iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ATI RADEON 9000/9000 Pro Video Cards Roundup,
Part 1:
PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro
SuperGrace RADEON 9000 Pro
Tyan Tachyon RADEON 9000 Pro

September 18, 2002


  1. General information
  2. Peculiarities of video cards
  3. Test system configuration
  4. Test results: briefly on 2D 
  5. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE game tests 
  6. Test results: Quake3 ARENA 
  7. Test results: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter 
  8. Test results: Return to Castle Wolfenstein 
  9. Test results: Comanche4 DEMO 
  10. Test results: AquaMark 
  11. Test results: RightMark 3D 
  12. Conclusion

Our two reviews on the ATI RADEON 9000 were published quite a while ago, that is why it can be interesting to look into the lives of such cards on the market. At the same time you will get information on new solutions on this GPU, though all of the cards we are testing today are copies of the reference sample (it's just an accessory pack that can be different). 

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards which concern functional properties of the VPU ATI RADEON 9000 (Pro)

As it was known yet in July 2002 ATI Technologies entered the market with a whole series of new solutions both for mid-level users (RADEON 9000) and for demanding and rich ones (RADEON 9700). Both were closely studied in our lab, but the examination is not finished yet. 

This time we will take a look at three RADEON 9000 Pro based cards tested on the testbed with the Pentium4 2.53 GHz under the hood. 

The RADEON 9000 Pro is a mid-range video card which satisfies the needs of gamers striving for a good 3D accelerator priced at $100 (for the middle of September their are pricier than $100). Unfortunately, the junior RADEON 9000 (non-Pro) hasn't arrived in our lab yet. Emulation of this card by reducing its frequencies is possible only on 128MB samples (probably because of the BIOS and memory timings), while on 64MB frequency decrease brings snow onto the screen and finally makes the card work unstably. It's not the first time we face such tricks in the BIOS of ATI's solutions. NVIDIA based cards allow for any possible reductions (it depends on an overclocking program) without stability losses. Playing with voltages of memory and timings is limited in ATI solutions. Moreover, according to the Radeon2.Ru, only the RADEON 9000 Pro is overclockable and allows for a performance boost. In case of the RADEON 9000 overclocking is allowed by the appropriate program, but no speed is gained. Such a tricky approach is used mostly for manufacturers to prevent turning cheaper RADEON 9000 chips into the Pro version at the expense of just more expensive memory. For details go to the above mentioned site. 

SuperGrace and C.P.Technology (PowerColor) are quite popular trade marks while TYAN is known mostly for high-quality and server mainboards. However, after it amalgamated with Mitac International its policy started altering, and the first beacon that attracted the new managers was video cards. Thus, the new Tachyon series combines ATI RADEON 8500/9000/9700 solutions. And today we are dealing with the RADEON 9000 Pro sample. 

All the cards (they don't have much difference) are used from the middle echelon, but their prices may fall down to the low-end level. 

Such cards are currently priced at $100 - $120 (www.price.ru). The GeForce4 MX 440, the closest competitor from NVIDIA, is available from $60 (how rapidly the prices are falling down!) to $110, and the MX 460 ranges from $105 to $140. Well, the RADEON 9000 Pro is successfully moving to the middle sector. According to pricewatch, in the USA such cards are already available at $85


The cards have AGP x2/x4 interface, 64  MB DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 
PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro

SuperGrace RADEON 9000 Pro

Tyan Tachyon RADEON 9000 Pro

PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro, SuperGrace RADEON 9000 Pro, Tyan Tachyon RADEON 9000 Pro
All cards come with Hynix memory modules of 3.3ns access time which corresponds to 300 (600) MHz but the memory runs at 275 (550) MHz which is a rated speed for such cards. The GPU works at 275MHz which is typical of the RADEON 9000 Pro. 

PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro

SuperGrace RADEON 9000 Pro

Tyan Tachyon RADEON 9000 Pro

ATI RADEON 9000 Pro reference card


All the cards are pure copies of the reference one. 

All three are equipped with a typical set of interfaces: VGA, DVI and TV-out (S-Video). Special adapters are supplied to connect TV-out via RCA. 

Coolers are identical as well - only the stickers are different. 

The cooler hides the GPU which has no marking - that means that the RADEON is of the 9000 series.

Now let's take a peep into the boxes and find out what accessories are shipping together with the cards: 
PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro
CD with software, S-Video-to-RCA and DVI-to-d-Sub adapters, video cables. 

