Using what ATI calls their "SMOOTHVISION" technology, the Radeon 9000 supports Full Scene Anti-Aliasing in many of today's retail games. Titles like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Jedi Knight II, F1 Championship, and Bugdom 2 all benefit greatly from the card's 2x and 4x FSAA modes. Without going into too many details the FSAA support reducing the "stair-stepping" jagged edges that appear in many games. Thanks to optimizations in their SMOOTHVISION technology, turning on FSAA shouldn't bog down your game performance either. See the following graphic for an example of FSAA in action in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.
Shader SupportIn the past, video cards have been all about trying to push more and more polygons to the screen, but this trend is starting to change with the rise of vertex and pixel shaders. ATI calls their shader implementation "SMARTSHADER" and the Radeon 9000 Pro is the first of their cards to bring shaders to Mac gamers at a price point of under $200.
What this means is that instead of having to make a character model contain tens or hundreds of thousands of polygons to support finer and more detailed textures, developers can instead write shaders to mimic materials like cloth and water (items classically difficult to do with normal polygon modeling techniques).
If you look closely at some DOOM III screen shots, you might be surprised how few polygons the incredibly detailed models actually contain. Support for shaders let game developers use polygons elsewhere, sparing their precious resources for other tasks. ATI has a flash demonstration explaining more about their implementation of pixel and vertex shaders here if you're interested.
More to ComeAs Apple and ATI work to improve OpenGL support under OS X, Jaguar users are only going to be seeing more and more improvements. Apple's latest 10.2.3 update to Mac OS X brought texture compression previously unavailable to shipping games like Jedi Knight II and Soldier of Fortune II. Previously when running the Jedi Knight II demo on Highest settings, the Radeon 9000 Pro could only average about 6 Frames Per Second due to the game's incredible detailed high-resolution textures. Now with texture compression enabled, the demo can run upwards of 40 FPS on the Radeon 9000, showing how much of a difference these OpenGL improvements can make.
The Radeon 9000 should be shipping very soon to a retailer near you, just in time for Macworld San Francisco 2003 Expo. For more on how the card performs, be sure to have a read through IMG's PowerMac G4 Dual 867 and GeForce4 Ti reviews. Also watch for more news as ATI gets ready to release their even more powerful Radeon 9700 Mac Edition later in the year.