AquaMark is a relatively new DirectX 9 benchmark, and although it does not represent an actual game, it does use the same Krass engine as found in products such as Aquanox 2 and Spellforce. AquaMark 3 also supports new features such as HyperThreading, Pixel Shader and VertexShader 2.0, and uses a wide range of DirectX 9 effects and features. For this review, we've tested in standard 1024x768 32-bit (GFX and Overall) and licensed 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 Advanced (FPS) modes.
AquaMark 3 is potentially the most demanding DirectX 9 benchmark out there, and this is borne out in the benchmark scores. The initial GFX results show the Radeon 9800 XT OD with a nice lead over the Radeon 9800 XT standard, and all the ATI benchmarks are lined up as you would expect. The high-end clock speed of the Radeon 9800 XT set a new mark in AquaMark 3, and the addition of OverDrive technology moves the card up quite noticeably in the chart.
The next chart outlines the Overall AquaMark score, and is more a picture of overall system performance. It's almost an exact duplicate of the GFX element, with the Radeon 9800 XT OD once again providing the extra horsepower to push it ahead of the standard card settings.
The last chart is for the licensed AquaMark 3 Advanced benchmark, where the detail levels and resolutions are once again raised. These are low framerates to begin with, but the same overall separation is once again present between the competing ATI cards.
The overall benchmark results can be placed in a few different camps. First off are the CPU-dependant tests, which naturally tend to illustrate performance advantages in different architectures, rather than with higher-clocked variants. The second area encompasses the older DirectX 7 and 8 games, and while these do show some legs with the higher-clocked Radeon 9800 XT OD, the detail levels are usually not enough to demonstrate a larger gap.
The most interesting portion of the testing came with the DirectX 9 benchmarks, which showed more of a relative performance jump when compared to the older tests. This was especially true in AquaMark 3, but others like 3DMark 2003 also demonstrated an ability to scale with the higher clock speeds of the Radeon 9800 XT OD, Anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering modes are also a good use of the added power, and in most cases, the OverDrive option resulted in a higher relative performance advantage.
The Radeon 9800 XT is the first video card with on-demand overclocking through the OverDrive feature, and while our results were not definitively in favor of the added clock speed, the overall scores were higher. This also looks to be a better feature for new DirectX 9 games, and for upcoming products that can really take advantage of every last ounce of clock speed. It will also be interesting to see if OverDrive becomes a default feature on upcoming ATI performance cards, much like HyperThreading has with Intel processors.