-38% range, but usually around 30-33%). DVD tests had the desktop set to 1600x1200, video set to max size.

Appleworks 6.2 Scrolling Tests

With the desktop set to 1600x1200, millions colors I used AppleWorks 6.2 to test scrolling times from top to bottom of a 100 page, multi-column newsletter. The differences in this test were small, although the 9700 Pro was the fastest performer.

Appleworks scrolling test

XBench 1.0 Graphics Tests

I used Xbench 1.0 for simple tests of primitive graphics and user interface performance. Note the Xbench 1.0 OpenGL score is based on a single spinning squares test - not very complete. The 9700 Pro's scores were much lower than expected on that single OpenGL test. I mentioned this to an ATI programmer who said he's going to investigate what routines are being used by Xbench to see if they can determine why that score is low. Far more real-world OpenGL tests are included in other parts of this article however.

XBench 1.0 Tests

For those that wonder about the "Let1Kwindowsbloom" benchmark results (it draws 1000 windows and shows the total time) - I didn't bother to graph those results since all 5 cards tested showed the same 29 seconds to complete on this Dual G4 1GHz machine.

I usually test video card scrolling performance in Photoshop with large images at high resolution and zoom. However Photoshop 7.0 for OS X makes using the arrow keys for scrolling performance tests practically useless. Scrolling with any card/any system in OS X/PS7 is 10 times (or more) slower than the same tests in OS 9 with the same version. (Some say this is a 'fine scrolling feature', but for me it's just frustration.)

The next page has results of tests with 3D apps/Benchmarks.

Index of OEM Radeon 9700 Pro Review

Intro/Specs | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance

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