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ATI 9800 Pro Mac Edition FAQ and InfoReturn to News Page
Mac ATI 9800 Pro Info and FAQ
Posted: 7/16/2003
Updated: 8/11/2003 for note on driver update

(NOTE: for info/tests of later graphics card models, see the Video articles page, Graphics card section.)

Tests of 9800 Pro Card: On Sept. 17th. 2003, I posted a page with 9800 Pro card tests in a Dual G5 (vs 9600 card) and in a MDD Dual G4/1.25GHz System. (Tests included UT2003, Jedi II, Quake3 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein.) In October 2003, I posted Retail vs BTO/OEM 9800 Pro Graphics Cards in a Dual G5 2GHz.

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 1.1 Driver Update (from Aug. 8th, 2003 - links removed as no longer online)

"New 1.1 software with 3D overrides and robust HTML manual for ATI Displays (inside "What's New" alias) has been posted:
Release notes:
ttyl. -Bruno (ATI)
(he later wrote)
There is a "What's New" document in the archive that provides an introduction to the 9800 Pro and documents, in detail, all the functionality of ATI Displays. Please read it for info on everything from VERSAVISION to what the different Advanced/3D options do. There's even a page dedicated to FSAA and Anisotropic filtering, with magnified example images.
As always, stay tuned for more... "

Remember to run repair permissions from Jag's Disk Utility after running the installer. A good general rule to follow for any OS X or X apps update also.) I've got a 9800 pro review in the works now (very late due to family health problems in the last few weeks). As with my 9700 Pro OEM review, I'm comparing it to a GF4 Ti, 9000 Pro and 8500 graphics cards in a Dual G4 MDD system.
Note - when OS X 10.2.7 is released, Bruno said to run the 1.1 installer again to install the ATI displays software (drivers from 10.2.7 will not be overwritten).

ATI Displays Control Panel Features Require Retail 9800
To answer a frequently asked question - the 4.1 ATI Displays control panel for the retail 9800 Pro card (with the cool "3D/OpenGL Overrides" feature noted below as well as "versavision" accelerated display rotation) will not work with the BTO/OEM 9800 Pro card that's an option on new G5 systems. This came direct from my ATI contact (Bruno) and is not a "bug" in the control panel - ATI control panels even in the past have never worked with OEM versions of Radeon cards shipped in macs - only with retail card versions. I wish the BTO/OEM 9800 could use the features of the ATI retail card control panel - but currently it doesn't. (I'm hoping Apple will work with ATI to enable that in the future, but currently the control panel checks for a retail card.)

Note About Display Support: The 9800 Pro retail card has DVI, VGA and S-Video port - it does not have an ADC port. Therefore anyone with an ADC display would have to buy a DVI to ADC adapter (Dr.Bott, Gefen, Formac and Apple sell these as noted in the FAQ here. I'd probably go with Apple's ADC adapter.) The BTO 9800 Pro (only available with a new G5) has ADC + DVI ports, but won't work in other Mac models before the G5.

Since I did not see it online yet (as of July 16th, 2003), here's a copy of the ATI FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on the 9800 Pro retail Mac Edition card (originally $399 list in July 2003) announced today.

9800 pro card

Mac Radeon 9800 Pro FAQ:

  • Will the RADEON 9800 Pro be ready for Mac OS X Panther?
    Yes. The RADEON 9800 Pro Mac Edition will be supported with the new Panther release of the OS by default. As a matter of fact, key support for running the latest ATI Technology Demos is included in all future OS releases. The ATI retail control panel, ATI Displays, will continue to be available as a download from ATI.COM.

  • Will gamers get an appreciable performance boost in games when updating to Panther?
    The biggest performance increases will come from future titles which will make use of the numerous new OpenGL features and optimizations in Panther.

  • Where can I see shader technology on the Mac today?
    Demos supporting pixel and vertex shaders on all RADEON products after 8500 were released on the ATI.COM Developer Relations site. The new generation of demos, first shown at WWDC 2003, for the RADEON 9600, 9700 and 9800 will be available soon on the same site and are being shown at the Macworld Creativepro Conference & Expo at ATI's booth (#548)

  • So the 9800 Pro is being announced, when will it ship?
    The RADEON 9800 Pro will be shipping on the same day it is announced: July 16 2003, at Macworld Creativepro. Interested parties may purchase the product through the ATI.COM online store. Just follow the banners.

