ATi Radeon 9700 Review
Stepping out of the shadow at last ?
It's a hard life being a graphics card designing company. You try your best, work all hours that God gives you, and yet find that a rival is always that little bit better in most departments.
In this dog-eat-dog world, having the most impressive hardware isn't necessarily the sole key to success. You need to find a balance between screaming performance and rock-solid stability. ATi, the Canadian-based graphics giant, have, in recent times, always played second fiddle to NVIDIA in the high-end, consumer-level graphics arena.
That's not to say that ATi as a company were flagging hopelessly behind. To counter the seemingly omnipotent GeForce3 range of cards from NVIDIA last year, ATi put all their eggs in the Radeon 8500 basket. The Radeon 8500, although arguably more impressive than its rival on paper, was not taken to heart by the hardware community in quite the way that ATi had expected. Although technologically more advanced than the GeForce3 or subsequent GeForce3 Ti 500, it flattered to deceive in real-world benchmarks, often trailing the aforementioned two due to relatively immature drivers.
That's not to say it was poor, its sterling 2D capability and impressive DVD playback won it many enthusiasts' hearts, including mine. Since the demise of 3DFX, NVIDIA had a real fight on their hands, as the R8500 at least made prospective top-end graphics card buyers think about their next piece of hardware.
Time moved on and NVIDIA, undaunted by the ATi's Radeon 8500, launched their next iteration of graphics cards to critical acclaim. The GeForce 4 Ti series built on NVIDIA's efficient driver base by offering the most advanced consumer-level 3D accelerators thus far. The Ti 4600 flagship model comprehensively outclassed the GeForce 3 line when one raised the resolution and applied anti-aliasing / anisotropic filtering into the mix.
The NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti clan, comprising of the Ti 4600, Ti 4400, and Ti 4200, based on the same core architecture but speed-graded for monetary reasons, have ruled the roost for the past 5 months.
That's not to say that ATi have been sitting idle praying for a saviour. Details began emerging of there new, revised graphics card; one that would finally rip away the performance crown that NVIDIA had held on to for so long.
There's a new Sheriff in town. Meaner, sleeker, and faster than anything that has come before. The R9700 has landed.