Overclocking, 2D Quality, and Final Words

This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.

Overclocking
Overclocking on this card was decent; with the stock cooler, and no ramsinks, I was able to take the core to about 300MHz and the memory to 325MHz. The RAM is rated at 3.3ns, and it did well considering that it isn’t passively cooled– with some good copper ramsinks, this card could go pretty high. However, it is one of the reasons why I always insist on buying a video card that has passively cooled RAM. For an $85 video card, it isn’t a huge concern, but on a higher priced video card, I’ll be very disappointed if this starts to be a trend as it already is becoming. Only a select few manufacturers of GeForce4s and Gigabyte for Radeons, are using Ramsinks, and these companies will get my money, not the reference board makers.

2-D Quality
The Radeon 9000 Pro, probably much like the Radeon 8500 and 9700, had very outstanding image quality. 2-D desktop images were a little sharper, and it was marginally better at 1600×1200 (something my Ti200 was never fond of), but nothing to clamor over. It especially shined in 3-D…during the Comanche4 benchmark, I was watching the screen, and the fire was much more vivid and colors seemed much more eye-pleasing than the older Ti200 could deliver. The DroneZMark benchmark uses some vivid colors too, and while for the most part I was busy drooling over the framerates (which were more than double that of the NVIDIA cards), I did notice the enhanced IQ also.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that NVIDIA has worked on image quality also– while the MX440 was obviously the worst performer, and I wouldn’t recommend it for much, it’s still a great sign that NVIDIA is focusing on more than 3DMark scores, and it was noticeably sharper than my older Ti200. It wasn’t quite up to par with the 9000, but close enough.

Final Words
The Radeon 9000 and 9000 Pro are exactly what the GeForce4 MX, and the SiS Xabre should have been. A full DirectX 8.1 accelerator with 64MB of DDR memory, aimed at the consumer, not the 3DMark score fanatic. I admit I was a little disappointed when I found out that it was a stripped-down 8500– the RV200 (aka Radeon 7500) was a souped up version of the previous top of the line core (the original ATI Radeon 64MB DDR), so I figured that the RV250 would be the same thing. However, it delivers scores above and beyond what NVIDIA’s GeForce4 MX series of cards can deliver, and even speeds ahead of the Ti200.

A lot of people on the AMD Forums are concerned with the overall quality of ATI’s drivers, as the previous drivers have caused a lot of problems in both 2-D and 3-D operations– some people could get the cards working but others would have consistent problems. For what it’s worth, I uninstalled the Detonator drivers, popped in the Radeon 9000 Pro, and took a total of about 5 minutes to download the new Catalyst 2.2 drivers and reboot, without a single glitch, lockup, or messy texture from thereon. I’ve also been running this card for a few days, and I’ll run it for as long as ATI will let me keep it, and it’s been nothing but a solid performer with what I believe are solid drivers. I ran a variety of games on it, some that I could not benchmark (due to the fact that they have no benchmarking modules) and they ran solid for several hours on end. Kudos to ATI’s driver department; they have finally tackled their one weakness. If you’ve been scared off by driver issues with the ATI Rage, Radeon, or even the Radeon 8500, I highly recommend you give ATI another shot at it, as they’ve gotten their act together.

The only thing that I’m really disappointed about with the Radeon 9000 Pro is the price. The 64MB edition of the 9000 Pro sells for a minimum of $85 on Pricewatch.com’s search engine, and the 64MB edition of the 8500 sells for only $2 more. If this card could be moved into the $70 price range it would be an absolute steal. Remember, however, that the Radeon 9000 has just hit the shelves a few weeks ago, and it’s probably going to drop even further in price, as more third-party manufacturers like Sapphire catch on, and Gigabyte will probably make a souped up version of this card. Once ATI gets the pricing glitches worked out, this card will enter the $70 and below range and will eventually become the bread and butter of thousands of budget gaming rigs.

One card that looks to be an interesting card is the 9000 non-Pro edition. Clocked at a much lower 250/200, although still retaining the DX 8.1 capabilities, it could prove to be a better match for the MX440 and perhaps at the same price (Pricewatch has it quoted at $65). I attempted to underclock my review sample, however the card didn’t like it, and benchmarks failed to run. It could just turn out to be THE card for the gamer on a big budget.

As a conclusion, ATI’s approach to the mainstream market is great, and far better than NVIDIA or SiS have done. The only problem is price, and once ATI gets the pricing glitches sorted out, and separates the 8500 from the 9000, this is going to be an absolute steal for a DirectX 8.1 accelerator. The bottom line is that there is absolutely no reason why every gamer shouldn’t have a DirectX 8.0 or higher accelerator.

If you’ve got any questions, comments, or suggestions, check out my thread in the AMD Forums, or email me.

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