Almost exactly one year ago, ATI released its first PCI Radeon for the Mac. This heralded a new age in relations with Mac gamers and gained ATI many supporters with its crisp 2D, reasonable price tag, and excellent performance.
At the 2001 Macworld New York expo, the company announced it would be bringing out a trimmed-down version of this card called the Radeon VE. While nothing was heard about the VE again, MWSF 2002 brought with it the Radeon 7000. The rapid adoption of AGP in newer machines led many to think the 2001 Radeon was to be the last PCI card available for Mac gamers. It seems we will now have a choice when considering a second (or replacement) video card, but will it be good decision for FPS-hungry gamers?
The Radeon 7000 differs in interesting ways from the 2001 Radeon. While it boasts a faster clock speed and dual-head capabilities, the card has been pared down with one less rendering pipeline and no Charisma Engineô to perform Transform, Clipping, and Lighting (TCL) instructions. While these features are used in relatively few games on the Mac (or even the PC), those who like running their titles in 1600x1200 will want to read through the rest of the review closely to see how the FPS scores pan out. The Radeon 7000 isnít necessarily targeted at hardcore gamers though, and --excluding a few nagging issues-- the $50 price drop from the 2001 Radeon will certainly increase its appeal across the board.
Singing the Beige BluesLetís get this out of the way; the Radeon 7000 doesnít play nice under OS X with any machine older than a Blue and White G3. Having the card hooked up to a monitor will result in a black screen when trying to boot up into OS X. This essentially leaves beige Mac owners --including those with beige G3s-- out in the cold when it comes to taking advantage of Apple's next-generation operating system.
Iíve talked with ATI and it seems this is an issue they are trying to work out with Apple now. The fact they are now changing the cardís packaging and marketing to reflect this problem doesnít give me a huge sense of confidence that a fix can be found in the near future, though.
While the honest fact is that most of these machines probably canít run OS X very well anyway, this is still a disappointment for many, myself included. Since ATI also managed to find the one IMG reviewer that still has a beige G3, none of my benchmarks will reflect OS X. To be fair, even my upgraded G3 500 has trouble running games well in OS X, and the OS 9 benchmarks do a good job of showing the differences between the two PCI Radeon cards anyway. Beige PowerMac owners who have already bought a Radeon 7000 are being told to return the card if they want to run OS X. Those only using OS 9 should be fineÖ for the most part.