Nearly a year and a half has passed since ATI has released a high end AGP graphics card for the Mac. The previous Radeon was a big step up from the Rage 128/Pro, in both performance and features. Mac users finally had DDR-memory and hardware TCL, which had been standard on the PC for quite some time.
ATI’s Radeon 8500 continues that trend and represents another revolution of graphics technology on the Macintosh. Not only does it come with the obligatory speed increase, but also advanced features such as Truform, Smoothvision (FSAA), and Smartshader (pixel and vertex shaders). ATI’s second generation TCL engine and memory bandwith-saving technology, HyperZ II, serves to increase performance even further.
To give an idea of how the Radeon 8500 compares to other high-end video cards, we have listed the basic specifications of each in the table below. Note that Apple has discontinued the GeForce 3 and the GeForce4 Ti has yet to ship.
|Core Clock||Fill Rate||On-board Memory||Memory Clock||Memory Bandwith|
|Radeon 8500||250 MHz||2 Gigatexels/sec||64 MB||275 MHz DDR||8.8 GB/sec|
|GeForce 3||200 MHz||1.6 Gigatexels/sec||64 MB||230 MHz DDR||7.36 GB/sec|
|GeForce4 Ti ||300 MHz||2.4 Gigtatexels/sec||128 MB||325 MB DDR||10.4 GB/sec|
Brimming with FeaturesIn addition to the 3D horsepower and eye candy the Radeon 8500 offers, it also has a variety of output options. With two 350 MHz DACs and a TMDS transmitter, you can connect your CRT, LCD, TV, and even ADC monitor (via DVIator) in almost any combination. The 8500 supports 2D resolutions up to 2048x1538 at 75 Hz on CRTs, 1600x1200 at 60 Hz on LCDs, and 800x600 on a television. It is also capable of driving the massive 23” Cinema HD Display, which has a native resolution of 1920x1200. (The 7500 and original Radeon are also capable of this, the latter will require a ROM update.)
Although I couldn’t test dual display functionality, it will certainly be useful for gamers who do graphic design in their spare time. (Or is it graphic designers who game in their spare time?) I found the TV-out functionality to be extremely useful when I wanted to watch full-screen MPEGs or DVDs on my TV. The Mac2TV features have now been implemented in Mac OS X, so you can adjust nearly every aspect of the output image.
Apple’s DVD Player takes advantage of the 8500’s onboard DVD hardware, which translates into a more responsive player during playback, lower CPU utilization, and a higher quality picture. Adaptive de-interlacing is also enabled to improve DVD video captured from an interlaced source.