Radeon 8500 review (All BIOSes)

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
January 5, 2002
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56247
The Radeon 8500 and all three BIOSes compared!
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Page 1
<b>Introduction:</b><br>
As you may know, there are plenty of Radeon 8500 reviews out there already. I'm not only going to go over the numbers of the card itself, but how I turned this humble little Radeon LELE into a retail Radeon, in the process, saving a pretty penny. Please don't try to upgrade your Radeon unless you are sure that you have tested it to make sure it will work or you are a complete nut like me and just did it. Since this is my first real video card review, all the options that I wanted to test didn't work correctly for me so this review may be a bit light on the benchmarks, but there is enough to determine the quality of the card. Now, on to the background about the card.<br><br>

<b>Background</b><br>I bought this card from the great people at Newegg. It was labeled the Radeon 8500 LE OEM. It also said that the clock and memory where set at 230/230mhz. I thought this was a bit low and I ordered it anyway thinking that the card should come with the standard LE settings of 250/250. Upon receiving the card, I ran some benchmarks on it and it was absolutely stunning with its original state. In the duration of this article, I shall call the original BIOS the 'Newegg' BIOS.<br><br>Since I was relatively happy with the performance, why should I want to potentially ruin my card by upgrading the BIOS of the card? Simple, when your a gamer, frame-rate is life. That and your ping are very important!<br><br>
<b>Card features</b>: (Ripped from ATI's website)<br>
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<font color=#ff0000><b>Overview</font><br></b>
<br><b>At-a-glance<br></b>
<ul><li>Powered by the revolutionary RADEON&#8482; 8500 &#8211; world&#8217;s fastest and most advanced graphics processing unit (GPU)</li><br><li>Features ATI's <a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/technology/hardware/truform/truform.html">TRUFORM&#8482;</a>, <a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/technology/hardware/smartshader/smartshader.html">SMARTSHADER&#8482;,</a> <a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/technology/hardware/smoothvision/smoothvision.pdf">SMOOTHVISION&#8482;</a>, and HYPER&#8482; Z II technologies</li><br><li>The only GPU to support DirectX® 8.1</li><br><li>Supports OpenGL® 1.3 features</li><br><li>64MB of powerful double data rate (DDR) memory</li><br><li>Latest 3D games support the advanced features of RADEON&#8482; 8500</li><br><li>Dual monitor and Video output support</li><br><li>Industry-leading DVD video playback</li><br><li>Digital Flat Panel (DVI) support</li><br><li>Supports 3D resolutions (32-bit color) up to 2048x1536</li><br><li>AGP universal bus (for AGP 2X/4X systems)</li><br>

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<font color=#ff0000><b>Features</font><br></b>

