The ATI Radeon is the NEWest
graphics accelerator for the Mac.
But is it the FASTest?

BARE FEATS tests the new ATI Radeon 2D/3D graphics accelerator and compares the results with the 3Dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI , the Formac ProFormance3 Plus, and the ATI RAGE 128 Pro.
First Posted 10/16/2000;
Test Pilot: Rob-Art Morgan

Let's Get Real.

You can generate high frame rates by running at low resolution (640 x 400 x 16), low texture and geometric quality, etc., but objects appear jaggedy and coarse. If you are struggling with a slow machine, I can see the point. Otherwise, forget about it.

I could try bringing the cards to their "knees" with high resolution (1280 x 1024), 32 bits, highest density textures/geometrics, and "quadlinear" filters, but who really uses those settings in the real world? Not me.

So I decided to start the "show" with some sensible setups that are a balance between quality and speed. Quake III refers to this setup as "Normal" in their settings section. The only change I made was to set all cards to 32 bit color and 800 x 600 resolution.

Winner: Radeon


I was wrong when I said Unreal Tournament doesn't support OpenGL. An alert reader informed me that an OpenGL version is included on the installer CD and can be used in place of the RAVE/Glide version. I tried it and it works! Cool. So I've posted OpenGL results below along with the RAVE/Glide graph.

RAVE/Glide Unreal
Unreal won't let Voodoo5 run in RAVE mode (even though RAVE drivers are included with the 3Dfx extensions) so my only choice was to run it in Glide 16 bit. All the other cards are allowed to run in RAVE mode with 16 bit or 32 bit depth. So I had to decide, should I run all boards in 16 bit to be fair? I wouldn't use them that way in the real world if I had the choice, assuming the frame rate was decent. So to "penalize" the Voodoo5 for not "pushing" 32 bits, I turned on Full Scene Anti Aliasing (FSAA) 2X. Here's what I got:

Winner: Voodoo5 (Now don't cry foul. The other cards were only 1 or 2 frames per second slower in 32 bit mode than they were in 16.)

Now, OpenGL Unreal
The Radeon "loved" OpenGL, though it ran slower than in RAVE. (Ditto for the others.) The Voodoo5 ran okay in OpenGL at 800/32/medium but the picture quality was poor... like I was looking through cheese cloth.

Winner: Radeon


Make 'Em Sweat!

Now I know you are dying to see what happens if I push these boards harder. Like how about maximum texture density and geometrics at 1024 x 768? That's not totally extreme and it should show which boards start to "hit the wall."

Aha. Just as I expected, the Radeon and Voodoo5 leave the others in their dust.

Winner: Radeon


Again, I was wrong when I said Unreal Tournament doesn't support OpenGL. So here's both RAVE/Glide graph and the OpenGL graph.

RAVE/Glide Unreal

Winner: Radeon


Now, OpenGL Unreal
The Voodoo5 froze up the machine during PRECACHING when I tried to run at 1024/32/high even though I had the app size set way up (220MB). I couldn't OPTION/COMMAND/ESC. Nasty!

Winner: Radeon



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© 2000 Rob Art Morgan, publisher of BARE FEATS