  • What will are the engine and memory clocks of the retail RADEON 9800 Pro? And how does this compare with the PC version?
    The Mac retail clock speeds are the same as PC retail: 380 MHz engine/680 MHz memory (340 DDR).

  • The RADEON 9800 Pro Mac Edition is going to cost more than the PC version, right?
    No. The Suggested Retail Price (SRP) of the RADEON 9800 Pro Mac Edition is the same as the PC/Windows version at USD$399

  • What happened to the RADEON 9700?
    The RADEON 9700 Pro was released as an Apple Build-to-Order product and was originally intended to have a Mac retail version as well. However, it was decided that the RADEON 9800 Pro would offer the best value with the technology and feature-set consumers wanted most. Not to mention relative generational and pricing parity with the Windows/PC product.

  • Which Power Mac models are compatible with the RADEON 9800 Pro? And what AGP does it use?
    The RADEON 9800 Pro is configured to work in all Power Mac G4 and G5 computers. The card is AGP 2.0 compliant and is configured for 4x and 2x operation.

  • Will it work at 8x in the new Power Mac G5?
    No. The RADEON 9800 Pro retail card will work at AGP 4x in the G5. This is necessary for compatibility with existing G4 computers. The Apple RADEON 9800 Pro (available as a build-to-order option for G5 only) is an AGP Pro 8x card.

  • How much power does the RADEON 9800 Pro require? Is it going to work in my G4?
    ATI recommends a 300-Watt power supply or greater to ensure normal system operation where a number of other internal devices are installed. This recommendation is on the conservative side because not all supplies are labeled consistently - a peak power rating is not the same as a continuous rating for instance. The RADEON 9800 Pro has been successfully tested in every AGP Power Mac G4 release and in the Power Mac G5.

  • What OS versions are supported by the RADEON 9800 Pro? Will it work in Mac OS 9?
    Mac OS X 10.2.5 and later are supported. The release software for the RADEON 9800 Pro includes drivers that will install on versions 10.2.5 and 10.2.6 of Mac OS X. ATI Displays and its required files will continue to install on any future releases. Versions of Mac OS X beyond 10.2.6 contain support built-in for the RADEON 9800 Pro, and future updates will be available on the ATI.COM web site. The CD release includes updated Mac OS 9 extensions that allow the card to boot, but no acceleration or other features will be available. Mac OS X 10.2.5 is the base OS for RADEON 9800 class graphics products and their new technology.

  • When will the new ATI Displays be released?
    (Update - see the links to the 1.1 installer noted a the top of this page, it has the 4.1 displays control panel included. The advanced features of ATI Displays 4.1 like 3D/OpenGL overrides requires a retail (not BTO) 9800 Pro card-Mike)
    The CD within the RADEON 9800 Pro retail box includes ATI Displays version 4.0. This version adds support for VERSAVISIONŠ and Advanced Display Options but lacks the new OpenGL ĻOverrides. Support for the new OpenGL Overrides is available in RADEON 9800 Pro Mac Update 1.1 which should be available on the ATI.COM web site in July 2003 - at the same time people will be installing their RADEON 9800 Pro cards.

    Info on "3D/OpenGL Overrides" Feature of 4.1 ATI Displays Control Panel: (from the reviewer's guide - requires a retail 9800 Pro card, and will not work with BTO 9800 or older cards currently from what I'm told by ATI.)

    3D / OpenGL Overrides
    The most versatile and useful features of ATI Displays for game enthusiasts will likely be the OpenGL Overrides Tab inside the 3D Options Pane. Though advanced 3D quality features such as Full Scene Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering have been available in one form or another in past ATI products, game developers have not all taken immediate adoption of these options, not to mention the impracticality of trying to update older game titles. This configuration tab puts control of a number of 3D settings directly in the hands of the game player, even if such options cannot be modified within a game, or in fact are not even supported by a specific title.

    Note: The new 3D pane and OpenGL Overrides tab is only available to the public starting with ATI Displays 4.1. This new version is scheduled to be available in a 1.1 RADEON 9800 Pro Mac Edition software update on the ATI.COM site around the same time the product is available in retail. The version included in the RADEON 9800 Pro retail box is 4.0. This Review Guide is bundled with a Pre-Final version.

