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ATI Radeon 9700 Pro Video Card
Date 24th September 2002
Author James "Agg" Rolfe
Manufacturer ATI
Vendor Plus Corporation


AGP 8X?
I would have liked to isolate any performance difference that the R9700 Pro's support of AGP8X provides, by benchmarking in AGP8X mode and then again in AGP4X mode on the same system. However, this proved to be difficult. I have an SiS648-based motherboard (Gigabyte's GA-8SG667) here which supports AGP8X, but there has been a spate of recent stories about incompatability between SiS's AGP8X and ATI's cards. Another issue is that there are no updated BIOS files for this motherboard yet and the feature-limited shipping BIOS doesn't allow you to choose the AGP speed (4X, 8X etc). The same problem exists on the Gigabyte KT400 motherboard I have for review - there's no option to force AGP4X mode in the BIOS versions available at the time of testing.

I had hoped there may be a way to do it in software. PowerStrip was suggested by a few forum-goers, but it reports that the motherboard doesn't support AGP8X, so an update to PowerStrip (or a newer Gigabyte BIOS) might be needed there. WCPUID reports that it's running in 8X when the Radeon is installed and 4X when the Ti4600 is installed. The same WCPUID behaviour was observed on the KT400 motherboard, where PowerStrip would let me change the options but consistently set it back to AGP8X anyway.

So, testing at the different speeds to isolate a difference was not possible. Looks like we'll have to look at AGP8X in a separate article at some point. However, because of this issue, I tested the card on a KT333 system as well - where AGP8X isn't supported at all - so we can see how the card compares in an AGP4X-only environment.

I will note that I only had one problem with either board running in AGP8X mode - the system would stay at the black screen when entering the third section of the Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo Benchmark. Trying to return to the desktop would not work and the machine would have to be powered off. Both the SiS648 and the KT400 board displayed this behaviour. On the KT333 board, which is the only time the R9700 was running in AGP4X, this benchmark completed without a hitch.

Testbeds Setup
The obvious comparison to make is against nVIDIA's flagship GeForce4 Ti4600 chipset and in that corner we have Leadtek's WinFast A250 Ultra TD. The rest of the first testbed is as follows:

Testbed 1 - Hardware
Gigabyte GA-8SG667 (SiS648) Motherboard
Intel Pentium IV 2.0A (2.0GHz, 400MHz DDR FSB CPU (overclocked to 533MHz DDR FSB, so 2.66GHz core speed)
Corsair XMS3000 256MB @ 356MHz DDR (timing not reported)
Antec SL350 SmartPower 350W PSU
IBM 75GXP 30GB 7200rpm ATA100 Hard Drive

As noted earlier, the R9700 is running in AGP8X mode on this motherboard. I couldn't find a way to force the SiS648-based motherboard into AGP4X to level the playing-field. This means for these testbed we can't distinguish between gains from the AGP8X interface and gains from the actual chipset.

The second testbed is as follows:

Testbed 2 - Hardware
Soltek SL-75DRV5 KT333-based motherboard (review here)
AMD AthlonXP 1600+ CPU (1.4GHz, 266MHz DDR FSB)
Corsair XMS3000 256MB @ 333MHz DDR @ CAS2
Antec SL350 SmartPower 350W PSU
IBM 75GXP 30GB 7200rpm ATA100 Hard Drive

On this testbed, both video cards are running in AGP4X mode becaue the motherboard does not support AGP8X. This testbed will let us see how the cards compare on a less powerful system. In my AthlonXP 2600+ review you can see a 2.133GHz AthlonXP scores roughly on par with a 2.53GHz P4. Today we are using a 1.4GHz AthlonXP and a 2.66GHz P4, so there is a large difference in CPU speed between these two testbeds. Here's a summary of the operating system and drivers used:

Both Testbeds - Software
Windows 2000 SP3
DirectX 8.1b
SiS AGP Driver v1.10 (latest official - SiS648 system)
VIA 4-in-1 Drivers v4.43 (latest official - KT333 system)
DetonatorXP 30.82 (latest official - GeForce4 Ti4600)
Catalyst 02.3 build 5.13.01.6166 (latest official - Radeon 9700 Pro)


All original content copyright James Rolfe.
All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without written permission.
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