#9's Imagine 128 Series 2 vs. IXMicro's Twin Turbo M8
- 2D Test Results

By Mike, Published: 8/17/1997
2D Graphics Performance Testing
I was shocked to see the performance advantage displayed by the Imagine 128 Series 2 in the Hi-Res Publishing test in millions color mode. Unlike the other cards, the Imagine's performance is optimized for high color depths, and it shows. It actually seems to perform better at the higher color depths - which is exactly what it was designed to do. Where the other cards performance dropped substancially when shifted from thousands to millions color mode, the Imagine seems to prefer it. As the target market for these cards is high-end graphics professionals working in this mode, the Imagine scores a major victory here.

It was apparent from watching the Macbench tests execute that the Imagine board was significantly faster running these Photoshop and Quark Xpress scripted application tests, especially in the areas of panning/scrolling and zooming. It seems the higher the resolution and color depth, the more the Imagine 128 distanced itself from both the Twin Turbo and the 8500 built-in video. Hawkeye control panel 4.50 had been reported as increasing performance as much as 78%, and the performance I saw made me a believer. The card actually ran the hi-res publishing test faster at millions colors mode than at 16-bit color mode, apparently it is optimized for true color modes, but delivers excellent performance regardless of the color depth.

MacBench 4.0 High Res. Publishing Tests:
The Imagine 128 was more than 90% faster than the Twin Turbo (running either TT driver 3.8 or 4.02) at 1152x870, 75hz refresh rate in true-color mode (millions colors). Although my monitor would not support it - I suspect as resolutions and refresh rates were increased the gap would widen even further. The Imagine's true 128-bit data path and graphics engine are reasons for its relatively flat performance across all color depths. IXMicro says that although the Twin Turbo requires two clock cycles to transfer 128-bits of data that it's a moot point due to the every-other-cycle access to Vram. They also commented that the Imagine has 8-bit graphics conversion in hardware that the Twin Turbo has to do in software that could account for the large advantage here.

Watching the scrolling and image manipulation during the tests it was apparent that the Imagine was faster than the Twin Turbo at this color depth. Whatever the reason, you can't argue with the results we saw, both in MacBench and Pagemaker.

MacBench Graphics Scores: 1152x870, millions colors, 75hz vertical refresh
Macbench Hires scores

As you can see from the scores above, the Imagine 128 Series 2 really shines at the higher color/hi-res modes. I was impressed at the scores it produced, and just watching the tests run it was obvious it was the fastest card in the test. If my monitor would have handled it, I would have liked to run an even higher refresh rate and resolution, which I estimate would show even more advantage to the Imagine card. The IXMicro Twin Turbo M8 tests were run with both the ver. 3.8 driver in the box and the latest 4.02 drivers from their web site. As the scores show - the 4.02 driver delivers much better performance.

The tests were also run in 16-bit (thousands) color mode as well. I was a little surprised to see that the Imagine was slower in thousands color mode for the Hi-Res pub tests than at the higher color depth. The scores are shown below:

MacBench Graphics Scores: 1152x870, Thousands colors, 75hz vertical refresh
Macbench hires 16bit video scores

As shown above - in the less demanding 16-bit color tests the Twin Turbo slightly outperformed the Imagine 128 in the hi-res pub test, although only by 2%. For 16-bit tasks, even the 8500 video does a fair job with a 200mhz cpu and 50mhz bus speeds. At lower bus speeds the PCI cards would show a greater advantage however, as the PCI bus runs at a fixed 33mhz, and the built-in video runs at the bus speed of the cpu card. This is another advantage of upgrading your processor card, as many CPU upgrade cards run the system bus at higher speeds that the stock Apple CPU.

To ensure that the score delta's I'd seen in MacBench were representative of the cards (and not a "tweaked for MacBench" driver), I also ran other benchmarks such as Norton Utilities 3.5 System Info video tests, and Speedometer 4.02 as well. The Speedometer video test is very limited in comparison to the real world application scripting tests that MacBench 4.0 uses, but the Norton SI test was reasonably complete. Again the results show the Imagine 128 as the fastest card, and also show more of a delta between the built-in video and the other cards. Both of these tests are much simpler and less "real world" based than the MacBench tests however, as they primarily test QuickDraw graphics primitives and simple scrolling speed. The Norton and Speedometer tests were run in 1152x870, millons color mode.

Norton 3.5 SI Video Test

  • Imagine 128 S2: 219
  • Twin Turbo M8: 176
  • 8500 Video: 93.4

Speedometer 4.02 Video Test

  • Imagine 128 S2: 9.579
  • Twin Turbo M8: 8.584
  • 8500 Video: 4.409

Still not satisfied, I ran several scrolling tests in Adobe Pagemaker 6.5 (using a small technical manual with embedded images) using Hawkeye driver v4.50 and TT driver 4.02 (the latest versions available at test time) running at 1152x870, millions color mode. The results are shown below:

PageMaker 6.5 Scroll test

  • Twin Turbo M8: 4.05 seconds
  • Imagine 128 S2: 2.15 seconds

Even without the stopwatch it was apparent the Imagine 128 was faster, as the Twin Turbo exhibited a slight "bump" in the horizontal scrolling speed during the test as an imbedded image was encountered, whereas the Imagine 128 showed literally no change in scrolling speed for the full test.

In addition, zooms on the Imagine 128 (to as high as 8x depending on resolution) were instantaneous, and much faster on large images in Photoshop than the Twin Turbo at high resolution true color modes.

2D Tests Winner: Imagine 128


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