    With ATI Displays, game players have the ability to define per-title 3D option profiles as well as option presets that can be used by multiple titles. All this from an easy to use and easy to understand interface, representing the first implementation of this profiling scheme (something not even available from ATI's Windows control panels). The options apply to titles using OpenGL and include: Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA), Anisotropic Filtering (AF), Vertical Sync (VSync) and a composite control in the form of a Performance slider. Various combinations of options can be set to tailor the game playing experience between two extremes: force highest-quality visual settings or force the highest performance possible.

    Let's look at the benefits of the design and then discuss the individual options:
    GL Options may set on a per title basis: Not every application will benefit from the very same settings. In fact, some applications may not be well suited to specific settings. Different games are also played in different ways and for different reasons. For example, a fast paced first-person shooter title would likely benefit from high frame rates during a skirmish type match, while other games, let's say a Golf game where insane frame rates are secondary, may benefit from a maximum quality boost. Per-title settings allow the player to pick how each game is treated or whether certain options are used at all for individual titles.

    GL Option settings may be shared between multiple titles: For the cases where the same settings are to be used for multiple titles, it can be time consuming if having to touch settings one at a time. For this reason shared option presets can be created. Any unique application profile can be saved to become a shared preset and then this preset can be selected for any other title. Now when wanting to make changes to multiple games at once, only the shared preset needs to be adjusted to affect all appropriate games.

    Changes made to ATI Displays GL Options take effect immediately: When tweaking settings it's helpful to quickly see what's changing to evaluate once choice over another. Having to restart systems or applications takes time and the changes may not be as easily appreciated. ATI Displays supports live 3D Option settings. Any changes to a title's GL Options will take effect immediately - while that title is running. For some full-screen titles this may be more convenient if the display is set to a windowed mode to facilitate getting to ATI Displays in the background.

    3D Overrides panel

    The options are called "Overrides" for a good reason: any setting made in ATI Displays will override a title's own built-in or preference-based settings. As mentioned above, this is also true for titles which don't have native support for the features being set here. Turning on FSAA for instance means that a given title will display with FSAA, regardless of what is set in its own prefs or if that application even knows about FSAA. If a specific game has been programmed to request 4x FSAA, but 6x or "OFF" is selected in ATI Displays, then only the ATI Displays setting will apply when running the title.

    The overrides can be used in a number of ways:
    to turn ON functionality that is either not supported or not enabled by a title
    to turn OFF functionality that is normally enabled by a title. left unapplied, causing the game to use its own settings for that feature

    Application Profile drop-down menu: This list displays the titles that have been profiled. Its initial state is empty and is represented by a single dash "-" character. When multiple titles have been defined, they will be selected from this list any time they are to be modified.

    Add Button: Pressing this button will pop up an Open file dialog. From here an application should be chosen to define its profile. Its name will appear in the Application Profile drop-down list.

    Remove Button: Pressing this button removes the currently selected application profile. A warning dialog appears to confirm the deletion.

    Browse Button: This button is reserved to enter the advanced management interface which will be enabled in the next web update.

    Preset drop-down menu: This list defines what kind of options are being set for the above-selected title. By default "Unique Profile" is listed, which means that any settings made apply only to the specific title listed in the Application Profile menu. A number of other time-saving entries are also included in this list:

      Disable Profile: This preset means that the override options are disabled for the selected application. The applications own settings will be used. This is a useful preset for temporarily disabling custom 3D settings. There is no need to create "Disabled" profiles for applications that are not to be used with the overrides - just don't create profiles for any such applications.

      High Performance: This preset causes the quality options, including VSync, to be forced OFF while the performance slider is set to its maximum. Note that some games will have certain configuration settings that can still be adjusted to further improve performance - this setting only affects the override options discussed here. Individual settings cannot be adjusted while using built-in profiles.

      Balanced Settings: Similar to the above, Balanced is another built-in profile, but it contains settings that are a balance between speed and quality. FSAA, Anisotropic Filtering and the Performance slider are forced on and set to a mid level. VSync is set to OFF.

