ATI RADEON 9000
Part 2: Hercules RADEON 9000/9000 Pro 128MB Video Card
of the Hercules 3D Prophet 9000 Pro 128MB video card
and driver settings
results: briefly on 2D
SE game tests
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Unreal Tournament 2003 DEMO
quality in general
quality: Anisotropic filtering
The new-born RADEON 9000 and 9700 are still in a maternity hospital,
though we have already got acquainted with one of them. Although it wasn't
a child of ATI but a twin from Gigabyte (the system of cloning of its children
was established by ATI over a year ago, that is why today one can find
all kinds of RADEONs on the shelves from various manufacturers.
Unfortunately, the second child - RADEON 9700 - turned out to be prematurely
born, though the boy is quite weighty. However, it will live some more
time in the maternity hospital, probably up to September. And we are continuing
our acquaintance with the RADEON 9000 (former RV250).
So, last time we studied peculiarities
of the new ATI's product released for the mainstream market. The RADEON 9000 has
some limited capabilities as compared with the RADEON 8500 and is meant to replace
the RADEON 7500, thus, bringing functions and capabilities of the DirectX 8.1
(and OpenGL 1.3) into the sector of cards priced at about $100. In the Gigabyte
RADEON 9000 Pro Video Card Review with 64MB of memory we studied all details
concerning the new product from ATI and we were pleased that such new capabilities
appeared on the Low-End market. However, the harsh reality makes us correct our
First of all, there are two RADEON 9000 types: a pure card and its Pro version.
They differ only in frequencies: 250/200 (400) against 275/275 (550) MHz. Last
time we studied only the Pro
version, and today we will take a look at both models, or rather, their 128MB
versions. We also will estimate necessity of such memory size, because when the
RADEON 8500 128MB was released it boosted its performance considerably.
So, let's turn to the card in question.
This is not a preproduction sample, but a Hercules 3D Prophet 9000 Pro
128MB production card.
The card has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in
8 chips on both sides of the PCB.
|Hercules 3D Prophet 9000 Pro 128MB
|Gigabyte RADEON 9000 Pro 64MB
|The card comes with Samsung memory modules of 3.6ns access time which
corresponds to 275 (550) MHz; the memory works at this frequency. The GPU
runs at 275 MHz as well.
Last time we saw that the Gigabyte's solution corresponded to the ATI's
reference design entirely, that is why we will use its photo again for
The Hercules's card has the same design. On the whole, the PCB of the
RADEON 9000 is less sophisticated than that of the RADEON 8500, though
it has more different elements; but such PCB must be cheaper.
The card possesses DVI, VGA and TV-out connectors. The TV-out support
of the RADEON 9000 is integrated right into the GPU. We examined its TV-out
and made sure it was of high quality and able to display images up to 1024õ768
Now the card can't be deprived of the dual-monitor support as it was
before - earlier some firms didn't provide a second RAMDAC for the RADEON
8500 cards. Both RAMDACs are now also integrated into the GPU. The features
are the same, the details can be found in our reviews of RADEON 8500 based
Under the cooler is the graphics processor of the same dimensions as
the RADEON 7500:
Although it has frequencies typical of the RADEON 7500, the complexity
of the chip makes problems with its temperature mode, that is why it has
a metallic lid.
Hercules can't help using its proprietary roundish cooler with a logo
in the center.
Unfortunately, the potential of the card allows it to function properly
only at 285/290 MHz, which is a very inconsiderable boost.
Test system and drivers
The test systems were coupled with ViewSonic P810 (21") and
P817 (21") monitors.
Pentium 4 2200 MHz computer testbeds:
Intel Pentium 4 2200 (L2=512K);
ASUS P4T-E (i850);
512 MB RDRAM PC800;
Quantum FB AS 20GB;
Athlon XP 1666 MHz (2000+):
AMD Athlon XP 2000+
EPoX 8KHA+ (VIA KT266A);
512 MB DDR SDRAM PC2100;
Fujitsu 20 GB;
In the tests we used ATI Catalyst drivers 6.118. VSync was off.
For comparison we used the following cards:
For this review we took one more card based on the GeForce4 MX 460 processor
because, as I found out, the RADEON 9000 Pro will be primarily priced not
at $100 but about $120-130, which is comparable to the above mentioned
cards on the GeForce4 MX 460. Besides, 128 MB won't favor price cuts for
the RADEON 9000 Pro.
Leadtek WinFast A170T (GeForce4 MX 440, 270/200 (400) MHz, 64 MB, 29.42
MSI GF4MX460 (GeForce4 MX 460, 300/275 (550) MHz, 64 MB, 29.42 driver);
ATI RADEON 7500 (290/230 (460) MHz, 64 MB);
ATI RADEON 8500LE (250/250 (500) MHz, 64 MB);.
ATI RADEON 8500LE (250/250 (500) MHz, 128 MB);.
The tests of the RADEON 9000 were fulfilled by reducing a frequency
of the Hercules 3D Prophet 9000 Pro to 250/400 MHz.
In the Part 1
you can learn about settings of the Catalyst drivers.
As expected, the negative result obtained last time is entirely through
the fault of the sample, because the current card from Hercules showed
excellent quality in resolutions up to 1600õ1200õ85Hz and 1280õ1024õ100Hz.
However, estimation of 2D quality is a subjective thing. Such cards
will be produced by a lot of firms that is why quality will depend on a
certain sample and a card-monitor tandem, especially on quality of a monitor
and a cable.
