Hercules 3D Prophet 9500 Pro review

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Technology & Features

The Radeon 9500 graphics core is based on a 0,15 micron fabrication. Quite daring as to achieve all that raw power you must get a lot of transistors into that graphics core. Not less than 110 million transistors are working hard on that silicon. So much transistors translate into a issues as it's large in size and thus yields will be less. The Radeon 9500 Pro has over 1,000 pins due to a 128-bit memory bus and a lot of power delivery pins. When you would look at the core it would actually remind you of the Pentium III design, it's that big in size. As I mentioned, yields are another issue when you build a silicon with that many transistors. 110 million transistors should make the card faster then NVIDIA's GeForce4 and to accomplish that it should at least match the clock frequency of 300 MHz with the means to go higher. Somehow ATi managed that though, the silicon design seems to work out just fine.

Who would have thought ATi would be second with AGP8x, they got slapped in the face by SiS who was the first to manufacture the AGP8x Xabre. Hilariously enough SiS made a board that hardly even needs AGP4x so 8x is totally useless on their cards. It's nice marketing to have though. For the ATi Radeon 9500 Pro this is a somewhat different ballgame though. AGP8x delivers a total of 2.1 GB/sec bandwidth between the Radeon 9500 Pro and your mainboard's North bridge. Even here I doubt a little if we'll notice a big difference between AGP8x and 4x though. So if you have an AGP4x mainboard, don't worry .. the card is backwards compatible and I believe you wouldn't even notice it. All future mainboards and graphics cards will move to AGP8x though.

The Radeon 9500 Pro meets the DirectX9 standard of 2.0 Vertex Shader which means flow control (loops, jumps and subroutines) and more instructions that can be executed per clock cycle. The new Vertex Shader allows up-to 1024 instructions per clock cycle.

Another item in the r300 design was eight 128-bit floating point pixel rendering pipelines. As comparison the Radeon 8500 and the GeForce4 make use of four 64-bit pipelines. This also explains the need for the huge transistor count. Again this is DirectX9 specification. The big advantage here translates itself into a very high fillrate and gives it a lead over the competition. Of course there is support for Pixel Shaders also and it's a version 2.0, again this is part of the DirectX9 specification. There are several changes/additions in the specification, however not very interesting stuff for the common readers. Basically things like instructions, data type, data precision and render targets have increased or improved.

The high-bandwidth memory interface utilizes the latest HyperZ III bandwidth-conserving technology that removes a key performance bottleneck and provides end users with faster graphics performance. The third generation of ATIs innovative, bandwidth-saving HyperZ. technology, HyperZ III plays a pivotal role in allowing the R300 to reach unprecedented levels of rendering performance. It incorporates improvements to all three components of HyperZ. - Hierarchical Z, Early Z, Z Compression, and Fast Z Clear.  To render a 3D image properly, it is necessary to know the distance of every rendered object from the viewpoint. This distance is stored in a special buffer called a Z-Buffer or Depth Buffer, and is used to determine which objects should be drawn in front of other objects. Reading and updating the Z-Buffer typically consumes more memory bandwidth than any other part of the 3D rendering process, making it a major performance bottleneck. The goal of HyperZ. technology is to reduce the memory bandwidth consumed by the Z-Buffer, thereby increasing performance.

Truform 2.0 - The Vertex Processing Engine of the Radeon 9500 Pro also includes support for Truform 2.0, the latest incarnation of ATIs higher order surface technology. It is designed to smooth out the curved surfaces of 3D characters, objects, and terrain by increasing the polygon count through a process called "tessellation". By taking advantage of the massive vertex processing power of the Radeon 9500 Pro, it delivers more natural-looking 3D scenes without requiring any changes to existing artwork.

Smoothvision 2.0  - Smoothvision. 2.0 builds on ATIs original Smoothvision. technology, which was the first to provide programmable anti-aliasing modes and high performance anisotropic filtering. The new version, introduced in the Radeon. 9500 Pro VPU, provides massive improvements in anti-aliasing performance, while simultaneously producing superior image quality. It also provides a new high quality anisotropic filtering technique to provide the sharpest and clearest textures available without sacrificing frame rate. As with the original version, Smoothvision. 2.0 works with any 3D application (Direct3D and OpenGL). It can be controlled either through the Display Properties Control Panel in Windows operating systems or through individual application settings.

Full Scene Anti Aliasing (FSAA) - Full-Scene anti-aliasing (FSAA) is a sampling technique that creates more detailed and realistic looking images, by removing the stair stepping effect seen on the edges of objects within computer generated images. High quality anti-aliased graphics are achieved with sub-pixel edge detection and color compression for greatly improved performance. Full scene anti-aliasing modes 2x/4x/6x.


Anisotropic Filtering - Anisotropic filtering enhances overall 3D quality by rendering sharp, detailed textures. As more texture samples are filtered, the image quality improves. Without Anisotropic Filtering, objects and environments in the 3D world will appear blurry and fuzzy, effectively degrading the level of realism.


Anisotropic filtering improves image quality by sampling textures more frequently. This is particularly important for objects rotated at sharp angles relative to the viewpoint. For example, textured flat ground in the distance and scenes with rotating 3D objects in the foreground will both benefit from anisotropic filtering, and are typically found in todays gaming content. The R300 VPU filters more samples than the competition, with minimal performance degradation. Anisotropic filtering modes 2x/4x/8x/

VideoShader - The Radeon 9500 Pro introduces videoshader., a new technology that combines the power of programmable pixel shaders with video to unlock a wide array of applications that were never practical before. One example of an application for videoshader technology is streaming video de-blocking. Most streaming internet video exhibits blocky compression artifacts, which are especially noticeable on low bandwidth connections. The RADEON 9500 PRO can automatically filter out these artifacts, providing smoother, clearer video images. Programmable pixel shaders can be used to enhance the quality of TV and DVD playback as well, by improving on the sophisticated adaptive de-interlacing algorithms used in other ATI graphics chips. On captured video signals, videoshadercan apply real-time noise filtering to produce cleaner video. The RADEON 9500 PRO also presents interesting new possibilities for video editing. Image filtering effects such as blurring, embossing, and outlining can be applied to video streams in real time.

Fullstream - ATI also presented fullstream - Fullstream is hardware accelerated filtering method that improves the performance and visual quality of Internet streaming video playback. When traditional block based videos (e.g. MPEG) are encoded and delivered with insufficient bandwidth, they suffer from inherent blocky artifacts. To remove this blocky look during playback, fullstream intelligently detects the edges of these visible blocks and smoothes them over using a sophisticated multi-tap filtering technique. fullstream improves both subjective and objective qualities of Internet video playback. The result is smoother higher quality video content and a more enjoyable viewing experience.


FULLSTREAM will be implemented by RealPlayer and other 3rd party partners. Details will be released in the near future.

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