      Best Quality: This preset contains pre-defined settings to force the highest quality display. It sets VSync to ON, and FSAA and Anisotropic Filtering to their maximum.

    The last two entries in the Preset list are Add Preset and Edit Presets. The Add item creates custom presets and will cause a window to pop up asking for a preset name. After entering a name, the current settings are saved to a preset and its name will now appear in the preset list. The Edit item brings up another window allowing the duplication, deletion and renaming of custom presets.

    Options: Performance, FSAA (Multi | Super), Anisotropic Filtering and Vertical Sync

    Override options are enabled by selecting their respective check-boxes. If an item is left unchecked it means that option is not being set by ATI Displays and the application's own default or setting will be used - it does not mean that feature is being forced "OFF." If the option is checked, it means the application's own settings will be replaced by whatever is specified in ATI Displays.

    Performance Slider: This option is actually a composite consisting of numerous settings and tweaks internal to the ATI 3D driver. None of these modification counter the quality options below and this control may be used at any time in any combination. Generally, the changes become more aggressive as the slider is moved to the right and while performance will increase, there may be a small (minor, might not even be visible) penalty to visual quality. The specific driver changes of this composite control are beyond the scope of this guide - and may also be highly secretive - we'd have to kill you if we told you. :)

    FSAA: Full Scene Anti-Aliasing, in simple terms, is used to smooth "jaggies" in 3D content. This option, unlike the others, features an additional parameter which controls its method. The choices are between Super-sampling and Multi-sampling. Super supports up to 4x filtering and Multi up to 6x. More detailed explanations are available on the pages dealing with Image Quality. The slider next to this option controls its setting, with a range from OFF to 6x (for Multi-sampling). This setting provides higher quality, but at a penalty to over-all speed or frame rate.

    Anisotropic Filtering: At its simplest, this technology is used to sharpen texture details - most notably at oblique angles (floor or wall textures in the distance that would generally become smeared or distorted). Its range of settings is from OFF to 16x for the RADEON 9800 Pro. This setting provides higher quality, but at a penalty to over-all speed or frame rate. More details of the technology are in the Image Quality section.

    Vertical Sync: With only an ON or OFF setting, this option is the easiest to set and likely the most readily appreciated visually. It causes 3D context display updates to be in sync with the current refresh rate, preventing visual tearing (when not in sync, the updates to the 3D view may occur mid-display which may often produce a visual tear during moments of fast-paced movement or action). This option will always affect the frame rate of the application: The maximum frame rate will never be able to go above the refresh rate (for instance, 60 frames per second for a 60Hz refresh). This also means that if a game is very demanding and takes even longer to render a frame, that instead of getting an update during the next mid-frame, it will have to wait until the next full frame, causing a momentary dip to 30fps. Running a display at 60Hz, with every frame taking up only full cycles, it means the following frame rates are possible: 60, 30, 20, 15, 12, 10, etc..

    The imaging enhancements offered by ATI Displays' 3D/GL Options are particularly useful to Mac users for a couple of specific reasons: Games for Mac OS and Windows are often CPU bound: application performance for these cases is determined by the speed of the processor, not the by speed of the graphics hardware. Because of this, enabling options such as FSAA and Anisotropic Filtering, that would normally degrade graphics performance, will in fact result in very little frame rate loss. This is particularly true for the RADEON 9800 when running older games that were not written with newer, more advanced 3D requirements/features.

    FSAA and Anisotropic Filtering are also useful options when having to run games at lower resolutions. TV output, as well as most Digital Flat Panel Displays, cannot run the higher resolutions of CRTs. Enabling these quality features can compensate for the lack of resolution by helping to better define the quality of the textures and in-game objects. The benefit of the quality features are quite far-reaching and should offer value to a large percentage of gaming enthusiasts.

    As in life, nothing is ever black and white and there are a number of potential caveats with certain games. The overrides have been tested with a large number of current and upcoming titles and notable problems may be found in the Caveat Addendum (Currently listed GL overrides not compatible with Cromag Rally, Otto Matic and Spyhunter current versions.)

    ATI 9800 Pro Mac Edition Related Links:
    (links removed after ATI pages no longer online)

    For comparison tests of the previous Mac 9700 Pro OEM card, see the graphics card section of the Video topics page.

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