After taking a leisurely stroll through the specifications and abilities of this video board, we finally get down to what nearly everyone wants to see; the cold, hard numbers. Since pricing puts this card in the same market as the GeForce4 Ti4200 series cards, we'll compare directly against one of these. This will let us see firsthand just what the Radeon boards are capable of.
It should be noted that the nVidia based card is of the newer AGP 8x persuasion, so there won't be an immediate advantage for the ATI powered card.
But before we get into the numbers, we'll look at the test system.
Motherboard: EPoX 8K9A2 (KT400 chipset)
Processor: Athlon XP 1800+ @ 1870MHz (Thoroughbred)
Memory: 512MB Crucial PC2700 DDR
Display: Hitachi SuperScan 814 21" CRT
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB
Drivers used for testing will be the Catalyst 3.0 series for the Radeon board and Detonator 40.52 for the GeForce4. One item of note for those moving from one of these cards to the other, make sure to completely remove the previous set of drivers before installing the new board. If you use Windows XP, then you will have no problems with just removing the old board from within Device Manager. For those using an older operating system, do yourself a favor and get a utility that removes stray fragments and files of the previous board.
The tests I ran were very simple so that anyone can perform them for themselves. They consisted of the 3DMark2001SE from Futuremark (formerly MadOnion) and a pair of benchmarks available in the Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo. All tests were performed at default settings and all tests were run in the 3DMark program.
How many of you folks can remember when the 3DMark2001 utility first came out? Those who were anywhere close to the 5,000 3DMark range were considered near God-like in their system building prowess! My, how times change.
Though the 2001 version of this utility is beginning to show its age, we will continue to use it until the newer versions hit the streets, which should be soon from all reports. The results we see here give the win to the ATI powered Radeon card, but the numbers reflect only about a 2.3% advantage in performance. Still, not too shabby when you consider that both of these boards come in well under US$200.
But even though the overall scores give the Radeon board the win, the Nature test shows us another side of the story. The Nature test is a DirectX 8 and higher test that has sent many video cards over the edge. The sheer amount of data it throws at a card is larger than most games currently available, so helps show us how well it can handle large graphics with high quality. But again, the winner of this round got top honors by a meager 2.6%
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
When you download the UT2003 Demo, it comes complete with a pair of built-in benchmarks. The first is called a Flyby Benchmark and consists of two demos that record a virtual tour of the levels. It is similar to being in Spectator Mode in the Quake series of games. During the virtual tour, it records the frames per second of each map and then gives you an average.
The second test is called the BotMatch Benchmark and consists of another pair of demos; this time with bots having a fragfest. Since there is movement involved with the characters on screen, this test will have a more drastic effect on the frame rates. After the two demos have run, the program again calculates the average frames per second and displays the result.
So how did the contestants fare in this endeavor? I'm glad you asked.
UT2003 Demo Flyby Benchmark
After the slight slip in the Nature benchmark above, the Sapphire card has climbed on top again. This time the margin of victory is a bit higher with a result of 7% higher performance. Though not staggering, these cards are selling to those on a limited budget. When is the last time you expected to get this type of performance from a budget board?
UT2003 Demo BotMatch Benchmark
This seems to be getting to be a habit. The Sapphire Radeon board again took the checkered flag, but this time the gap was roughly 1%