ATi recently surprised us with the release of two new graphics chipsets - the R9700 for high-end users and the R9000 for those on a budget. Early previews have shown that the R9700 provides performance that is far superior to what we have previously seen from any past 3D accelerator (beating the GeForce 4 Ti4600 by a significant margin), while the R9000 provides performance that places it well ahead of competing chipsets that are in the same price range.
In the past, ATi has been continually plagued by poor driver sets, even though their hardware has been up to scratch with competition. However, since the release of their Radeon 8500 chipset, ATi has certainly given nVidia something to worry about, with the R8500 beating the GeForce 3 Ti500 in both price and performance. Although the release of nVidia's GeForce4 chipset sent ATi back to the drawing board, they have once again managed to wrestle the performance crown from nVidia in the high-end graphics chipset market as well as the budget market.
Due to the fact that nVidia's next major graphics chipset (NV30) isn't due out for at least another few months, ATi can quite comfortably enjoy their market lead for some time to come. The first of ATi's new graphics chipsets to hit our labs was the R9000 based Hercules 3D Prophet 9000. How does it compare to the GeForce4 range and most importantly, is it worth the money? Read on to find out!