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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [10.16.01]
Manufactured by: ATI


GeForce 2 Killer?

If you've considered buying a new video card lately, you probably considered a card based on one of these chipsets:

  • NVIDIA GeForce 2 GTS/Pro, if you're building a middle-high end comp
  • NVIDIA GeForce 2 MX, if you are cheaping out on your PC
  • NVIDIA GeForce 3, if you have WAY too much money to blow

Do you notice a disturbing trend here? Many people would argue that it's never good when a company completely dominates a market... NVIDIA is certainly showing some signs of slacking off, with their latest 6-month cycle release of the Titanium chipsets, which are basically overclocked versions of what they had 6 months ago... Then you have companies like Creative, which insist on dominating the sound card market.. They'll sue you into the ground if you have a better product, so be careful!

In the summer of 2000, right around the time the GeForce 2 GTS was released, ATI released the Radeon chipset.  It had several neat features, with even cooler names, like "HyperZ" and "Charisma Engine", but it couldn't touch the GeForce2's raw performance.  This was largely due to the low memory and core clock speeds.

Not What I Expected

When ATI first announced the Radeon 7500 and 8500 chipsets, the hardware community was excited... Finally, a competitor to the GeForce 2 and GeForce 3! I am always interested to hear about a company's next-gen product...

The 8500 is definitely next-gen, and we hope to have a look at that in the very near future.  For now, we get the 7500, which I expected to be a crippled version of the 8500.  Unfortunately that is not the case.. The 7500 is more of an 'enhanced' version of the good old Radeon 256 chipset.  Doh!

Maybe they did it right this time though... Certainly they have fixed the low clock speed problems, with the new 15 micron process (the one thing that is similar between the 2 new cards).. The 7500 runs at 270/230 DDR (which makes for 270 core / 460 memory) as opposed to 183/183.  Besides that, the 7500 boasts the same 256 bit memory interface as the 8500.  Since we never got a Radeon in here for review, I'll quickly go over the features it and the 7500 boast (at least the ones that matter, we're not going to regurgitate ATI's press release to you)...

Holy Caps Lock!

Okay, let's strip away the Caps-Lock ridden names, and tell you what features of the 7500 matter the most.

"Charisma Engine" AKA "T&L Engine" - I don't think I have to go over this again.. Everyone knows what hardware T&L is all about, thanks to NVIDIA who introduced it into our video card lives.  The 7500 supports DirectX 8 features.

"Pixel Tapestry Architecture" AKA "3d Acceleration" - This is ATI's exciting way of describing the features supported by the Radeon chipset.  One of the 'features' of this Pixel Tapestry Architecture is the ability of the Radeon 7500 to apply up to 3 textures per rendering pipeline.  This isn't supported much just yet, though, so we'll have to wait and see...

Another feature ATI puts under their "Architecture" is support of 3 types of bump mapping (Emboss, DOT3, and Environment) and 3 types of environment mapping (spherical, dual paraboloid, and cubic).  Environment Mapped Bump Mapping is one feature you don't see in the GeForce 2.

"HyperZ Technology" AKA "Memory Bandwidth Optimization" - This is ATI's way of handling the annoying memory bandwidth issue that occurs on every video card.  They basically eliminate the bottleneck caused by the Z buffer, thus helping overall performance.  According to ATI, this brings their memory bandwidth up to 8.8 GB/sec from 7.4 GB/sec, a 20% increase.

"HydraVision" AKA "Dual Monitor Support" - ATI's drivers include multi display management software, but it is currently unsupported in WindowsXP.

Now that some of the features have been explained, let's get onto some benchmarks!

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