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  ATI Radeon 9x00 series tweak guide

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If something should be said about ATI, is the impressive way they managed to accomplish many things in a relatively short timeframe. Beyond releasing the first truly DirectX 9 graphics card, they also got to beat NVIDIA in terms of performance and drivers development, which still happens to come along extremely well, and that last thing is something we probably never have thought just a couple of years back.

This guide will take you through configuring your system for best compatibility/performance along with your ATI Radeon graphics card, covering options available with the latest Catalyst Drivers. For reference sake, this guide was prepared using an ATI Radeon 9700 Pro AGP videocard using an Abit NV7-133R nForce (AGP 4X) and later an Abit NF7-S nForce 2 (AGP 8X) motherboards running Windows XP Service Pack 1 and Catalyst 3.5/3.6 Drivers.

We will start by covering basic troubleshooting steps and general settings, then in the next few pages we will extend onto more specific Direct3D & OpenGL settings, performance comparison between settings and image quality shots to showcase differences in better detail.

 

Troubleshooting

Putting first things first, initially you should make sure you have the latest drivers installed for your graphics card. You can find links to manufacturers in our own drivers section, although should you wish to stick with reference drivers, here you have a direct link to those instead. You should check you have installed the latest version of Microsoft's DirectX installed.

It is also highly important to have the latest Drivers for your Motherboard installed as well, particularly the AGP Drivers (If you’ve an AGP Graphics card that is). Installing any available BIOS update for your Motherboard may also be of some help. You can verify your AGP Drivers are functioning correctly download & run NVIDIA’s AGP Memory utility.

If the values shown are 0 you’ll likely need to update them. You can find links to updated Motherboard Chipset Drivers at our OS Updates section.

In the system BIOS it is recommended to disable the following settings, if available - Hidden refresh, VGA palette snoop, DAC snoop & any Caching/Shadowing options, e.g. Video BIOS Shadowing.

 

General Settings

Open Display Properties, click on the Settings tab then the Advanced button. Now select the Options tab.

You may set these options to your own preference: Re-activate all warning messages, Enable ATI taskbar icon application, Show ATI icon on taskbar & Disable quick resolution feature.

Reduce DVI frequency on high-resolution displays. If you are experiencing display corruption when connected to a DVI Flat Panel display via the DVI-Output at high resolutions (1024x768 +) try Ticking this option to resolve the issue. In all other instances you can leave this Unticked.

Alternate DVI operational mode. If you are experiencing display corruptions when connected to a DVI Flat Panel display via the DVI-Output try ticking this option to resolve the issue. In all other instances you can leave this Unticked.

Now select the SMARTGART tab.

SMARTGART is a diagnostic program that determines your bus (PCI/AGP) capabilities & adjusts settings to their most optimal (Stability wise) based on the results obtained. This is done everytime you install/update your Graphics Drivers via installer & as such you (generally) shouldn’t need to adjust the options available here. That said I’ll cover them for sake of completeness.

Set AGP Speed. Available options here can vary depending on the AGP implementation of your motherboard, e.g. with the Abit NV7-133R nForce (AGP 4X) motherboard only AGP 4X is available at highest despite, whereas with Abit NF7-S nForce 2 (AGP 8X) motherboard 8X is available. As SMARTGART does, it would be best to set this to whatever the most stable mode of operation your motherboard supports is. Currently for the most part there is little, if any, noticeable performance variance between available AGP modes – 1X, 2X, 4X & 8X so it is not necessary to select the highest mode to achieve best performance. Be sure to also have the AGP mode is the BIOS set to the same value also if available. SMARGART verifies the new AGP mode after a reboot is done.

Fast Write. Fast writes allows the CPU to send data to the Graphics card without having to go through RAM, making it a far more optimal approach. That said in reality most benchmarks done on this have shown it to be of little actual benefit, in some cases performing slower, not mention on other systems it causes stability problems. As a result you might want to run a few benchmarks before choosing whether or not to leave this On or Off. On some systems this can cause stability problems & where it does you should set Off.

Retest All. Click this button to have SMARTGART retest your graphics bus capabilities & adjust available options based on the results. Generally you shouldn’t need to do this beyond when installing newer Drivers (Which it does so automatically), though should you start experiencing problems try selecting this to allow SMARTGART to detect more appropriate settings.

To access Advanced SMARTGART options click on Start, Run, type in smartgart & hit Ok (Again, these settings are automatically determined whenever SMARTGART is run & are covered more for sake of completeness).

PCI Write/Read. These features allow the PCI Graphics card to write/read to system memory (As opposed to Video memory).

AGP Write/Read. These features allow the AGP Graphics card to write/read to system memory (As opposed to Video memory).

Retest PCI/AGP Write/Read. Using these options you can test individual AGP/PCI features using SMARTGART without affecting any other graphics bus options.

Retest All. Click this button to have SMARTGART retest your bus capabilities & adjust available options based on the results. Generally you shouldn’t need to do this beyond when installing newer Drivers (Which it does so automatically), though should you start experiencing problems try selecting this to allow SMARTGART to detect more appropriate settings.



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