I can vividly remember the arrival of a preview sample of ATi’s Radeon 8500 at our offices and the outstanding performance of a then immature product. It is now exactly one year later and ATi is again launching a product that’s ahead of the competition in terms of performance and features. Personally I’ve always been a sucker for features rather than performance. With the advent of the Radeon 8500 and Nvidia’s GeForce3 series framerates have never dropped below 60-fps across the board at moderate to high resolutions, so why bother with something that is 50% faster. Naturally there needs to be a natural progression to better performance, but to me it shouldn’t be all important.
Fig 1. The Radeon 9700 Pro, notice the 3.5' power connector on the upper right corner, this card needs external power.
Fortunately the Radeon 9700 offers both, full DX9 compatibility, although Microsoft has just pushed back the launch of DirectX 9.0 to November, and a number of improved features we also found in the 8500. ATi fortunately addressed the driver issue over which I expressed my concern in last year’s preview and the Radeon family now also has a unified driver architecture that gets updated on a regular basis. Unlike the 8500 that performed somewhat on par with the GeForce3, the new 9700 has performance to spare, and leaves the competition far behind, and certainly at higher resolutions, but again, performance is not something I’m fanatically hung up on.
We’ll be putting the Radeon 9700 Pro we’ve just received through it’s paces in the next few weeks and will bring you a full featured review with a different angle than most. We’ll focus on the innovative features the 9700 architecture brings to the table rather than compare it head to head with Nvidia’s products. We’ll be looking at eye-candy, FSAA, image quality and ask the question whether the 9700 is indeed ready for tomorrow and continues to do so when Nvidia launches their revised GeForce4 core and NV30 products in the next few months. If you’re a registered member at Hardware Analysis you’ll be receiving an email from us as usual when this article goes live, so keep an eye on your mailbox.