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Review: ATI's Retail Radeon AGP Graphics Card
By Mike
Published: 10/16/2000

Video/Movie/DVD Playback Performance/Image Quality
Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Video/DVD | Software/TV Controls | Hardware Specs
Movie Playback Performance

In the past I have used the high quality, 44KHz audio version of the Star Wars 'Phantom Menace' trailer as a test of Quicktime playback, but I that movie is compressed with the Sorensen codec which seems more CPU bound than video card. Even the Voodoo3 (with no QT hardware acceleration) in a fast Mac shows performance equal of the Rage128 Pro series which has mature QT drivers. Therefore I decided to use a Cinepak compressed QT movie I'd made (320x240) scaled up to 1024x768 in millions color mode. Granted the source was not the greatest quality (outdoor scene on overcast day), but all cards tested with the exception of the Voodoo3 series showed similar image quality. Note that ATI's docs even for the Radeon says that hardware QT acceleration requires movies be compressed with the Indeo or Cineback codecs.

Here's what ATI says about the video related hardware features of the Radeon:

"RADEONtm Video Immersion technology advances ATI's leadership in digital video with exciting new features, including on-chip motion compensation, run-level decode, de-zigzag and IDCT hardware acceleration of MPEG-2. The RADEONtm also features 8-bit per-pixel alpha blending of video and graphics, 4x4-tap filtered scaling, hardware subpicture acceleration, per-pixel de-interlacing and the ability to directly drive component video. RADEONtm incorporates advanced video technology inherited from ATI's video-oriented set-top box and consumer electronics products. "

Using the Cinepak movie as a test file in Macbench, I ran tests with the display set to 1024x768, millions colors and the movie scaled to full screen. The graph below shows the results of the max framerate tests in MacBench 5.0 playback back the movie at full screen.

QT Cinepak scaling tests

What's surprising is that the Voodoo3 3000 AGP in a fast Mac does almost as well as the Rage128 AGP PRO and faster than the Voodoo5 (I retested the Voodoo5 with the current 1.10 drivers). Where I have seen the Voodoo3 fall down in movie playback is when it's run in older Macs (pre-Beige G3 models)./p>

Scaled Mpeg Movie Quality:

I don't consider the original 320x240 movie I used in this test of very high quality, and when scaled on any card you can see dithering in the image, background etc. but as a test of scaled MPEG movie quality I copied a frame from a MPEG 320x240 movie (Paramount amusement park advertisment) to compare the Voodoo5 (MPEG acceleration enabled) and the Radeon. The images below show the results (these are Jpegs but saved at maximum quality).

Voodoo5 sampleRadeon sample

I'll leave it up to you to decide which looks better between the two. I'll try to find a higher quality original movie for a future review.

I didn't bother to post a results using sorenson codec movies, since they seem to have similar performance with most any modern card (CPU bound I assume). You can see results of Sorenson video codec movies on this page of my Voodoo5 review.

About DVD Movie Performance:

DVD movie playback looked excellent on the Radeon (True Lies movie) using Apple's 2.2 DVD software player installed on the G4/500. I've not played a DVD on the G4/500 for some time but I was impressed. Based on comments in my forum from ATI's DVD programmer, the Radeon should have the lowest CPU cycle usage of any graphics card to date for DVD playback as well as addition hardware support features. Since the current Apple DVD player is software based, this might be of some help but controls are still not as responsive as hardware based solutions like the Wired4DVD decoder card (previously reviewed here). However since it's a freebie, I'm satisfied with DVD playback on the new G4s and I rarely use it since I have a DVD home player. (It is nice on the PowerBooks however to be able to watch a movie while traveling.)

Video Out (TV) Comments: I've tested the Radeon's video out to my 46" projection TV. (My TV has S-Video inputs also, I'll test those tomorrow but I'm using the TV's front mounted composite video input initially). I'm happy to say Radeon's video output works fine, within the limits of computer screens on TVs. (ATI's adjustments shown on the Software Controls page does work to help reduce things like dot-crawl and flicker a bit). For those that have never used a computer's video output to a TV, realize that a TV cannot equal the sharpness of a non-interlaced monitor.

The best news is that I ran the DVD player (and selected 'present video') and DVD MOVIES LOOKED GREAT on my projection TV with a 46" screen size that would only magnify any flaws. I swear "True Lies" looked as good as my Toshiba home player. I can't wait to try S-video mode. Great Job ATI!

The next page has details on the software controls and shows all its features.

Index of RetaiI Radeon AGP Review

Intro | 2D Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance | Video/DVD | Software/TV Controls | Hardware Specs

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