Radeon 9700: Initial Impressions

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I’ve been running this card for a couple days now.

This was a Newegg OEM card Radeon 9700 Pro card, and it is set for 325MHz core/310MHz memory.

We won’t fully review this until the followup set of drivers come through. The reason for this is that there are a number of problems people are having with this card, and you can read about them here.

To be fair, reading through this thread gives an exaggerated view of the problems with this card. Many of these problems are no doubt due to individual configuration problems. Others are primarily the responsibility of the game makers who need to do a little updating themselves.

ATI should also get kudos for having tech staff visiting the site, noting problems, then getting back to the forum with problems that can or cannot be duplicated.

Nonetheless, there’s enough problems so that anyone who doesn’t want to play beta tester should wait a bit until the next round of drivers come out.

The First Couple Tests

The card installed using the original Windows 2000 drivers without incident.

Extending the display to two monitors proved a bit more of a chore. With the Radeon 8500, you extended the Windows desktop by going Settings|Advanced|Displays, then clicking the Extend Right button on the second monitor. The instructions for the 9700 say the same thing, but there are no extend buttons to click on the second display.

For the moment, the only way to extend the Desktop across two monitors (though not the Toolbar) is to check the box for “Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor.”

No more than an annoyance, and one that hopefully will be fixed shortly.

Overclocking

First attempts to overclock have not fared too well with this card. I’ve tried to run 3DMark at 350MHz core/325MHz mem, and it either reboots or hard locks consistently in the Nature scene.

I’ll have to play with it some more, but I’ll tell you that this is one hot card, literally. The GPU puts out a good deal of heat, and while the memory chips won’t burn you on touch, you wouldn’t want to leave your finger on one for a minute. Additional cooling probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

3DMark 2001SE

So far, I’ve only run 3DMark2001 SE at stock speed. Are the numbers better? Sure, they’re better, got about a 13700 running stock speed on an RDRAM system running a PIV at 2.24GHz. That’s roughly 40% better than I got with a Radeon 8500. If your version of being Luke Skywalker is posting a big 3DMark2001SE score to defeat the nEvil nEmpire, I guess that’s important.

But seeing a difference? Frankly, the only difference I noted was the higher FPS numbers off on the side. Might that just mean I’m not obsessively observant? Well, before you write me saying that the thirteenth butterfly to the right of the Nature scened flutters much better between 6.24 and 8.97 seconds into the scene, yes, I plead guilty. 🙂

Hardly a fair test of the card? Of course, that’s why we’ll look much more closely later on once ATI has better drivers. But it’s not like you drop to the floor spasming in ecstacy as soon as you turn the thing on.

Are You Awed Yet?

No, I’m not easily awed, and that is a good thing for a reviewer to be. A reviewer should not be out to sell you the card, if anything, he should be doing the opposite.

My overall impression is positive, but then it damn well ought to be for a $350 video card. I’m just not reduced to babble over what I see.

The only thing that has put me in “awe” so far is what I had to pay for it.

And those may be my “problems” with this (or any other video) card.

First, the cost. Like almost all of you, I have a big problem with that.

The technology just advances too fast to spend an arm and a leg for a card. Doesn’t matter who makes it; not going to think any differently about any $400 NV30; either.

To me, what matters is what the $150-200 NV30 fares against this card.

That’s my “bias,” and it’s one most gamers share with me. They don’t care if the R9700 is better than the Ti4600; they want to know what they can get for $150-200 and when.

And honestly, if the reason why you lay out $350 is for an ego boost, or because you’re on some corporation’s “side” and “your side” is now winning (like you had anything to do with it), sounds like a personal problem to me.

And I’ll say the same damn thing when NV30 comes out.

Second, my attitude.

Per getting excited, I’m sorry, but all this is is a video card. It’s a tool. It’s nothing to fall in love with, simply because it cannot love you back.

Frankly, I suspect those who do don’t have anything or anyone better to fall in love with, and even more frankly, this is a pretty damn poor substitute.

If the tool lets you do a particular job better, fine. If that “job” is playing a particular game better or with more eye candy, that’s perfectly OK. It’s like buying a better baseball bat, but you shouldn’t get excited about the baseball bat, either. Get excited over what you did with the baseball bat, don’t sit around saying, “Wow, I have a great baseball bat.”

Really, when did you ever hear anybody talk about a baseball game and just talk about the bats?

What I’d love to see one of these days is some sort of test to see how much of a difference the bats do make. 🙂

On the other hand, I don’t have to have my heart in my throat writhing in excitement before I want to do anything, and you shouldn’t either.

I don’t doubt when I’m finished testing this card, I’m going to say something like “Well, it does this, that and the other thing noticeably better, and the difference was impressive here and there, but do you really want to lay out an arm and a leg for this?”

And this is how it should be. This is how you should buy things. Not by how excited somebody else can get you, then you’re no more than a puppet on strings.

Rather, you should say to yourself:

“What do I want to do?”
“Will this do what I want?”
“Am I willing to pay this price for it?”

No emotion required, and if you need to get excited to buy something, maybe you need a personal BIOS flash. 🙂

Ed

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