3D graphics, 3DMark2001 - game tests
The RADEON 9000 (not Pro!) bests the GeForce4 MX 440 as before, also offering
a really low price and DirectX 8.1 capabilities. Besides, it has a dual-head
support, while the GeForce4 MX 440 is deprived of it.
Comparison of the 64MB and 128MB cards revealed no speed difference
3DMark2001, Game1 Low details
Well, here we have an interesting correspondence of the performance levels:
RADEON 9000 - GeForce4 MX 440, RADEON 9000 Pro - GeForce4 MX 460. And surely,
all of them lag behind the sweet couple of the RADEON 8500 64 and 128 MB.
I guess that how the scores of the 64MB and 128MB cards relate needs
3DMark2001, Game2 Low details
3DMark2001, Game3 Low details
And in this test both RADEONs 9000 outpaced their own competitors. There
is still no difference between the 64MB and 128MB cards.
The 128MB outedges its 64MB sibling, but by an inconsiderable margin.
3D graphics, game tests
For estimation of 3D performance in games we used the following tests:
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) — OpenGL,
test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded
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,
all settings - maximum: detailing level — High, texture detailing
level — ¹4, S3TC OFF, smoothness of curved surfaces
is greatly increased with variables r_subdivisions "1"
è 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
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo v.927 (Digital Extreme/Epic Games) - Direct3D,
Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality
Quake3 Arena, Quaver
The well-debugged OpenGL driver is a pride of NVIDIA, but it provided just
a little benefit for the GeForce4 MX over the respective RADEON 9000. It
is interesting that in this test the 128MB RADEON 9000 Pro has fallen behind
its 64MB tweedledee. However, the gap is tiny and can be just an error
of measurement or on account of the memory chips with different timings
(by the way, our review
of the RADEON 8500 128MB showed that memory chips can greatly affect performance).
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Grand Cathedral
The screenshots with the settings are given in the Part
The ability to work with 4 textures at a pass helped much, and both RADEONs
9000 outperformed their competitors which yielded even to the RADEON 7500
(the latter has 6 texture units).
It is again unclear why the 128MB card runs slower than the 64MB one.
I think it is again because of the memory from Samsung; some time ago we
a card supplied with memory from this company (the card itself was from
Hercules as well) with a card coming with the Hynix memory).
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer), Checkpoint
It's high time for the GeForce4 MX either to retire or to fall in price.
As for comparison of the 64MB and 128MB samples, this time the card
with a greater RAM takes the palm.
The higher the resolution, the greater the gap between the GeForce4 MX
and RADEON 9000 cards. Behavior of the 64MB card on the RADEON 8500 is
still vague. If such a great performance drop is affected by a memory size,
then why didn't the same thing happen with the RADEON 9000 Pro 64MB?
Unreal Tournament 2003 DEMO
This test likes to turn a lot of 3D things upside down. It is well seen
in our 3Digest.
It is the fault of either the ATI's drivers (it's funny to see that the
RADEON 7500 performs better than the RADEON 8500), or the DEMO is far imperfect.
3D quality in general
Last time I hadn't enough time to analyze quality of graphics of the new
RADEON 9000. Surely, I mean 3D games. Unfortunately, there are flaws, in
particular, in the Elders Scrolls III: Morrowind.
Look at the water. This is how pixel shaders of the RADEON 9000 work,
whose increased speed was so much spoken in Part
1! Note that there are no problems in the 3DMark2001. For example,
the Matrox Parhelia has no problems in the Morrowind. By the way, the latest
version of the patch for the game - 1.1605 - was installed.
3D quality, anisotropic filtering
Details on operation of this function can be found in the respective part of 3Digest.
This function is realized differently by different video-processor makers.
Besides, speed characteristics of anisotropic filtering made by ATI and
NVIDIA differ much.
The screenshot gallery from the above mentioned part of the 3Digest
is completed with anisotropy quality samples of the RADEON 9000.
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter:
Return to Castle Wolfenstein:
The RADEON 9000 uses the same anisotropy type - RIP-mapping. It consumes less
resources but it doesn't process all surfaces either (for details go here).
3DMark2001 (Game1, Game2):
However, let me remind it to you:
Look at the stripe which wasn't processed by anisotropy.
I hope the RADEON 9000 will form not just a thin brook which is dried up
before it turns into a river, but a powerful stream able to bring pixel
and vertex shaders onto the low-end, and even low-end users will be able
to see all the beauty of games using these technologies.
Last time we mentioned that ATI successfully managed to release a budget
product with new technologies brought into the low-end market. But I must
correct it now, because these cards are not going to be cheaper than $100.
The starting price will be $120-130. Taking into account that the market
offers a lot of cards on the RADEON 8500LE at such prices, I don't understand
what for the same stuff, but crippled in 3D, with added built-in TV-out
and two RAMDACs was released, and at the same price?
128MB provided for the RADEON 9000 doesn't bring an expected speed gain,
that is why production of such cards is hardly profitable because a greater
RAM makes the price higher.
ATI positions these cards instead of the RADEON 7500, that is why if we
neglect the prices, the revolution will be noticeable. But full-frequency
RADEONs 7500 are available at $100, which doesn't tallies with initial
prices for the RADEON 9000.
I hope such unclear overpricing won't last long, and the RADEON 9000 will
take its place near $100 or maybe even below.
Unfortunately, the RADEON 8500's core has some bugs right in those technologies
(pixel shaders) for the sake of which a lot of users from the low-end market
want such cards.
As for the Hercules 3D Prophet 9000 Pro, the card is of the highest quality
and the trade mark is elite.
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