ATI Radeon 9800 SE
I picked up the ATI Radeon 9800 SE Mac Edition the other day because my PowerMac G5 1.6 GHz was feeling a little sluggish when I upped the resolution on my second monitor. I originally had the Radeon 9600, the one that comes with the G5 and I thought that was pretty good until I downloaded the DOOM 3 demo. Well, I was hoping that it would speed up the general operation of my desktop, at least a little. I noticed no improvement in general peppyness. I'd imagine that is because there is still a high level of CPU involvement in desktop rendering in Mac OS X.
Later, I tried to play DOOM, and let it auto-choose the settings. They went from 640 x 480 and low detail to 640 x 480 and medium detail. Even then, the game was still sluggish. What is strange is that I know that if I got this card for my 1.6 GHz Athlon, it would run DOOM 3 fairly well, at least well enough to get 24 fps at 800 x 600. I do have to say that when I opened the Quartz debugger and started running Q2D Extreme, I noticed that it actually made a difference. I'd have to say that it was the frame buffer increase. Going from 64 MB of memory to 256 MB is pretty significant.
All in all I guess the upgrade is worth the $200+ that I paid for it. Swift 3D ran a little better, I don't know I guess I was just expecting more. I'll have to try some older games that aren't as demanding as DOOM to see if I can get higher FPS out of them. Oh well, I only do a little 3D rendering anymore, and very rarely play games. I just can't wait until Q2D Extreme comes out of beta and is enabled by default.
The one thing that I truly saw an immediate difference was in any application that used Core Image effects. The ripple effect when opening a new widget was very noticably smoother, and I definately appreciated that. I think that once Apple gets more stuff in the OS using Core Image things will get better. I'm sure that if they could get the Genie Effect to use Core Image that would show a significant improvement as well. It just didn't get any faster, which leads me to believe that the CPU is still doing most of it. I guess I'll have to wait and see with OS X 10.4.3 and eventaully Leopard.