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One of the coolest booths on the show floor this year was ATI's. Product-wise, ATI was doing their level best to match NVIDIA stride for stride. The Nintendo GameCube, which uses technology ATI acquired with the purchase of a smaller graphics company a while back, was on prominent display. The games looked great, and the reflective water surface in one water racing game had me transfixed.

However, most of our time with ATI this year was spent discussing recent events surrounding the Radeon 8500 launch. Scott Wasson, along with Kyle Bennett from the HardOCP, met with several folks from ATI, including Rick Bergman, ATI's Sr. Vice President of Marketing.

We discussed the Quake III "optimization" controversy, and Rick seemed especially sincere in suggesting that the image quality problems we observed were unintentional, not the result of an attempt to cheat at anything. Regardless, ATI is committed to working closer with enthusiast publications like us in order to make sure they can address such concerns with more grace.

To that end, ATI committed to fixing a whole bundle of problems with the Radeon 8500, including the Quake III visual degradation, incompatibilities with Athlon XP systems, the absence of SMOOTHIVISION anti-aliasing modes, and lower-than-expected performance.

So you know what ATI has committed to, here are a few slides from their Comdex presentation.

ATI seems to know what people have been asking for. Obviously, some of these things are simply expected from hardware vendors, and at least one—SMOOTHVISION—is something ATI has been telling customers they will be getting for their money. Still, we all know ATI needs to improve these things. Now it appears ATI knows it, as well.

ATI's latest Radeon 8500 driver is supposed to incorporate these performance improvements.

Finally, ATI committed to some changes in the way drivers are delivered. Though the slide doesn't say it, they told us they will be delivering driver updates more frequently. Most of the time, updated drivers will be offered as "alternate" or "beta" drivers. Once per quarter, all the changes will be rolled into a new, WHQL-certified, official driver release.

We'll be watching to see how well ATI delivers on these commitments. To that end, we're already testing the Radeon 8500 extensively with its latest drivers. So far, like we said above, indications are good. We're certainly hoping for the best from ATI. No one wants to see healthy competiton in the graphics market more than we do.