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Product : Radeon 9700 Atlantis Pro
Company : Sapphire
Author : Byron 'Himself' Montgomerie
Date : October 30th, 2002

The Card

Sapphire 9700 Atlantis Pro Front
Sapphire 9700 Atlantis Pro Front
Sapphire 9700 Atlantis Pro Front
Sapphire 9700 Atlantis Pro Front
Sapphire 9700 Atlantis Pro Memory
Sapphire 9700 Atlantis Pro Memory

Check here for the specs from Samsung on the ram used on the card. It's 350MHz ram (700 DDR) from Samsung, out of their slightly less leading edge lots. The Atlantis Pro comes with this ram clocked at 310MHz, which is actually lower than the spec called for, which probably implies they are using a variety of older ram stock and can't guarantee that all the chips will operate properly at 350MHz. This is a good margin of safety.

The card features 3 outputs from the back of your computer, a normal HD15 CRT connector, a digital output connector and a SVGA video output connector. Unlike the 8500, the order of the connectors has changed with the HD15 and the digital connector surrounding the SVGA connector instead of being adjacent to each other with the SVGA connector to one side.

There is also a 4 pin power connector on the corner of the card that resembles the power connector found on floppy drives. This is an additional measure to ensure that the card gets enough power and to help avoid problems with motherboards that may not supply adequate power to it's AGP slot.

The card overclocks very well, considering the stock settings and the rating of the ram chips on board, it's not hard to see why. The speed and quality of the secondary output of the 9700 is equally good as the primary output. The specs say 400MHz, but that is only as good as the video cables used and the monitors attached to the other end. From using the card I can say it is a much needed improvement from the speed and quality of the 8500's secondary output on my monitors.

Benchmark Setup

All tests were conducted under Windows XP Pro, all were tested using 256MB of ram, except where more ram was required for the benchmark to run (Code Creatures, SPECViewPerf). The desktop was left at 1600x1200x32. Since most of the tests were going to be cpu limited no matter what I did, I decided to concentrate on FSAA and Anisotropic filtering performance at various settings. Being cpu limited means that at ordinary settings the system sees the video card as being infinitely fast because it can't send data to the video card at a high enough rate for the performance to change. But by increasing the processing of the video card to improve image quality under varying conditions, basically making it work harder, you can attempt to get a feel for what the hardware is capable of, at least in terms of those settings.

I should define some of the terms I have been tossing around. FSAA stands for Full Scene Anti-Aliasing. The Radeon 9700 Pro uses Multi-Sampling to accomplish its FSAA. In a nutshell, when in FSAA mode, the card takes multiple sub-samples of each pixel, using a special grid-pattern, and averages the color between them to smooth out the jagged edges within the scene.

Anisotropic filtering is about mapping textures (which are rectangular) to objects (which can be any shape) in such a way that distortion is reduced when viewed. Anisotropic Filtering is most needed (and noticable) on textures viewed at sharp angles.

Many of the benchmarks I have used were made before the advent of cards such as the 9700 Pro, and they really were designed to test hardware from over a year ago. With these newer cards coming out, there will have to be new benchmarks created to measure their performance. In the meantime, we will have to use what's available and find ways to make them meaningful.

Test System Specs
  • ATI Drivers: wxp-w2k-r9700-6-13-10-6193-efg.exe
  • Monitor 1: Viewsonic G90f (19")
  • Monitor 2: IBM P202 (21")
  • CPU: Athlon XP 1800+ (1.5GHz)
  • Motherboard: ECS K7S5A (SiS 735)
  • Memory: 256MB DDR ram
  • HDD: Maxtor 30GB hard drive
  • Sound: Philips Acoustic Edge

Additional Settings: Using Rage3D Tweak I enabled 3D-Now! and SSE support for OpenGL, and set Image Quality to high for both mipmaps and textures using the ATI control panel, and I set Anisotropic filtering to performance for both D3D and OpenGL. Anisotropic performance uses bilinear instead of trilinear for the samples, I think the performance drop isn't worth it in terms of what you see in the difference.

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