Strike Force: The new ATI Radeon 9800, 9600 and 9200 Series

3DMark 2003

The newest version of 3DMark is currently being hotly disputed (see also 3D Mark 2003: The Gamers' Benchmark (?) and 3DMark 2003: Talking Back to NVIDIA ). As of yet, we are still undecided on how useful we find this test.

There is also a bit of confusion where NVIDIA's drivers are concerned. NVIDIA's official line is that the press should use driver version 42.72 (dated 24.02.2003) when testing the FX. Meanwhile, "newer" drivers have cropped up: i.e., version 43.00 (dated 13.02.2003).

The fact of the matter is that with version 42.72, the GeForceFX achieves an overall score that is 2000 points higher than with version 43.00. A first, and as yet unproven, hypothesis is that 42.72 uses only 16Bit floating-point precision, while other versions use full 32Bit precision and are consequently slower. Microsoft's WHQL requirements specify a minimum precision of 24Bits, which is what the ATi R300/ R350 chips use.

The interesting question is therefore which driver the FX cards will end up shipping with. Graphics card maker PNY may already have the answer, as the company's home page already sports drivers for its FX 5800 - version 43.00 of 13.02.2003! This gives the 42.72 drivers the taste of a "benchmark driver." Only a WHQL certified driver will be able to give us definite answers, but at this point, such a version does not yet exist.

We decided to test the FX with both available driver versions in 3DMark 2003.

Again, for the sake of completeness, here are the overall scores: