After the debut of the ATI Radeon 8500 nearly a year ago, and with the release of the Radeon 9700 PRO, ATI has been an extremely viable competitor to NVIDIA, and rightly so. As a result gamers have been snatching up ATI brand cards, and tweaking them just as they had previously done with their NVIDIA-based cards. ATI has gone the extra mile with the release of their highly-anticipated Catalyst drivers, offering higher stability and a greater selection of tweaking options than in previous drivers.
However, driver options alone cannot quench the thirst for more even power and control like a third-party tweak utility can. By far the most popular of such utilities is Rage3D.com's Rage 3D Tweak. This program is designed to slide in alongside ATI's driver tabs and offer additional tweaks, overclocking options, refresh-rates, and custom display modes which are not available through ATI's standard driver tabs. We will be taking a look at Rage 3D Tweak and its plethora of tweaks as the primary way to configure your ATI video card.
After installation of Rage 3D Tweak, the new tabs can be acquired by right clicking on the desktop, selecting properties, then the settings tab, and finally clicking on the advanced button in the lower right-hand corner. In this case, we are using a Radeon 7000 video card, and while the driver tabs will be consistent between cards, some of the individual options may change with a different card.
This area obviously deals with Direct 3D and OpenGL-specific options and settings. Depending on the type of card and the performance you would like to achieve in games, you can move the sliders in the various options to lean more toward either performance or quality.
Here you can use one slider to change all Direct 3D options to either quality or performance, or preferably you can check custom and take charge of each option individually.
The options for this area are Application Preference or 16X (depending on video card). Anisotropic filtering is an advanced form of texture filtering that will sharpen the texture quality of games beyond that of traditional trilinear and bilinear filtering methods. Whenever possible it's recommended that you use Anisotropic filtering, especially if you have a Radeon 8500 or 9700 PRO card and are already getting excellent frame-rates in your favorite games. The increase in visual quality is excellent, and well worth the slight loss in performance.
Anti-Aliasing, also known as FSAA (Full Scene Anti-Aliasing) will smooth out the edges of 3D objects in games effectively eliminating the "jaggies" that have plagued games for years. Here ATI has shown some restraint in allowing tweaking of this setting. The two modes offer increasing degrees of Anti-Aliasing, and unless you own a Radeon 9700 PRO, this will greatly affect the frame-rate of games. The only difference between the Direct 3D and OpenGL FSAA is that in OpenGL you only have the option of running it or leaving it disabled, rather than leaving it to the application to decide.
Texture Preference & Mipmap Detail Level
Both of these settings deal with the LOD (Level of Detail) bias and will either increase the sharpness of textures at the cost of performance, or decrease the texture sharpness to increase performance. Again, you will want to play around with these settings to find one that works well with your system.
Wait for Vertical Sync
Enabling this will limit your frame-rate to the vertical sync rate (refresh-rate) of your monitor, but maintain image quality. You will want to enable this whenever possible (unless you're running performance benchmarks) as if you don't you may subject yourself to shimmering and tearing when playing games when your frame-rate is faster than your monitor's refresh-rate.