Once again, I’m reminded of why I hate Ati cards.
I recently received a Rage 128 Pro. This is supposedly not a bad card for its time, should be somewhere around the TNT2 and G400. I already had a Rage 128 Pro Ultra, but that was a 64 bits bus width model, so I was eager to see what kind of difference the extra bandwidth would make. Everest says they are both running at 120c/120m, so that means the memory bus is 1920MB/s against 960MB/s.
Of course, I’d need to get it running first. I try to install my usual 7192, which worked just fine on the Ultra, but the card is not recognized. Apparently, Ati decided that OEM vendors modifying the ID was not a significant issue, so you’ll encounter this problem a lot. This is what happened in the next hour:
Drivers 7192 (latest Ati): card is not recognized
Drivers 610: installs, but card doesn’t work
Drivers 7087: installs, Windows hangs, must remove from safe mode
At this point I was kinda annoyed. Luckily, I seem to hit the jackpot with the next attempt, on drivers 654 beta. About time, too.
Initial results were somewhat disappointing. 3DMark shows no real difference outside of texture rendering speed, which is almost doubled. I should mention that the drivers of course are different, which might have an impact, but I’m not convinced that’s the only reason. Could it be that the Rage 128 Pro doesn’t really suffer from low bandwidth outside of very high resolutions? I’ve heard of its performance feats in 32 bits mode. Game tests will hopefully clarify things. Or at least, they should. Unfortunately, just like most Ati cards of the era, disabling Vsync in Direct3D is not an option.
(well, technically it is an option, it just doesn’t do anything)
Nevermind. OpenGL is still our friend, and even in D3D I can still compare the card with other similarly vsynced models. A good point of comparison would be provided by cards that used either two pipelines or two TMUs. My favorite kind of architecture, really. As usual, the tests are running on a P3-450mhz and 128MB SDR PC-100. Here we go:
Poor Trident… uh, I mean… as we can see, the Voodoo 3 is clearly ahead of the pack, and it should be, given that Quake 2 takes perfect advantage of its dual TMU design, plus it has a far higher clock speed than any other card (166mhz, while the others are ranging between 90mhz and 125mhz). The Kyro 1 and Oxygen GVX1 have some bottlenecking issues somewhere, either that or bad drivers. But from this chart, it seems that 128-bits data bus cards have little trouble powering through 800×600, while 64-bits model start choking already. The only exception is the Rage 128 Pro Ultra, which hangs on – could it truly be? Let’s see another game.
Newer is slower. Trident redeems itself! A bit, anyway. We can see here that no card can go past 48fps. I’d be hard pressed to call it a real CPU bottleneck, given that more powerful cards seem able to reach 60fps (and T&L models even 70fps). But it’s still something to consider. Things are more uneven here, but overall, it seems that 64-bits cards still struggle more. Not surprising. Even the Pro Ultra falters this time. Clock speeds are a bit higher than the Vanta, so obtaining similar results is not great. But hey, wanna talk about the Oxygen GVX1 and its 128-bits memories? I thought not.
The cards for Incoming have been all hand-picked, to only show you the ones limited by vsync. Be grateful. The G550 is actually an exception to my previous rule, since it’s a 2×2 design, but all my tests and other tests on the internet show that it’s usually as fast, if not a bit slower even, than a G400. And since, unlike the G400, it seems to be plagued by vsync, it is a better pick. But unfortunately the Rage 128 Pro doesn’t have a good showing here, even next to its older Rage 128 GL sibling. I blame drivers. The situation is better in Forsaken, but I forgot to fix a few things so you won’t get a chart. I will tell you that on 1024×768, the Pro reaches 47.2fps, better than the Ultra (38.8fps) and the GL (37.2fps). Be grateful.
At a glance, it seems to me that the Rage 128 Pro architecture is slightly less reliant on memory bandwidth than its competitors indeed. However, given that it scores lower across the board, it might not be that important – why pick a Rage 128 Pro Ultra, when you could have a TNT2 M64? Let’s face it, the drivers were going to be a million times easier to install too. The dithering was also better (the Rage 128 Pro uses a very noisy diamond pattern, who knows why anybody could have thought it was a good choice) which is kinda important because I can’t imagine people playing in 32-bits mode with budget cards.
I also got a SIS 315 Pro, which I thought was an actual SiS 315. Turns out it’s just a 315E. As usual, my little SiSter keeps disappointing me. Some things I discovered though: the card actually goes up to AGP 4x (even though my motherbord can’t support it), while the 315L only goes up to 2x. And… that’s just about it? Yeah, not much. I’ll need to check out those lot auctions a little better next time.