Sapphire Ultimate Edition Radeons!

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The Sapphire Ultimate Edition Atlantis 9800 Pro
&
The Sapphire Ultimate Edition Atlantis 9600 Pro
A Couple of Passively Cooled, Wild Looking Radeons!

By - Marco Chiappetta
July 25, 2003

ATi's Radeon 9800 Pro and 9600 Pro GPUs are two of the most popular 3D chipsets on the market today.  A multitude of OEMs build boards based on these two chipsets and most of them strictly adhere to ATi's reference designs, for the PCB and cooling system.  It has gotten to the point that if you line up cards sold by a few top manufactures side-by-side, it would be almost impossible to them apart.  Well, all that is about to change!  Today, Sapphire Technologies unveils two new products in their Atlantis line of video cards, the Ultimate Edition Atlantis 9800 Pro and the Ultimate Edition Atlantis 9600 Pro.  These two cards use PCBs based on ATi reference designs, but they are equipped with custom, passive cooling solutions.  These Ultimate Edition Radeons are every bit as powerful as other cards powered by similar GPUs.  They run at the same clock speeds, have the same features and use the same drivers.  However, there is one thing missing,  Noise...

Temperature Readings
Passive Cooling?

The Sapphire Ultimate Edition Radeons' main attractions are their large, passive heatsinks with heat-pipes.  What these coolers are supposed to do, is silently transfer heat from the GPU side of the heatsink, to the heatsink on the rear of the board, where it can then radiate into the air inside your case.  There is a liquid inside the heat-pipe that when heated, migrates to the opposite end of the pipe.  It then cools, and the liquid travels back down to the other end of the heat-pipe.  This cycle is repeated over and over as the heatsink with heat-pipe warms up and cools down.

     

TEMPERATURES LISTED IN DEGREES FAHRENHEIT

We took some basic temperature readings, using a digital thermometer with a thermal probe, to give you an idea of how these coolers perform at idle, and when under a load.  We did not have the means to actually monitor the GPU's core temperature directly, so it was impossible for us to give you an accurate, apple-to-apples comparison of core temperatures between similar active and passively cooled cards.  The temperatures above were taken with the probe fastened to the exact same position on both Sapphire cards...

As you can see, the Radeon 9800 Pro, which is built on a .15 micron manufacturing process, generates significantly more heat than the 9600 Pro which is built using a more advanced .13 micron process.  The Radeon 9600 Pro is also comprised of fewer transistors, which further reduces its thermal output.  With ambient temperatures at roughly the same level, the Radeon 9800 Pro runs 30° - 35° hotter than the 9600 Pro.

Gaming & Screenshots
It's Playtime!

     
1024x768 - 6X AA - 16X ANISO

Before we got to benchmarking the Sapphire Ultimate Edition Radeons we're looking at today, we installed them into our test system and spent a few days playing some popular games at a resolution of 1024x768, with 6X AA and 16X Aniso enabled.  We played the Hulk for a little while and played some Unreal Tournament 2003, but we definitely had the most fun with Star Trek Elite Force II.  We snapped a few screenshots to show you how Elite Force II looked while we played the game at these settings.  With AA and Aniso enabled, edges remained sharp and the textures were nice and clear.  Both of the Sapphire Cards had the horsepower to consistently maintain smooth frame rates at the settings we used.
 

Tiger Woods 2003


1024x768
NO AA

1024x768
4X AA

1024x768
6X AA

Over the last few months, we've done quite a few image quality comparisons using different GPUs, so we won't go in-depth again here.  However, we still wanted to show just how well these cards can clean up an image when anti-aliasing is enabled.  The three screenshots above are from EA's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003.  Open up the first image, and look at the jaggies around Tiger's shirt and along the shaft of the club.  Then open up the 4X and 6X AA shots.  The difference is like night and day.

A Closer Look at The Radeon 9800 Pro

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