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<b>Unsurpassed 3D gaming<br></b>
<ul><li>Powered by the revolutionary RADEON&#8482; 8500 GPU and 64MB of DDR memory for the fastest and most advanced 3D graphics on the market</li><br><li>Features ATI&#8217;s innovative <a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/technology/hardware/truform/truform.html">TRUFORM&#8482;</a> technology that makes the outlines of 3D characters and objects look smoother and more natural than ever before</li><br><li>High resolution 32-bit 3D gaming up to 2048x1536</li><br><li>ATI&#8217;s HYPER Z&#8482; II technology conserves memory bandwidth for improved performance in demanding applications and boosts effective bandwidth by over 25% </li><br><li>SMOOTHVISION&#8482; anti-aliasing &#8211; the most advanced anti-aliasing to eliminate distracting visual artifacts for smoother looking images and without serious performance compromise</li><br>
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<b>Best visual effects<br></b>
<ul><li>ATI&#8217;s new <a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/technology/hardware/smartshader/smartshader.html">SMARTSHADER&#8482;</a> technology takes advantage of the DirectX® 8.1 features to enable more complex and realistic texture and lighting effects </li><br><li>The only graphics board to support DirectX® 8.1</li><br><li>Best performance for today&#8217;s and tomorrow&#8217;s demanding applications</li><br><li>Full support and compliance with OpenGL® 1.3 applications</li><br><li>CHARISMA ENGINE&#8482; II supports full Transformation, Clipping and Lighting (T&L) at 75 million triangles/second peak processing capability</li><br><li>PIXEL TAPESTRY&#8482; II, the RADEON&#8482; 8500 3D rendering engine, powers an incredible 2.4 Gigatexels per second for the highest fill rates in 32-bit at high resolutions</li><br>
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<b>Dual monitor support<br></b>
<ul><li>Leading-edge HydraVision&#8482; technology supports traditional CRT monitors, flat panel displays and TVs</li><br><li>Multi-task with MultiDesk &#8211; play multi-monitor games, or work in different applications on each monitor without having to switch back-and-forth</li><br><li>Assign &#8216;Hot Key&#8217; shortcuts for the most used functions</li><br><li>Vary settings from one application to the next, or choose global settings that determine the behavior of windows and dialog boxes for all applications in your multi-monitor environment</li><br><li>Learn more about <a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/products/pc/hydrademo/choose.html">HYDRAVISION&#8482; </a></li><br>
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<b>Industry-leading video playback<br></b>
<ul><li>ATI&#8217;s VIDEO IMMERSION&#8482; II technology enables integration of industry-leading digital video features, including advanced de-interlacing algorithms for unprecedented video quality and integrated digital TV decode capability</li><br><li>Includes programmable gamma for the overlay and Frame Rate Conversion (Temporal Filtering)</li><br><li>Hardware DVD saves the expense of buying a separate MPEG-2/DVD decoder card and motion compensation allows for DVD decoding with minimum CPU usage</li><br><li>HDTV ready</li><br>
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<b>DVI and TV/Video output support<br></b>
<ul><li>RADEON&#8482; 8500 uses RAGE THEATER&#8482; companion chip for high quality video output</li><br><li>Features 165MHz integrated TMDS transmitter to support DVI up to UXGA (1600x1200) resolution</li><br><li>Get all of the incredible 3D and DVD of RADEON&#8482; 8500 with the benefit of flat panels &#8211; crisper images, significantly reduced eyestrain and space savings</li><br><li>Use video-out to connect your PC to TV or VCR</li><br>
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<font color=#ff0000><b>Specifications</font><br></b>
<br><b>System requirements<br></b>
<ul><li>Pentium® 4/III/II/Celeron&#8482;, AMD® K6/Athlon® or compatible with AGP 2X or AGP 2X/4X universal slot</li><br><li>64MB of system memory</li><br><li>Installation software requires CD-ROM drive</li><br><li>DVD playback requires DVD drive</li><br>
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<b>Graphics controller <br></b>
<ul><li>RADEON&#8482; 8500 graphics processing unit (GPU)</li><br>
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<b>Memory configuration<br></b>
<ul><li>64MB of double data rate memory</li><br>
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<b>Operating systems support<br></b>
<ul><li>Windows® 98/98SE</li><br><li>Windows® Me</li><br><li>Windows® 2000</li><br><li>Windows® XP</li><br>
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<b>Monitor support <br></b>
<ul><li>CRT Monitor: 15-pin VGA connector</li><br><li>TV and VCR: s-video or composite connector</li><br><li>DVI-I (flat panel display) connector</li><br>
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<b>Display support<br></b>
<ul><li>Register compatible with VGA</li><br><li>BIOS compatible with VESA for super VGA</li><br><li>DDC1/2b/2b+ monitor support</li><br><li>VESA Display Power Management Support</li><br><li>Separate horizontal and vertical synchronization at TTL levels</li><br>
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<b>Features <br></b>
<ul><li><a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/technology/hardware/truform/truform.html">TRUFORM&#8482;</a></li><br><li><a href="http://www.ati.com/na/pages/technology/hardware/smartshader/smartshader.html">SMARTSHADER&#8482;</a></li><br><li>DirectX® 8.1 support</li><br><li>OpenGL® 1.3</li><br><li>SMOOTHVISION&#8482; anti-aliasing</li><br><li>HYPER Z&#8482; II</li><br><li>CHARISMA ENGINE&#8482; II</li><br><li>PIXEL TAPESTRY&#8482; II</li><br><li>VIDEO IMMERSION&#8482; II</li><br><li>High Performance Memory Support</li><br><li>Dual Display Support</li><br><li>Integrated Transformation, Clipping and Lighting</li><br><li>Twin Cache Architecture</li><br><li>SuperScalar Rendering</li><br><li>Single-Pass Multi-texturing</li><br><li>True Color Rendering</li><br><li>Triangle Setup Engine</li><br><li>Texture Cache</li><br><li>Bilinear/Trilinear Filtering</li><br><li>Line & Edge Anti-aliasing</li><br><li>Full-Screen Anti-aliasing</li><br><li>Texture Compositing</li><br><li>Texture Decompression</li><br><li>Specular Highlights</li><br><li>Perspectively Correct Texture Mapping</li><br><li>Mip-Mapping</li><br><li>Z-buffering and Double-buffering</li><br><li>Emboss, Dot Product 3 and Environment bump mapping</li><br><li>Spherical, Dual-Paraboloid and Cubic environment mapping</li><br><li>Fog effects, texture lighting, video textures, reflections, shadows, spotlights, LOD biasing and texture morphing</li><br>
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<b>The upgrading process</b>:<br>
I WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE THAT OCCURS TO YOUR CARD!<br>
Before I start saying anything about upgrading your BIOS, let me say this: SAVE YOUR CURRENT BIOS! I can't stress this enough! Also, there is another thing you should keep in mind. The ram on your card should be of the 3.6ns variety or you can forget about updating your BIOS. Now that I have stated what you should keep in mind, lets continue with the upgrading of the BIOS. At first, I ran the numbers on the original BIOS and then I installed powerstrip. I then determined that the card WAS at 230/230! I couldn't believe that ATI would release a card that is lower than the OEM part! This is strange since the part number is the same as the OEM. People are calling these underclocked OEM's, Radeon 8500 LELE. I first pumped power color up to 250/250 and noticed it was fine. I then started up the BIOS upgrade program and loaded the real OEM BIOS into the card. I started to bench the card. I ran into some crashing, but no artifacts. I tried again and again. I then thought that I had failed. Spec was the only bench that would crash, 3Dmark and Vulpine ran fine.<br><br>

