ATi's Radeon 8500 Reviewed

We decided to review our Radeon 8500 with the cutting edge AthlonXP 1.53GHz CPU as we know that AMD is the leading choice among our readers. The Radeon 8500 is the first non-NVIDIA card that we have been excited about for some time. Read on about Radeon and find out if our excitement turned to satisfaction or frustration.

First, many of you are writing mails to us asking, "Where the hell is your Radeon review Kyle?!?! The other guys have theirs up!!" Well, our relationship with ATi has been less than glowing over the last year due to articles like THIS questioning their changing of clock speeds on retail, OEM, and review cards. ATi does not share any information about their technology with us until it is fully public, so we learn about it from the Web just like you do. ATi was kind enough to share with us a review card, and we thank them for that. We did not get the card till Tuesday morning of this week, the day before Matt Waters, a HardOCP writer, bought one to play with for himself, so we had a card to verify our results with.

We will not be doing a big look at the technology of the Radeon, as many others have already done that. What we are going to look at specifically here today is what kind of real world performance the Radeon 8500 is going to deliver against the competition when mounted on a new MicroStar KT266A board powered by AMD's latest AthlonXP 1800+. As this is an expensive video card that is advertised as being feature rich, it is quite possibly one you would be keeping for a while and would very likely run with an AthlonXP CPU.

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If you care to read about the special features of this card like SMOOTHVISION Anti-Aliasing, which does not work at this time, or TRUFORM, please check out ATi's website as it is all outlined there. At this point in the game it is simply not needed for us to regurgitate it. However, here is the nitty gritty about the chipset specifications. Just for the record, our Radeon 8500 was clocked at 274MHz Core and 274MHz/548MHz (DDR) Memory as identified by the latest version of Powerstrip. The DDR Ram on our card is a "Hynix" brand chip made in Korea which is rated at 3.6 nanoseconds.

Performance

Process

.15 micron

Memory Interface

128-bit DDR

Memory Clock Speed

275 MHz

Peak Memory Bandwidth

11 GB/sec

Engine Clock Speed

275 MHz

Rendering Pipelines

4

Peak Pixel Fill Rate

1364 Mpixels/sec

Trivial Rejection of Occluded Pixels

14 Gpixels/sec

Single Pass Textures per Pipeline

6

Textures per Clock Cycle

2

Texel Fill Rate

2728 Mtexels/sec

Peak Triangle Throughput

68.75 Mtri/sec

RAMDAC

400 MHz

Integrated TMDS Transmitter

165 MHz

Features

DirectX Version

8.1

Higher Order Surfaces

TRUFORMTM

Programmable Hardware Vertex Shaders

Yes (version 1.1)

User Clip Planes

Yes

Programmable Hardware Pixel Shaders Versions

1.1, 1.2, 1.3 & 1.4

3D Textures

Yes

Anti-Aliasing

SMOOTHVISIONTM

FSAA Modes Supported

up to 6x

Multisample Masking

Yes

Hidden Surface Removal

Yes

Z-Buffer Decompression

Yes

Fast Z-Buffer Clear

Yes

Frame Rate Conversion

Yes

Multiple Display Support

HYDRAVISIONTM

Integrated Dual CRT Controllers

Yes

Component Video out & HDTV

Yes

HDCP

Yes

This time around ATi continues with one of their best packaging jobs yet. Yeah, it is just a box and does not mean much to us, but catching the shopper's eye on the retail shelf is important. We always have been partial to big winged skulls.

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Also, the retail card comes with a nice gaming bundle. It has a retail version of Counter Strike as well as Team Fortress and Half Life Uplink. All of these versions of the game are tuned up to take advantage of the TRUFORM technology that takes some of the edges off the images you see on the screen. Also worthy of noting is the "Built by ATi" markings on the front and back of the box. This is a sure sign that other companies will be building Radeon 8500 VidCards. In fact we do have direct confirmation of this out of Taiwan already.

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Above, you will see our Radeon in action. Notice the end connections. This card is promoted as a dual head card under ATi's "HYDRAVISION" trademark. At first glance you might think to yourself that dual head is not possible, but with the help of a DVI to SVGA adapter, you can easily hook up two CRTs. Sorry, no SVGA to DVI to support two flat panels to my knowledge.