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Ron Ridley Auto Care Mall

  ATI Radeon 8500 128 Meg video
This card was first released October 2001 as a 64Meg card. This 128 Meg version was release March 2002. It has both a standard analog monitor output as well as a digital output for a flat panel display. There is an included adaptor to convert the digital output to a second analog monitor output. There is also a SVHS output for connection to your TV. Also included are cables and another adaptor that coverts the SVHS to a composite signal.

Guess what showed up in the mail yesterday? Nick said “here you do it – you’re the hardware nut”.
Well I looked at it with trepidation as I have read that changing from NVidia (my old Gforce 2 400MX) drivers to ATI – or vice versa – would cause Windows XP to crash so bad that it would have to be reinstalled.
So I decided to install it on my test drive as I had a DriveImage backup and could restore my hard drive in a matter of minutes.
I followed ATI’s instructions and booted up using my old video card – went into the control panel – add remove programs and elected to remove the NVidia drivers. I then rebooted to make sure that I was in the VGA mode.
All worked so far. I then shut down the computer remembering to disconnect the power cord. Remember that most new computers are never fully “off”. Some have LEDs on the Motherboard to remind you of this. You could possibly fry the video card or motherboard if you tried removing or installing a card. Also remember to rest your forearm on the computer case to reduce the possibility of static electricity.
The physical install is easier than it sounds – now for boot-up.
Away we go – Windows XP found new hardware “please insert ATI CD in drive “-“. The install of drivers was smooth and automatic. I decided to try the enclosed cd drivers first even though I had downloaded a newly released set. This was an old problem with ATI – painfully slow driver releases – that seems to be solved. They promise new drivers approximately ever 1 to 2 months.

I had to reset my monitor frequency and rearrange my icons on the desktop and all was as before.
Now the big test – what still runs and do games run better – sharper and quicker?

The first program I ran is a very old Windows 3.11 program that I use to evaluate the speed of the graphics in the computer – Wintach – it ran on forever and had to be shut down manually. This actually happed with various NVidia drivers so it wasn’t a real problem. I then tried various games.
I started with a very old game – Need for Speed Porsche. The text was almost unreadable. It was better with the NVidia card but not great. The graphics in the game were smoother (edges) and appeared to have more depth to the colors.
I then tried my flight simulators. I started with Combat Flight Simulator as it was quite old and will show the frame rates. It appeared the same as the old Gforce card but did show an increase of frame rate – from an average of 70 to 79, with bounces up to 100.
Flight unlimited III and Flight Simulator 2002 Pro worked well and did look better.
I then tried Microsoft’s original Midtown Madness as I had a lot of trouble with the graphics using the NVidia card in XP. It was excellent – no artefacts – cars driving through buildings etc. I tried allied Assault and it appeared the same especially looking at the smoke and graphic edges.

Now came the next test. I decided to install the new drivers over the pre-existing drivers even though the instructions tell you to remove the previous version first. Later I followed ATI’s advice and just installed the newer drivers on my working hard drive.
All went well and they ran ok. I tried Wintach again. This time it locked up the computer and had to be physically powered off. All the games still ran and Soldier of Fortune II – Double Helix was worth playing. Not for the game but the superb graphics. It is apparently optimized for the special features that are built into the card TRUFORM,HYPERZ II,SMOOTHVISION,SMARTSHADER,CHARISMA ENGINE II, PIXEL TAPESTRY II and most importantly – DirectX 8 and OpenGL 1.3 support. If you want more details on these, go to ATI.COM.

I dug around in my library of computer magazines and read the numerous reviews that have been written about the card. It was rated as 10 out of 10 by Maximum PC magazine back in November 2001 but they were concerned about ATI’s slow and sporadic release of drivers. This seems to have been fixed and they have actually released new drivers (08-01-2002) that are compatible with the upcoming service release for Windows XP - before it has been released and they admit (on their web page) about their past poor record and are doing something about it. I feel more confident in a company that accepts responsibility and tries to correct it, than one that blames the phase of the moon or the government for their problems and goes on with their head in the sand.

I was considering upgrading to a NVidia Gforce 4 card but there are so many variations that it is hard to decide which one to get so I am glad this card came along at a time when I was questioning NVidia’s superiority. I am very happy with the performance and apparent solid drivers and I am sorry Nick BUT It IS STAYING IN MY COMPUTER. Well done ATI.

From ATI’s web page:
Groundbreaking graphics performance
• Powered by ATI’s latest and most powerful RADEON™ 8500 GPU
• 128MB DDR memory provides lightning-fast 3D graphics
• Features TRUFORM™ technology to make characters and objects more rounded and natural
• HYPER Z™ II technology conserves memory bandwidth for improved performance in demanding applications
• SMOOTHVISION™, ATI’s most advanced anti-aliasing, eliminates distracting visual artifacts for smoother looking images
• High resolution 32-bit 3D gaming up to 2048x1536
Most advanced visual effects
• SMARTSHADER™ technology takes advantage of the DirectX® 8.1 features to enable more complex and realistic lighting effects
• Support for DirectX® 8.1 and OpenGL® 1.3 applications
• CHARISMA ENGINE™ II supports Transformation, Clipping and Lighting (T&L) at 68.7 million triangles/second peak processing capability
• PIXEL TAPESTRY™ II, 3D rendering engine, powers an incredible 2.4 gigatexels/second for high fill rates in 32-bit at high resolutions

Review ID Number: 436
  Product Details
ATI Technologies
Review Date: 2002-08-03
Reviewer: John Mitchell
Rating: 10 out of 10
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