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OCS L2 O/C 9700 Pro

Being a hardware junkie is an addiction... you can’t explain it but you just gotta have the best even when there is no NEED for more power. I am a hopeless junkie because when OCSystems offered me one of their Level 2 Enhanced Radeon 9700Pro’s to test I clawed over the empty takeout boxes to the exit of the Secret Monster-Hardware Underground Labs into... daylight... and drove wildly to their headquarters to pick one up.

The OCS L2 Enhanced Radeon 9700Pro is simply the most badass rip-snorting videocard ever sold retail... at least on paper. It has a core speed of 405MHz and a memory speed of 690MHz compared to the stock 325/620MHz. OCS claims a 3DMark score of 17,300 on a 3.06MHz Intel system with a 533fsb.

How do they get such insane speeds? They cherry pick retail cards for those that come closest to being perfectly manufactured. Then they mod the BIOS, alter the clock speed and add a Zalman heatpipe cooler to the card to handle the thermal load.

Let’s get a look at this beast:

OCS Heatpipe Cooler

While the new GeForce FX’s cooler has been mistaken for a "dustbuster" the cooling scheme used here is absolutely silent... without sacrificing performance. You DO lose a PCI slot and the heatpipe assembly adds a considerable amount of weight but for us extremists... who cares?

In the past there have been issues with ATI’s drivers, this is one of the things I really hated about ATI. However, the new driver series mimic the unified drivers that Nvidia uses and are quite stable...a pleasant discovery indeed. This historical flaw and Nvidia’s raw performance have been the key reasons I have been a die hard Nvidiot

Picture quality with this card is noticeably better than the Ti4600 even at lower quality settings. I have taken screenshots of all the ATI Demo’s and they are just jaw-dropping.

ATi 1     ATi 2      ATi 3

ATi 4     ATi 5     ATi 6

ATi 7     ATi 8

There are a few more little things to mention before we move on with the review... the damnable metal spacer around the GPU core that requires lapping for proper contact with aftermarket cooling solutions has been removed by the staff at OCS and that overclocking, which previously required a BIOS hack, has been enabled by the OCS people. Nice bonuses indeed.

Well... let’s get to it... Does This Card Really Run At THAT Speed? The answer would be YES. Using Riva Tuner I have checked the clockspeed and the default really is as specified. Is It Stable? YES, absolutely rock-solid stable.

How Does It Perform? Like a squirrel on speed! I ran the usual battery of benchmarks; here are the specs on the test system:

XP2600+ Overclocked to 2.59 GHz (13.5 x 192fsb)
Asus A7V8X Deluxe Mobo with Gigabit LAN
Custom Watercooled
Vantec Stealth 470w PSU
LiteOn DVD and Burner
GeIL PC3500DDR 512MB (most aggressive settings)
OCS L2 Enhanced Radeon 9700Pro 8X AGP enabled
Catalyst Drivers: Radeon-7-81-021218a-007192c-efg
Maxtor 120GB 7200rpm ATA133 Hard Drive
Custom InWin Case
XP Pro Bld2600 DX9 installed

3DMark2001

The first test will be the venerable and proven 3DMark2001SE bld330 with DX9 installed. This was run with all the doo-dads turned off in the driver at 1024x768. Considering that the Ti4600Max that was voltage modded, watercooled and pelted by me could squeeze out a maximum of 14,500 this is nothing short of astounding! OCSystems advertises these performance figures for their factory modded cards:

ATi Graph

(Note: The Level 3 has not been released for sale to the public as of 1/1/2003) This score VERY close to their advertised specs... and spot on when you consider that their test system is a 533fsb 3.06GHz Intel!

The next test is the Code Creatures benchmark. This is the benchmark that brought the mighty Ti500Ultra to its knees and even makes the Ti4600 groan. It is very bandwidth intensive and that’s where the Radeon shines with its 256bit bus width. The Ti4600 pulls an acceptable 30 to 32fps in this benchy... 30 frames per second is considered the minimum necessary to fool the human eye into believing it is seeing a continuous picture, so the more frames per second (up to a point) the smoother the picture looks.

ATi Benchmark

I don’t want to sound like a suck up but 54fps is UnFricken Believable! This is nearly double what the Ti4600 is capable of!

I am going to close the formal testing with a multiple run of UT2003 using [H]ardOCP’s take on the benchmark included with the game.

UT 2003 1     UT 2003 2     UT 2003 3

The raw power of this card is very evident here, netting an average of 200fps in the Flyby and capped at 76fps in the Botmatch at all the resolutions available to my 21" monitor. The fact that the scores are nearly the same in both benches says that this card hasn’t even begun to reach its peak throughput and has horsepower to spare! The final bench is from my stock Ti4600 (overclocked) as a comparison. For a lark I decided to enable every single quality setting available in the drivers to their maximum and run the test at 1280x960 resolution.

OpenGL 1     OpenGL 2

Normally this would result in some amusing number like... oh... 12fps. Not So Here:

Benchmark Results

What can I say? The numbers speak for themselves... I was floored by this score!

I know what is on your sweaty little minds. Will this factory overclocked card overclock? You betcha. Incredibly, I was able to get this card up to the speed shown below before encountering problems of any sort:

Overclocking

I am using the newest release of Riva Tuner from Guru3D to overclock this card to this level... a nice stable freeware utility.

NO OTHER 9700Pro has been able to overclock to this insane level without modifications to the physical structure to the card. We are talking a 95MHz core and 55MHz memory overclock... far more than the typical overclock... and I could get more from the memory with the addition of heatsinks I am sure. This proves that the OCS techys know what they are about when they are picking these cards for you.

What? What does it bench at that speed? Aw c’mon I am tired... OOOooo awright here ya go:

3DMark2001SE

This equals the performance of the yet-to-be-released Level 3 when you factor in the hardware differences between my XP system and the Intel system that OCSystems used to test the new L3 card (meaning that you may save a few bux overclocking a L2 to L3 clockspeeds yourself) I bet this card can take on the new GeForce FX!

Outcasts Comments:

This is a helluva card... the performance difference between it and my ex-champeen Ti4600Maxx is more than incremental... it is dramatic. The installation was easy and the drivers were a no-brainer, a welcome change from my previous ATI experiences. The visual quality is noticeably better than the Nvidia and there was no screen ripping and tearing that is evident with my Ti4600, not that it was really that bad but it was a bit annoying. The gameplay was smooth and this card simply refused to lockup during even the most intense game scenarios (unlike my Ti4600 even when it was stock) Solderdude is a Quake 3 freak and thinks that fighting 20 bots at the Insane skill level is fun but then again he enjoys being headshot. This card can probably go toe to toe with any videocard due out in the next 2 quarters regardless of who manufactures it and that makes it at least somewhat future proof AND you will have the distinction of having the fastest, meanest videocard on the whole dam block!

No joke dudes... this card smokes anything that Nvidia has out at the present, so much so that I refused to give this card back to the manufacturer! Yep... I bought it... and that’s the best recommendation I can give.

Pros:

  • If you gotta have the fastest, this IS IT
  • Silent operation
  • You shouldn’t need to buy another card for quite awhile
  • Your choice of neato heatsink colors

Cons:

  • Extremeism Costs! ($400.00 with no included games)
  • This card is warranted through OCS only
  • You lose a PCI slot
  • Heatpipe adds considerable weight

Added: February 4th 2003
Reviewer: Outcast
Score: 9  
Hits: 3057
Language: english

  

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