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Review date: 4/26/98
Evaluation of 3D performance was based on using the cards in several real world 3D applications and a series of benchmarks to provide more accurate comparisons of performance than my "seat of the pants" judgements from using standard programs. 3D was one area where the ATI cards performed much better than the lower cost MacTell card.
At 1024x768, thousands colors, the 3D performance in all the applications I tested was similar with small window sizes, but larger window sizes or more complex models showed the ATI cards performed slightly better. This is all based on observations and "feel" in normal use, since the speed of rendering a scene is primarily dependent on the speed of the CPU. For those looking to get the best 3D application performance, make sure you have the fastest CPU you can afford and lots of ram in addition to a good video card. No video card can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, at least nothing I've tested so far. They can make a dramatic difference in Rave performance like Rave Quake however, literally doubling framerate.
NewTek has said they are sending a evaluation copy of Inspire, their new 3D application for use in my video card tests. In the future I will use it for performance reviews as well. As of the review date, the application had not arrived.
Although I've yet to see any huge differences between the 3D hardware accelerated video cards (with proper drivers) in 3D applications, I do have an appreciation for the texture mapping they provide when used with a fast CPU card. That combination really makes a big difference in productivity, just don't expect a video card alone to make a huge improvement with a slower CPU speed system.
I used Village Tronic's RaveBench 1.1.1 as both a benchmark and visual features check of the cards. It runs several tests of texture mapping, transparency, movement, and environment mapping functions. Although all cards supported all the features when the tests were run one by one, the RaveBench automatic test run would skip several tests on the MacTell Virge card as "not supported". I've reported this to MacTell. The ATI cards not only were faster, they also had better image quality in the tests, especially in the transparency test.
Charts below show several comparisons at the 640x480 test size. Since RaveBench can only compare two cards, several charts are required for a comparison of three cards.
I'm at a loss as to why the VR performed better at some RaveBench tests than the 3D card with the same engine. As you can see, the Virge based Vision 3D trailed the RagePro by a large margin in every test. Image quality was also generally better on the RagePro based cards, especially the transparency test.
Regarding the graph comparing the RagePro 3D to the 3Dfx based 3D Overdrive, keep in mind the 3D Overdrive is using Rave, not Glide. I suspect Glide performance would be much better based on what I've seen in Glide games. However there are no Mac Glide 3D applications/modelers and Glide can't do 3D in a window. Therefore you can't run the RaveBench test using Glide (it is called RAVEbench ;-).
For a explanation of RaveBench's tests, see my new Illustrated Guide to RaveBench.
I list the lowest framerate seen in the rotation of the scene, as that indicates how the card handles the toughest part of the scene.
The minimum framerates seen in two 360 degree spins for each of the three Walker scenes is shown below, with several more expensive cards shown for comparison:
- Xclaim 3D: 8.11 fps
- Xclaim VR: 8.33 fps
- Vision 3D: 6.67 fps
- Vision 3D Pro II: 4.29 fps (driver 5.1.2)
- 3D Overdrive: 6.00 fps
- Nexus GA: 8.00 fps
- Xclaim 3D: 9.38 fps
- Xclaim VR: 9.38 fps
- Vision 3D: 7.74 fps
- Vision 3D Pro II: 5.81 fps (driver 5.1.2)
- 3D Overdrive: 7.06 fps
- Nexus GA: 9.38 fps
- Xclaim 3D: 12.73 fps
- Xclaim VR: 12.73 fps
- Vision 3D: 9.38 fps
- Vision 3D Pro II: 9.09 fps (driver 5.1.2)
- 3D Overdrive: 9.68 fps
- Nexus GA: 12.73 fps
In summary, 3D performance and image quality of the ATI cards was better than the MacTell Vision 3D. Note in Walker the Virge outperformed the much higher priced Pro II card, an indication that the drivers for the Ticket2Ride Pro II are not taking full advantage of the chip. I can tell you from PC tests, the Virge is nowhere near as fast as the Ticket2Ride chip. The S3 Virge has a history of good 2D but poor 3D on the PC. My Descent II/Virge version was so slow it was unplayable (5-13 fps) even on a Pentium Pro 200, whereas the 3Dfx Descent II ran 30-60fps.
Based on what I saw in the PTP 180 on these tests, I rated the 3D speed of each card as follows:
- ATI Xclaim 3D: 8.5
- ATI Xclaim VR: 8.5
- MacTell Vision 3D: 6.0
I know that game performance is important in a consumer card to many of you, especially in games like Rave Quake - which separates the men from the boys in many cases. The next page shows results I had running several popular games.
Index of ATI RagePro 3D, VR and MacTell Vision 3D Review
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