I can remember a while back (oh...about a year or two ago), when a new concept began to crop its head around in the graphics community. It was called Anti-Aliasing and was going to revolutionize the way that we played games or viewed 3D graphics. And while the technology showed great promise, the sheer loss of performance in both graphics and systems just wasn't worth the pretty pictures.
Fast forward to today. Newer video cards are beginning to show some promise where Anti-Aliasing is concerned, but the performance hits can still be pretty detrimental to the speed of your graphics system. Or at least they were until the Radeon based cards began hitting the streets. The added bandwidth and sheer processing horsepower began to make these graphical enhancements more of a reality.
To put this theory to the test, we took the Sapphire 9700 Pro and ran it through our battery of tests so that we could compare it to default settings. As a rule, while there were still performance hits seen, the level of degradation wasn't to a point where any of the tests became unplayable. The results will be shown below along with the results of the overclockability of the board.
And as a special note, when the Anti-Aliasing settings were cranked to 4x and the Anisotropic Filtering was set to 16x (yes, I was trying to choke the card), the visual quality was the best that I have seen to date bar none! If you want to see a truly beautiful sight, then enable these settings and take a run through the Nature scene of the 3DMark2001SE benchmark. All I can say is that it was spectacular.
It is pretty much common knowledge that the entire Radeon series of video board is not known for its keen ability to be overclocked (at least not without hacks). While there has been limited success with the core of the 9700 series boards, that has been about the extent of it.
So I wasn't really expecting anything great from this Sapphire board when I started tweaking it. But when you have a powerful component, you just have to at least give it a shot, so I loaded up a fresh install of Powerstrip and got down to it.
To my surprise, I was able to run a very stable 370.5MHz core speed and a decent 349.5MHz memory speed (699MHz DDR speeds). This reflects a 14% overclock on the core and a 12.7% overclock on the memory. While not huge, it is a good deal higher than I had expected. Oh, and remember that this is all done without any active cooling for the card also.
Additional Benchmarking Results
As promised, here are the results after running tests at default settings, with 4x AA and 16x AF, and also at overclocked speeds of 370.5/349.5
As a final note concerning the Anti-Aliasing, I have always turned this feature off in the past because it makes games run slower than I am accustomed to. With the Sapphire 9700 Pro board in place, I now have it set on by default and am still enjoying high frame rates in my games plus a new level of visual quality that is well worth the loss of some high-end Frames Per Second.