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ATI's Radeon 8500: Off the beaten path


A unique, in-depth look at ATI's Radeon 8500
— 12:00 AM on December 31, 2001

R200 IS THE CODENAME of Radeon 8500, ATI's first graphics processor with programmable vertex and pixel processing. Throughout this article, I shall refer to the Radeon 8500 as the R200. Before we get into the juicy details, I'd like to highlight a few points. First, R200's closest competitor is the NVIDIA GeForce3 Titanium 500, which I do not possess. For testing, I used an original GeForce3 which has a 200/230 clockspeed. Since the R200 board is 250/250, I tested the R200 at two speeds: the default speed (250/250) and a GeForce3-normalized speed of 200/230.

This article contains few benchmarks. While my testing has been rigorous, I prefer to showcase selected results that are meaningful and relevant to the discussion. Results that do not yield additional useful information were intentionally omitted. If one is looking for a recital of scores or frames per second, it is not there.

This is not 'copy and paste' marketing material or an 'A to Z' feature list. There are plenty of these available at various hardware sites. What you will find, instead, is an explanation of salient features of the R200 graphics pipeline (Z-buffer optimizations, vertex and pixel processing, anti-aliasing) and performance characteristics, as well as implementation of image quality features.

With regard to images, it is not my intention to produce a photo album of demos or games. Images of relevant scenes were captured at a low resolution of 320x240 pixels to save space. They have not been downsampled and filtered. If it is necessary to display in detail a portion of the scene, that portion is captured at 1600x1200 resolution, again without additional processing. In one or two instances, I have magnified the textures taking care not to filter the textures inadvertently.

With that out of the way, I hope you will find the article thought-provoking and refreshing. Remember, you read this at The Tech Report first.

Table 1: System specifications
Windows 98, DirectX 8.1
Athlon Thunderbird 1000MHz, cooled with a PowerCooler PCH137
ChainTech 7 SID (SiS 735 chipset) motherboard
256MB PC2100 DDR SDRAM
ATI RADEON 8500 (R200) - 250MHz, 1000 megapixels per second
64 megabytes of double data rate SDRAM - 250MHz, 8 gigabytes per second
Driver version: 4.13.01.7206
NVIDIA GEFORCE3 - 200MHz, 800 megapixels per second
64 megabytes of double data rate SDRAM - 230MHz, 7.36 gigabytes per second
Driver version: 4.13.01.2183