ATI to the rescue
nVidia be gone! The Canadians have come to restore my sanity! My ATI Radeon X1950XT arrived this morning - for some reason, Chillblast sent me a PowerColor model rather than the Sapphire one I ordered, but, as they are exactly the same card, only with a slightly different fan and a different box, I’m not particularly bothered. In any event, I installed the thing this morning, and in the process found that I had to chuck out my case fan, because the card itself comes with the largest fan I’ve ever seen, and meant that there simply wasn’t enough room in my PC’s case. In any event, the case fan’s only real purpose was to cool the video card, so I suspect that its own dedicated fan will perform exactly the same function without any real difference in the long run.
Anyway, despite my criticisms of ATI’s Catalyst Control Center and its dependence on Microsoft’s .NET framework, I’m so glad to be back to it. nVidia’s control panel, while not exactly bad, had numerous problems, including the fact that features available in the newer system, integrated with the most recent driver releases, are missing from the older and more functional classic control panel (and vice versa). It’s also nice to not have to reset my overlay settings every time I boot the computer and every time I want to watch a video.
I did, however, have a rather nasty surprise when I popped in Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes in order to test DVD playback. Put simply, when I enabled AVIVO acceleration in PowerDVD (AVIVO is essentially ATI’s version of the advanced hardware video playback functions called PureVideo by nVidia), I noticed that a massive amount of noise reduction was being applied, resulting in outlines and colours trailing, with the contents of one shot being ghosted into the next. The control panel featured no way of disabling this, but a quick search in Google revealed this thread, where it was revealed that, after dragging their feet for some time, ATI had finally acknowledged the issue and provided a registry tweak to turn off noise reduction completely. It’s not the world’s most perfect solution, but ATI deserve credit for actually listening to their customers, unlike nVidia, who have failed to fix the overlay colour temperature bug, despite it having existed for over a year. (I will, however, give nVidia credit for allowing users to modify noise reduction and edge enhancement settings as they see fit… although this too seems to be fraught with problems for some users.)
Once the noise reduction had been successfully disabled, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the AVIVO deinterlacing is actually superior to that of nVidia’s PureVideo. As you may recall, every so often PureVideo’s otherwise commendable motion adaptive deinterlacing would slip up, resulting in the fields jumping every few seconds. Not so with AVIVO: in fact, I watched an entire 15-minute stretch of Ren Seeks Help and didn’t notice a single problem.
Oh, and just for shits and giggles, I ran Futuremark’s two graphical benchmark applications, 3DMark ‘03 and 3DMark ‘05, to see what, if any, difference the new card made to performance. As I suspected, it appears that my CPU is the deciding factor, given that there’s only so much a new graphics card can do if the CPU itself isn’t equally cutting-edge. Still, I did see my 3DMark ‘03 score jump from 12,582 (12,836 on the GeForce) to 15,106, while my 3DMark ‘05 score went from 6,067 (5,875 on the GeForce) to 7,749. Not the world’s most amazing statistics, and I doubt it will result in any major improvements to my gaming performance, but a definite rise nonetheless.