Tempting fate, I wanted to at least see if I could run the retail BIOS for a little bit. It crashed on Spec only again! I noticed it was crashing randomly though, but usually after a specific point. This got me wondering for a bit. I shut down every program that I could, including powerstrip. I then proceeded to benchmark again. It worked! I made a loop for 12 hours, no crashes! Success!! It was powerstrip that was crashing me, I don't know why or how so please don't ask. I also tried to run at a lower setting in the retail BIOS but that didn't work because it would crash in SPEC with powerstrip running. I destroyed that install of powerstrip and reinstalled it. Viola! It worked at 250/250, so I benched it with that also.<br><br>If you want the flashing tools, check out Rage3D or you can email me and I'll steer you in the right direction Wink.<br><b>UPDATE</b> You can now download this file off my server, you must be a registered user. The file is the flasher program with retail and OEM bioses included. <a href="/download.php?downloadid=1">Click here for the download!</a>
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<b>Features</b>:<br>
The features of this card are absolutely great. This card has excellent DVD quality, and my CPU usage didn't go higher than 20% while viewing a DVD movie. The image quality is the best BAR NONE! No card that I have seen can match a quality of an ATI card. The nVidia cards may be faster, but I do like the image quality. I also tested Smoothvision, ATI's version of Anti-Aliasing, on the card, I tested it at 2x and 4x in my favorite game, Tribes 2. I did take some pics at 4x. But I didn't care too much for FSAA (Full Screen Anti-Aliasing) at all. I did notice when I turned on the FSAA that the game exhibited some text problems. Let's look at some pics...<br><br>

