To help illustrate the SMOOTHVISION performance of the RADEON 8500 and the 7206 driver set, we took Quake 3 at the High Quality setting and then applied a wide variety of SV settings. These ranged from both Quality and Performance settings for 2X and 4X, to a quick peek at 6X Performance scores. To compliment these benchmarks, we have also added in a selection of GeForce3 Quincunx and 4X FSAA results, as well as the GeForce2 and RADEON 7500 using standard 4X AA.
The benchmark portion of the RADEON 8500's SMOOTHVISION feature would be incomplete without a short examination of the image quality portion. Although opinions on image quality can reach very personal levels, the ATI RADEON 8500 exhibits some very impressive anti-aliasing results with their SMOOTHVISION algorithm. In addition to playing games in various AA modes, we also took the opportunity to display static monitor images of the RADEON 8500 and GeForce3 side-by-side as well as examining multiple screenshots.
Both the 2X Performance and Quality options compare well to the GeForce3 Quincunx option, offering similar edge anti-aliasing results and image quality. The RADEON 8500 has one positive in that it does not blur the image as much as the repetitive Quincunx format, but the Quality option can come at a performance hit. By enabling some extra filtering options with the GeForce3 we are able to come a lot closer to the overall image quality of the RADEON 8500's 2X SMOOTHVISION modes. Overall though, by tweaking the anisotropic filtering option in the NVIDIA drivers, we were able to achieve a reasonable equality between the GeForce3 Quincunx and the RADEON 8500 2X Quality images.
Where this comparison really starts to favor ATI is when we move to 4X AA image quality. For our money, no current GeForce3 AA mode can match the RADEON 8500 running at the 4X Quality setting. When running in 4X Performance mode, the comparisons actually start to favor the GeForce3 4X AA (with Filtering enabled) but it's still a very close call. The RADEON 8500 also offers dual 5X and 6X AA modes, but this gets kind of silly as these options offer only very low resolutions and it bogs down just about any game, regardless of the CPU. Use it for taking screenshots, but it's just not realistic for actual gameplay.