RADEON 8500 - Driven To New Heights

The Second Attempt

ATi has now released a new driver (v7206) . This new version addresses many of the problems from the first round of reviews: it resolves the Quake 3 "issue;" offers SmoothVision FSAA; and, enables 16tap anisotropic filtering. On top of that, it improves performance.


Like Nvidia's Quincunx, ATi's "SmoothVision" FSAA technology is based on MultiSampling. This FSAA method allows for much higher frame rates than the SuperSampling method, which was used in the GeForce2 series and the older Radeon. For a more detailed explanation of these FSAA techniques, take a look at this article: High-Tech And Vertex Juggling - NVIDIA's New GeForce3 GPU - Super-Sampling Anti-Aliasing .

ATi is taking anti-aliasing one step further, refining it a bit more. Since the MultiSampling FSAA technique always produces slightly blurred textures, it is inherently inferior to the SuperSampling method. ATi is attempting to tackle this problem by using SmoothVision, which lets the user choose between maximum quality or maximum performance. While the second option is obviously optimized for speed, the first uses larger textures and therefore requires more memory and more bandwidth. Additionally, the textures are filtered, producing a much crisper result.

Next to the usual 2x and 4x FSAA modes, the new drivers also offer settings for 3x and 6x. The "Quality" and "Performance" levels allow different maximum resolutions. Here's a chart:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Maximum 32Bit FSAA Resolution
Quality 2x1280x1024Perform. 2x1600x1200
Quality 3x800x600Perform. 3x1280x1024
Quality 4x1024x768Perform. 4x1280x1024
Quality 5x800x600Perform. 5x1024x768
Quality 6x800x600Perform. 6x1024x768

The following screenshots show the differences in detail:

A closer look at these images reveals the differences among the various FSAA implementations and settings. At 2x FSAA, the Ti500 does a better job of smoothing the jagged edges, but offers lower texture quality - even when compared to ATi's performance setting. At the 4x setting, differences are very hard to make out - the results on both cards are nearly identical. Once again, the Ti500's image is less crisp than the Radeon's. This effect becomes even more pronounced when Nvidia's Quincunx mode is used.