Sapphire Atlantis 9700 Pro

Sapphire Atlantis 9700 Pro

Written by Bart Skinner on 10/29/2002 for PC  

Well ATI is back with a vengeance by releasing its eagerly awaited (by non-nVidia employees) R300 chipset. The R300 chipset is being used to make several different cards for different market segments, but today we will be focusing on the 9700 Pro configuration produced by Sapphire.

The Radeon 9700 Pro sports 8 pixel pipelines with 1 texturing unit per pipeline while the GF4 Ti series sports 4 pixel pipelines with 2 texturing units per pipeline. In terms of theoretical pixel processing power, these two chipsets will be similar. At 300Mhz (Ti4600 speeds), GeForce4 Ti can do 2400 million texels (textured pixels) per second in raw fillrate. At 325MHz, Radeon 9700 Pro can do 2600 million texels per second. In terms of raw pixel fillrate (without being passed through a texture unit), GeForce4 Ti at 300Mhz can do 1200 million pixels per second and Radeon 9700 Pro can do 2600 million pixels per second. Due to having 8 pixel pipelines over the GeForce4 Ti's 4 pipelines, raw pixel fillrate is over 200% higher on Radeon 9700 Pro.

However, memory bandwidth also plays an important role when the GPU is getting taxed, mostly when the resolution is high. Anisotropic texture filtering and full scene anti-aliasing are also features that take up large amounts of bandwidth. The Radeon 9700 Pro has a 256-bit memory bus width and a 620Mhz(310Mhz DDR) memory clock speed while the Geforce4 Ti 4600 has a 128-bit memory bus width and a 650Mhz(325Mhz DDR) memory clock speed. By computing the memory bandwidth, this shows the Radeon has 19.4GB/sec of raw memory bandwidth while the Geforce has 10.2GB/sec. Please note these are the peak theoretical numbers.

There are some other new features on this card. It is fully DX9 capable, even though there aren’t any games out utilizing it yet. It also supports the AGP8x spec. It also sports SMOOTHVISION 2.0, which is ATI's anti-aliasing and texture filtering implementation.



The box comes with the card, which has an auxiliary power feed as the AGP slot doesn’t provide enough power, a short s-video cable, a DVI-analog VGA converter (good for using the DVI for a dual monitor setup), a manual, and a driver cd. You will need to download the latest drivers from ATI as there have been several revisions since this was written.

Installing it was fairly simple. I removed my nVidia drivers via Add/Remove Programs, as I had a PNY GF3 Ti500 I won from CPL. After shutting down, the card went in with no problem. I latched my AGP retainer clip and turned it on. Then I installed the catalyst drivers on the cd, and then downloaded the updated drivers. The control panel of options for this card is a godsend compared to those the nVidia detonator drivers. I’m so happy I can use TV out and have my monitor on at the same time. My TV out stopped functioning on my Geforce3 after the 21.xx series of detonator drivers and I never figured out why. Now I won’t have to.

On to the benchmarks. First my machine specs:

AMD Athlon XP 1700+
Shuttle AK31 v3.1
512MB Mushkin High Performance PC2100 DDR (CAS 2, 1T)
Creative Labs Audigy Gamer
NETGEAR FA311 NIC
WD 120GB HD with 8MB cache
Windows XP Prof SP1 (NTFS)(utilizing various tweaks including common memory and services tweaks)
ATI Radeon Catalyst Drivers 2.3 (based on 7.77-020911x1-005863C)(these drivers were on ATI’s support page for fixing certain issues with Battlefield 1942 and a few other games)

The first game is good ole Quake 3. I utilized the benchmark program on www.q256.com.



Note how the 9700 Pro doesn’t differ until you get above 1024x768.



Now in the High configuration, the 9700 Pro starts pulling away. Higher detail equals more need for bandwidth and raw pixel processing power.



The sweet spot for this card in Quake 3 seems to be at 1280x1024. The performance doesn’t start dropping until we hit 1600x1200 where as the GF3 starts dropping at 1024x768. Keep in mind the lower resolutions are CPU limited.
Next up is 3DMark 2001 SE from Madonion.com. This test stresses Direct3D performance. For the tests I had the setttings set at default testing at 1024x768.

GF3 Ti500 Atlantis 9700 Pro
3DMark Score 8063 11715
Game 1 Car Chase Low Detail 121.5 fps 146.2 fps
Game 1 Car Chase High Detail 44.6 fps 45.5 fps
Gamee 2 Dragothic Low Detail 122.8 fps 233.6 fps
Game 2 Dragothic High Detail 66.4 fps 122.2 fps
Game 3 Lobby Low Detail 123.0 fps 140.3 fps
Game 3 Lobby High Detail 57.9 fps 60.0 fps
Game 4 Nature 50.6 fps 97.1 fps
Fill Rate (Single Texturing) 762.4 MTexels/s 1759.1 MTexels/s
Fill Rate (Multi Texturing) 1620.0 MTexels/s 2528.1 MTexels/s
High Polygon Count (1 Light) 27.8 MTriangles/s 59.4 MTriangles/s
High Polygon Count (8 Lights) 6.2 MTriangles/s 14.0 MTriangs/s
Environment Bump Mapping 119.2 fps 190.6 fps
DOT3 Bump Mapping 118.9 fps 192.7 fps
Vertex Shader 49.8 fps 146.8 fps
Pixel Shader 90.0 fps 188.0 fps
Advanced Pixel Shader 74.2 fps 189.0 fps
Point Sprites 17.7 MSprites/s 36.7 MSprites/s


A couple things to notice here. First the massive difference in the Dragothic tests. Another is the fill rate. Also notice how much better the shaders are on the 9700 Pro. Direct3D performance just leaves the GF3 Ti500 in the dust.Next up is UT2003 demo. I utilized the benchmark utility from www.hardocp.com. They are the greatest guys, even though they will make fun of my shuttle board. Kyle, I swear I’m upgrading it soon.



The Radeon just whips the GF3Ti500 all over the place, especially above 1024x768.



Even more ownage at medium quality. The separation increases, even at 1024x768.



It would appear the sweet spot is again 1280x1024. Some levels you could run at 1600x1200, but on others you’ll drop below 60fps, especially the ones with big outside areas.In conclusion, this is a worthy upgrade, especially if you currently have a GF3 series card. From what I’ve seen around the net with comparisons with a GF4, it crushes them too since a GF4 is just a higher clocked GF3. The one I bought was about $330 from www.newegg.com. It's definitely on the high range in terms of price but you get performance that is second to none. As you can see from the benchmarks, it just blows the Geforce3 Ti500 out of the water. ATi has really developed a winner in the R300 chipset. It's hard to think that nVidia would ever give up the video card crown but here it is. ATi's newest is the greatest card out there right now.
It's an incredibly powerful card but a very expensive upgrade. Go for it if you want the best that is out there now. Its raw power and features are second to none right now.

Rating: 9.5 Exquisite

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I've been playing games ever since Atari 2600. I play mostly FPS games now. I used to play just about all types. I went to CPL in Winter 2001 to play Aliens vs Predator 2 and placed 11th. The free Geforce3 TI500 was nice. Despite being jealous of Fata1ty, he's actually a nice guy.

I'm also a computer hardware addict. I'm one of those people that have to update my machine for the sake of having the best out of the people I know. Still cheaper than being married :) It gives me an opportunity to review some of the latest and greatest hardware. I'm currently playing Battlefield 1942 in a top clan, Medal of Honor Allied Assault sometimes, Unreal Tournament 2003 occasionally, and trying various other games when given the time. Still waiting patiently for Planetside. View Profile

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