ATI has the fastest and most feature rich consumer graphics card on the planet today. To argue with that you'd have to have a crayon lodged in your brain. A quick look at the various Radeon 9700 Pro reviews around the 'net verifies that statement. So what's the point of a know-nothing like myself reviewing one too? Well, for one thing, this know-nothing is also a financially strapped know-nothing. Unlike most of the reviews you've probably already checked out, my machine is far from the top of the line. Many in my situation would think it wiser to spend the 600 Canuck-bucks on a new processor, mobo, and some stinking fast ram. I've never been called the wiser of any group, so I can offer the experiences and benchmark numbers (if you're into those) of a 9700 Pro on the gaming spectrums low-end.
Many of you will remember ATIs Radeon 8500 launch about a year or so ago. Let's face facts here -- it was a bust. Drivers stunk and it was barely faster than it's main target, the GeForce3 from nVidia (who later added insult to injury by releasing the even faster GeForce3 Ti500). It was months before fully featured drivers for the 8500 appeared which allowed the card to gain the respect it was due at launch and become a solid contender. ATIs already shaky reputation took a severe beating.
It seems ATI decided not to let it happen again. Like Yoda in Episode 2, not many people expected ATI to be able to move as quickly and smoothly as they did. The 9700 Pro (aka R300) got big press at E3 last summer when it was proven to be the only graphics card capable of running a pre-alpha version of id Software's Doom III. They then followed up that success by getting the 9700 Pro into the gaming machines at QuakeCon 2002 where hoards of hardcore gamers got early access to the 9700 Pro thanks to ATIs sponsorship of the event. Then near mid-August, hinted at by the quasi-reviews a month earlier in July, real reviews showed that not only had ATI made the fastest and most feature rich gaming card on the planet, they had also shed their achilles heel and had come up with solid drivers right out of the gate. Amazingly, only a single month passed between the time the 9700 Pro was initially announced to when it started shipping.
For many, ATI had done a complete 180. They had shown that not only were they capable of exceeding everyone's expectations by delivering world class hardware coupled with solid software, they were able to deliver it on time and in volume ... *cough*