<center>Non FSAA Pics<br><img src="/images/r8500/nofsaa.jpg"> <img src="/images/r8500/nofsaa2.jpg"><br><br>FSAA 4x<br><img src="/images/r8500/4x.jpg"> <img src="/images/r8500/4x2.jpg"><br><br> But! Look at the text that 4x produces<br><img src="/images/r8500/4xtext.jpg"><br>I included a shot of 2x.<br><img src="/images/r8500/mount2x.jpg"><br><br> FSAA works by blending the sharp edges with the surrounding. I think it looks good at 4x, but it does take a performance hit and I usually never look at stuff for more than a second anyway... The text also exhibits softing as well. I don't know if that is supposed to happen, but it does and I don't like that. I tried to get better shots, but I couldn't find any. Anyway, let's move on to the benchmarks.</center>
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<b>Benchmarks</b>:
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Test System:<br>
AMD 1GHz (266 FSB)<br>
ECS K7S5A<br>
256 MB DDR Ram (CAS2)<br>
16x/10x/32x TEAC CDrw<br>
8x DVD<br>
20GB 60GXP IBM HDD<br>
Latest Drivers for both video cards under Win2k SP2<br>
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<b>3Dmark 2001</b><br>
<img src="/images/r8500/3dmark.gif"></center><br>I included my aging Radeon 64 Vivo, but I really want to focus on the different BIOSs. As you can see, the slowest version of the 8500 easily doubles the performance of the Vivo. I think ATI has done a great drop with this video card. I spent the same amount for this card as I did 6 months ago for the original Radeon. 6 months makes a big difference. Anyway, At 230/230, the Radeon is seriously underclocked and it shows. Going up to the real OEM BIOS yields a 4-6% difference in 3Dmarks. Going from OEM to Retail yields a whopping 8-13% increase in 3Dmarks. Let's move on to GLmark.<br><br>
<center><img src="/images/r8500/glmark.gif"></center><br>In this benchmark, the video card scales almost perfectly with the resolution increase. The retail version of the R8500 compared to the Vivo yields a 75-175% improvement as the resolution goes higher. ATI has done a great job on effectively pushing the original Radeon to the low end of the market and I think it really gives the Geforce 3 line a run for its money. At 1024x768, the three different BIOSes are pretty much matched, the graphics card isn't the bottleneck now. The Retail compare to the Newegg BIOS yields a 2% improvement. Moving up to 1280x1024 shows a 4% improvement. As the resolution becomes higher and higher, the video card becomes the limiting factor in the system. Even though the CPU maybe slow, at higher resolutions, the video card becomes more important. At 1600x1200, the improvement goes to a whole 9%. That is a huge gain by just clocking the video card higher. As you can tell, there are many improvements that are made when going to the retail BIOS.<br><br><center><img src="/images/r8500/spec.gif"></center>
<br>I don't like SPEC for one reason, my CPU is to slow to handle the type of numbers for this video card. It seems that SPEC really needs a speedy CPU to produce better results and I just don't have one to use. But, in most categories, the Vivo gets shot down. As you can see by the numbers on the R8500, the CPU is the limiting factor. I'll try to get a faster CPU soon enough to run better and many more benchmarks.
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<b>Conclusion</b>:<br>
The Radeon 8500 is the flagship of ATI's line of video cards for the mainstream market. ATI has done a great job of optimizing its drivers from the initial release of the card, which was terrible. What I do not like is that ATI has segmented the same card into three different speeds, and calling it basically the same thing. I got the Newegg BIOS card from Newegg for $188 with shipping. I think the card is great even with the Newegg BIOS and the price is the same as was the Radeon VIVO six months ago.<br><center><table border='0' valign='top' width='50%'><tr><td><b>Good</b></td><td><b>Bad</b></td></tr><tr><td>The price is right</td><td>Three different version of the same card</td></tr><tr><td>Loads of extra features</td><td>Driver releases are slow</td></tr><td>Cheaper than competing cards and more or less the same performance</td></tr></table><br><br>Overall, I like the new version of the Radeon<br><b>Score: 91%</b><br><img src="/images/recommended.gif"><br><b>(editor

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