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First Look at ATI's Rage 128

From 100 Down To 90 MHz Core Clock Sounding Familiar?

Now what has happened since the presentation of the Rage 128 more than 3 months ago? Well, you certainly remember the embarrassing retreat NVIDIA had to go through.

In March 1998 they announced RIVA TNT with great performance data, but finally they had to take back this data because TNT wouldn't run at the expected 125 MHz but at only 90 MHz instead. Many people laughed about NVIDIA when that happened, but still the TNT is now the best performing 2D/3D-solution available.

The same seems to happen to ATI as well now, and we should show as much or as little mercy with ATI as we showed with NVIDIA. Initially the Rage 128 was supposed to run at 100 MHz core clock. The Rage 128 cards that went out to many reviewers now, are running at only 90 MHz core clock and this although the chip is supposed to be produced in .25 micron technology, as opposed to NVIDIA's TNT still using .35 micron and running at 90 MHz also.

Looking back at the 100 MHz expectations from before August 1998, ATI had to retreat just as well as NVIDIA had to, only that ATI has less of an excuse, since the Rage 128 is using the later technology already.

Nice Specs

Now what have we got with Rage 128? It's another dual pipeline 3D accelerating unit, just as TNT able to render 2 bilinear filtered pixels per clock or to render one dual-textured or bumped mapped pixel/clock. Thus the fill rate is identical to TNT, 180 Mpixels/s.

The additional features are what makes the difference. Rage 128 has several stages for the MPEG2 decoding process included and ATI claims that 85% of the MPEG2-decoding is done by Rage 128. This is certainly interesting for DVD playback in any kind of system, regardless if it contains a fast or a slower CPU.

Rage 128 does support up to 32 MB of local (onboard) memory, giving a possible advantage in games that are using a lot of large textures, because those textures can be stored locally, instead of transferring them in and out main memory via the AGP. There is a whole lot more nice little features, but opposed to all the other reviews of the Rage 128, I prefer to not copy the whole spec sheet, you can find it at ATI's website as well as in several other reviews of the Rage 128.

All in all you can say that there is no reason to expect miracles of Rage 128, in 3D it should be pretty close to NVIDIA's TNT.

Rage 128 Is Really Hot!

A lot of fuss was going on about the heat produced by the latest 3D chips. TNT is great for heating your complete office or living room and thus also consuming a considerably large amount of current.

3Dfx's Banshee is not much different either, it also reaches over 70 degrees Celsius and more when running 3D software.

Rage 128 is supposed to at least seem different. ATI was being very courageous, they shipped the review cards without a heat sink, maybe due to the fact that it's winter in Canada. Some of my reviewer colleagues from other websites concluded very sharply, that thus the Rage 128 doesn't get as hot as its competitors.

Well, sorry to destroy this myth, but my measurements showed that Rage 128 reaches no less than 91 degrees Celsius (!!!!) when running Quake 2, almost enough to boil water. Therefore I would like to kindly advise ATI to do something about it, unless they want to risk some kind of meltdown in consumer systems, particularly on motherboards.


The Rage 128 card ran fine in all the Slot1-systems I tried, however, I cannot say the same about its compatibility with Socket7 systems. Trying the Rage 128 in a Asus P5A motherboard was completely unsuccessful, the system never reached the Windows98-desktop.

The same happened with other Super7 motherboards based on ALI's Aladdin V chipset. VIA's Apollo MVP3 chipset seems to like the Rage 128 better, but when switching the 'Game Engine Performance Booster' to OpenGL acceleration, the screen would remain black after rebooting as well.

This is not very pleasant and shows even more that ATI has all reasons to delay the release of the Rage 128 until January 1999 at least.