ATI Video cards solid performers
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1998. First
published in Computer Player, June 1998
ATI Technologies Inc.,
Toronto-based ATI Technologies has long been one of
the strongest contenders
in the highly-competitive world of graphics adapters. In a market where
it often seems like there?s a new model every week, they?ve managed to
stay on top for years.
Currently, they?re offering a trio of cards, all built
on the same basic
design, their proprietary Rage Pro chipset: Xpert@Work, Xpert@Play, and
Each of the three models comes in your choice of two
either the more common PCI slot, or the AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port)
found on newer Pentium-II computers. The cards come with 4 megs
or 8 megs of SGRAM.
The All-in-Wonder Pro (about $400) adds video in and
out, along with
a built-in TV tuner, offering the possibility of playing games on a big
TV screen, or of capturing still shots and video clips from a
VCR, or TV cable. The tuner lets users plug their computer into their
cable, and watch the tube, full screen or in a window. In fact, this
was used by Microsoft as the basis for Windows 98?s TV capabilities.
range from about $375 (4 megs) to $450 (8 megs).
Not all of us need or want to connect our computer to
our TV; the two
Xpert models offer more basic video cards at more basic prices.
couch potatoes might want to keep their eyes peeled for ATI?s older
(non-Pro), still available at some retail outlets at a discounted
It?s got the TV functions on a card based on an older, somewhat slower
All three models feature a quick and easy one-click
adds three tabs to the Windows 95 Display dialogue box, letting users
adjust panning and screen size, and correct on-screen colours.
The @Work model is a bare-bones video card, and comes
Simply 3D, PhotoSuite from Toronto?s MGI, Vream?s WIRL 3D browser, and
3D Models. Street price ranges from about $200 (4 megs) to $275 (8
The @Play, in contrast, ships with a less sober-sided
Along with WIRL, it packages two games, Formula 1 and Terracide,
to show off the card?s 3D potential. As well, like the pricier
series, it includes TV output, with S-Video and composite (RCA) outputs
for connection to a TV or VCR. This results in a higher price than the
@Work models, ranging from about $250 (4 megs) to $300 (8 megs).
All three models include ATI?s well-designed Video
which allows for playback of AVI and MPEG video. When the software
an All-in-Wonder, it adds TV playback as well, even allowing users to
thumbnails of 50 or more channels at once. Video quality in all formats
is impressive?crisp and flicker free.
The cards? performance is also top-notch, both for 2D
speed and 3D.
Unfortunately, however, performance is only part of the story. 2D video
has long been standardized, at least since the triumph of Windows.
can pretty much expect any modern software to run on this, or any other
modern video card. 3D is, however, another story. While Microsoft is
its Direct-3D, it is by no means a universal standard. Many games
only some of the range of 3D hardware available?perhaps the most widely
supported are cards based on the 3Dfx chipset. And ATI?s 3D is not
with 3Dfx software. As a result, games such as LucasArts? Shadows of
Empire wouldn?t run at all, while other games, such as Electronic Arts?
Need for Speed II SE ran, but with less impressive graphics than it
have had on a 3Dfx system.
ATI continually upgrades its drivers; if you buy one
of these cards,
get right onto their website and download the new Turbo drivers, for a
boost to their already impressive performance. (And by the way, ATI, if
you?re reading this: Thanks for continuing to support all your older
right back to the monochrome Graphics Solution cards. Well done).