processor upgrades Graphics Cards

Feel The Rage! ATI's Rage Orion Graphics Card Reviewed

Don Engstrom, Reviews Editor

Background: When ATI's Rage 128 cards first came out the only way to get one was inside a Yosemite Power Mac. Mac users looking to upgrade were stuck with older ATI Rage Pro cards or cards from other manufacturers entirely. After what seemed an eternity, the Rage 128 cards finally made their way to the store shelves. The Rage Orion most closely matches the cards used in the Yosemite series and the new graphite G4's although the latter uses a 2x AGP slot. The Rage 128 series support some legacy Apple graphics standards like QuickDraw 3D and RAVE as well as new ones like OpenGL.

Test Machine Configuration: Our test machine was a 9500 with a G3/400 upgrade card from XLR8, 96MB RAM and OS 9 installed. We tested with an extension set comprised of all OS extensions plus those required by the XLR8 card. For the ATI tests used the most recent drivers downloaded from the ATI site. For the MacBench tests virtual memory was turned off and disk cache was set to 512k. These settings are consistent with those used on the MacBench base reference machine, a beige G3/300. For the real world tests we turned virtual memory on and set it to 97MB. Our monitor was a 19" Sony Trinitron.

The Experience: The ATI card made its presence known immediately when I opened the "Monitors" control panel. The list of supported resolutions and refresh rates was truly impressive, all, of course, at millions of colors! I opted for 1024x768 at 120Hz which provided both an ultra crisp display and plenty of screen real estate. The Rage Orion comes with three games, Tomb Raider II, Myth II and FutureCop LAPD. Unfortunately, only this last one is the full game, the first two are demos. I installed and played FutureCop before installing the ATI card to get a feel for the difference and what a difference there was! The game was definitely playable using the stock graphics card in the 9500 but the graphic's textures had that tell-tell blocky look that lets you know your card isn't giving you the "full picture." With the Rage Orion card installed the game's graphics became smooth and rich. I am not a fan of the blood-splat game genre but still found myself sucked in by the visuals. Next I opened the Star Wars: Episode I QuickTime trailer and scaled it as large as possible while still maintaining the proper aspect ratio. This would have brought the stock card to its knees but the Orion kicked the movie out with great image quality and nary a hiccup. The 2D experience was less impressive. While scrolling in applications like AppleWorks and DreamWeaver was somewhat faster, I expected more impressive gains. The one exception was Photoshop which showed a striking gain when scrolling a 10MB document viewed at 800%. Here the scroll time was cut to almost one third of the stock card.

Product: Rage Orion - Rage 128/16MB
Company: ATI Technologies
Rating: (5 possible)
Hits: Easy to install; comes with decent selection of games although 2 are limited or demos; OpenGL, RAVE, and QuickDraw 3D support; QuickTime movies look great! 5 year warranty
Misses: Mixed 2D performance
MSRP: $149

MacBench 5.0 Scores

MacBench 5.0 is a subsystem-level benchmark that measures the performance of a Mac's processor, disk, and graphics subsystems to name a few. We only ran the graphics tests of course. MacBench normalizes all scores relative to the base machine, a Power Macintosh G3/300. The base machine receives a score of 1000. For all MacBench tests, higher numbers mean better performance. You should note that for these tests we set the monitor to 16bit color (thousands) as opposed to the 32 bit (millions) setting used for the MacBench base G3/300. Neither of the scores below should be compared with the G3/300. For more detailed information on MacBench click here.

"Real World" Tests

For all of the real world tests below we used the following settings. In all cases except the Unreal FPS test, shorter bars are better.

  • Monitor resolution 800x600 75Hz
  • 32 bit ("Millions") color Virtual memory on @ 97MB (200MB for Unreal)
  • AppleTalk off
  • 2MB disk cache
Time to Scroll a 574 page AppleWorks document from top to bottom.

For the DreamWeaver test we created html page heavily laden with a mix of graphics and text. We clocked the time to scroll from top to bottom.

Photoshop 5.0 "Real World" Test Results

For the Photoshop test we used a 10MB image viewed at 800%. The score below reflects the time to to scroll the image from top to bottom.

Unreal TimeDemo Frames Per Second

From castle flyby in opening sequence. 800x600 resolution. In this case higher numbers are better.

Resolutions, Colors And Maximum Refresh Rates
Resolution 512x384 640x480 640x870 800x600 832x624
256 colors 70Mz 120Hz 75Hz 120Hz 75Hz
"Thousands" 70Hz 120Hz 75Hz 120Hz 75Hz
"Millions" 70Hz 120Hz 75Hz 120Hz 75Hz
Resolution 1024x768 1152x870 1280x960 1280x1024 1600x1200
256 colors 120Hz 75Hz 75Hz 85Hz 85Hz
"Thousands" 120Hz 75Hz 75Hz 85Hz 85Hz
"Millions" 120Hz 75Hz 75Hz 85Hz 85Hz