SuperGrace RADEON 9000 Pro
CD with drivers, WinDVD, different adapters and video cables

Tyan Tachyon RADEON 9000 Pro
CD with software, S-Video-to-RCA and DVI-to-d-Sub adapters, video cables. 

Only the CP.Technology's card had a Retail package, the SuperGrace's solution arrived in the OEM one and the TYAN's card ships as white. 

PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro
The designers did their best - we have a plastic case of two colors: white and red which are favorite of ATI. The case is put in a cardboard box with a militant picture


PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro  275/550 -> 310/620 MHz 
SuperGrace RADEON 9000 Pro  275/550 -> 300/610 MHz 
Tyan Tachyon RADEON 9000 Pro  275/550 -> 303/610 MHz 

While it's not a problem to overclock the chipset, the memory results are quite sad; taking into account that the rated frequency of the 3.3ns memory equals 300 (600) MHz and the modules are from Hynix there must be some restrictions in the PCB's design or in the BIOS (it's not the first case with ATI's cards). 


  • in course of overclocking you must provide additional cooling, in particular, for the card (first of all, for its memory):

  • overclocking depends on a definite sample, and you shouldn't generalize the results of one card to all video cards of this mark or series. The overclocking results are not the obligatory characteristics of a video card. 

Test system and drivers

  • Pentium 4 based computer (Socket 478): 
    • Intel Pentium 4 2530; 
    • ASUS P4T533 (i850E); 
    • 512 MB 32bit RDRAM PC4200; 
    • Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB; 
    • Windows XP. 
The test system was coupled with ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors.

In the tests we used ATI's drivers 6.159. VSync was off, texture compression was off, all texture detail settings were set to maximum (High Quality) both in Direct3D and in OpenGL (in the latter case the default detail level is not the highest, that is why we had to make the respective changes). 

The following cards are taken for comparison: 

  • Gainward Powerpack Ultra/650 XP (GeForce4 Ti 4200, 250/256 (513) MHz, 64 MB, driver 40.41); 
  • Leadtek WinFast A170T (GeForce4 MX 440, 270/200 (400) MHz, 64 MB, driver 40.41); 
  • MSI GF4MX460 (GeForce4 MX 460, 300/275 (550) MHz, 64 MB, driver 40.41); 
  • ATI RADEON 8500 (275/275 (550) MHz, 64 MB, driver 6.159); 
  • Manli RADEON 8500LE (250/250 (500) MHz, 64 MB, driver 6.159); 
  • ATI RADEON 7500 (290/230 (460) MHz, 64 MB, driver 6.159); 
  • Gigabyte SH64-D Xabre400 (250/250 (500) MHz, 64 MB, driver 3.03). 

Test results

2D graphics

Before we start examining 2D quality I should say that there is no a complete technique of objective estimation of this parameter because: 
  1. Almost all modern 3D accelerators can have 2D quality much dependent on a certain sample, and it's impossible to trace all cards; 
  2. 2D quality depends not only on a video card, but also on a monitor and a cable; 
  3. Besides, certain monitors do not get along with certain video cards. 
As for the tested samples, together with the ViewSonic P817 monitor and BNC Bargo cable the cards showed excellent quality at the following resolutions and frequencies:
PowerColor Evil Commando RADEON 9000 Pro  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x120Hz 
SuperGrace RADEON 9000 Pro  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x100Hz 
Tyan Tachyon RADEON 9000 Pro  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x120Hz 

Additional options such as TV-out and dual-monitor support were already studied in the reviews I mentioned above. 

3D graphics, 3DMark2001 - game tests


3DMark2001, 3DMARKS

The RADEON 9000 Pro outpaces the GeForce4 MX 440 by 27 to 36%, and GeForce4 MX 460 by 5 to 11%. 

3DMark2001, Game1 Low details

RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 19 -7
1280x1024 10 -11
1024x768 1 -16

3DMark2001, Game2 Low details

RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 21 -5
1280x1024 18 -3
1024x768 22 -4


3DMark2001, Game3 Low details

RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 32 -2
1280x1024 32 2
1024x768 19 1


3DMark2001, Game4

In this case only the RADEON 8500LE and Xabre400 look comparable. In the first cases the scores are equal, but then the Xabre400 falls far behind. 


  1. The RADEON 9000 Pro easily beats the MX 440 but the tested cards are edged by the MX 460, however, the gap is not great considering the price tags of the RADEON 9000 Pro and MX 460. 
  2. The RADEON 8500LE is everywhere behind, which results from the architecture of the RADEON 9000; however, a higher speed of pixel shaders allowed the RADEON 9000 Pro to catch up with the stronger competitor in the Game4. 
  3. The RADEON 9000 Pro has a very powerful rival - SIS Xabre 400, which demonstrates quite high performance scores and has a lower price than the ATI's solution. 

