ATI Radeon 9700 Pro - Delivering as Promisedby Anand Lal Shimpi on August 19, 2002 8:00 AM EST
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It has definitely been a while since we've been able to say that an ATI card has lived up to its expectations, but the Radeon 9700 Pro does live up to every last one of our expectations. The question truly ends up being, does it meet your expectations?
There are three things that the Radeon 9700 Pro can offer at this point:
1) The highest performance in current and future games.
2) The ability to play at 1600x1200 in just about any game currently available or soon to be made available, and
3) The ability to play virtually any game at 1024x768 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled at smooth frame rates.
The first point is moot because you should never buy a video card based on the performance it will offer in games that are no where near being released. While it is true that the Radeon 9700 Pro is probably the best card out right now for Doom III, there will be something faster and cheaper closer to the time Doom III is released. But if you're looking to play anything this fall (UT2003, etc...) then the 9700 Pro makes a lot of sense.
The last two points will really determine whether the Radeon 9700 Pro is the card for you; if either of those options appeal to you, then the Radeon 9700 Pro is probably very well suited for your needs.
We would recommend buying a Radeon 9700 Pro over a GeForce4 Ti 4600 if you're buying today, even taking into account the ~$100 price difference between the two cards. What we can't offer a recommendation on however, is what to do when the issue of NV30 comes into the picture. If NVIDIA is able to meet their schedules, NV30 will be out around December and at a price competitive with the Radeon 9700 Pro.
Waiting until later this Fall will also grant you the option of going with the Radeon 9500, a 4 pixel pipeline version of the Radeon 9700 running at lower clock speeds. Or if you're looking for a bit more, the All-in-Wonder Radeon 9xxx cards based on the R300 will be announced later this year as well. Paired with a new video encoder chip, the new All-in-Wonder card should prove to be the biggest hardware upgrade the AIW series has seen in years.
Regardless of what path you choose the Radeon 9700 Pro is a viable option from ATI, and it has been a very long time since we've been able to say that as well.