3D graphics, game tests

For the performance estimation we used: 
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Checkpoint-demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded from here

  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Grand Cathedral demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF

  • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Quaver, test settings - maximum: detailing level - High, texture detailing level - #4, S3TC OFF, smoothness of curves is much increased through variables r_subdivisions "1" and r_lodCurveError "30000" (at default r_lodCurveError is 250 !), the configurations can be downloaded from here 

  • Comanche4 Benchmark Demo (NovaLogic) - Direct3D, Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, highest quality
  • AquaMark (Massive Development) is a game that demonstrates operation of cards in the DirectX 8.1, Shaders, HW T&L. 

  • RightMark Video Analyzer v.0.4 (Philip Gerasimov) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4). 

Quake3 Arena, Quaver

RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 -9 -30
1280x1024 -8 -27
1024x768 -6 -23

The drivers do not make possible for the RADEON 9000 Pro to win in the OpenGL game: it loses both to the NVIDIA's cards and to the SIS Xabre400. 

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Grand Cathedral

Test settings: 

Test results: 

RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 24 -8
1280x1024 14 -13
1024x768 -5 -22

Although the situation is better, the RADEONs are still losing to the NVIDIA's cards, which persistently happens in this game, I think because of the drivers. But the SIS Xabre400 seems to have even worse drivers and optimization for this game. 

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer), Checkpoint


RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 13 -13
1280x1024 10 -15
1024x768 14 -6

Although the RADEON 9000 Pro regains the lead over the MX 440, the SIS Xabre400 takes the crown here. 

Comanche4 DEMO



RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 -5 -20
1280x1024 21 3
1024x768 13 -1

The Radeon outscored the MX 440 and caught up with the MX 460, except 1600x1200 which is not a game resolution. At the same time, it stomped the Xabre400 into the ground :-). 



RADEON 9000 Pro's breakaway, %
Tests GeForce4 MX 440 GeForce4 MX 460
1600x1200 90 45
1280x1024 48 21
1024x768 43 21

One of the toughest tests let the RADEON 9000 Pro easily outrun the NVIDIA's rivals. Probably because of the shaders which are actively used in this game. However, the advantage of the RADEON 9000 Pro in the fillrate can also be the reason. The terrible operation of pixel shaders of the Xabre400 made it a pure outsider. 

RightMark 3D

Despite a higher rate of operation with pixel shaders the fillrate of the RADEON 9000 Pro is much lower compared to the RADEON 8500LE (not to mention the RADEON 8500). 

In general, the RADEON 9000 Pro beats the GeForce4 MX 440 by a small margin and often lags behind the MX 460 (being cheaper). Therefore, we can say that this solution takes a middle position on the market. In spite of some performance inferiority the RADEON 9000 Pro has better prospects than the GeForce4 MX 460 because the latter lacks both for shaders (except half-hardware vertex shaders) and normal high-level anisotropy. As for the Xabre400, I wouldn't consider it a leader because of worse quality of the graphics and optimization of the SIS drivers for the 3DMark2001. 

3D quality

To estimate operation of these cards in 3D graphics I recommend that you visit our gallery of screenshots in 3Digest - here you can find results of the RADEON 9000 in about 20 games. 

I just must say that with the 6.159 version of the drivers the widely known artifacts in the Morrowind haven't disappeared. 


  1. RADEON 9000 Pro is often stronger than the GeForce4 MX 440 and has more advanced technologies. The ATI's new product is currently dearer than the MX 440, but the prices keep on falling down (however, the MX 440 gets cheaper as well). 
  2. The SIS Xabre400 is not an ordinary competitor. When we were writing this review SIS released new drivers - simple and speed versions. I don't know what the outcome can be, but anyway the RADEON 9000 Pro has higher-quality drivers, speedier shaders and normal support of DX81 technologies (the Xabre400 doesn't support vertex shaders). 
  3. If you want a good 3D accelerator at $95-120 go with the RADEON 9000 Pro because the RADEON 8500LE is still pricier, and it makes no sense to get aged GeForce4 MX. 
  4. High-frequency 400 MHz RAMDACs show excellent image quality on both heads; the 2D quality is magnificent. 
  5. The cards tested have no difference, that is why when choosing a card look at the price and accessory pack (it's always much more pleasant to get a nicely packed card than just wrapped in plastic sack). 
Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com

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