Sapphire Atlantis 9800XT

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The Sapphire Atlantis 9800XT
Up Close and Personal with Sapphire's Radeon 9800 XT 256MB

By, Marco Chiappetta
December 30, 2003

When manufacturing video cards, most companies tend to adhere strictly to the chip maker's reference designs (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).  This is the case with Sapphire's Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT.  The only thing that differentiates this product from a "Built by ATi" Radeon 9800 XT, is the "Sapphire" decal adorning the fan guard.

The Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800XT
Up Close and Personal

     

     

  

Like ATi's own Radeon 9800 XT, this card is outfitted with a large, all copper heatsink on the front that cools not only the GPU, but the 256MB of RAM on the card as well.  The cooler is equipped with an 80mm-ish, variable-speed fan that pushes quite a bit of air, while operating at near-silent levels.  The cooler isn't completely silent, but it is inaudible next to a stock Pentium 4 heatsink for example, and it requires only a single slot, unlike some competing high-end products.  Cooling the RAM on the back of the card is handled by a copper heat-plate, that actually makes contact with the rear of the GPU as well.  On the back of the card, a metal clip is used to keeps the heat plate pressed firmly against the backside of the GPU.  This clip could use a redesign, however, as it can easily be removed with one finger.  Luckily, this simple clip is not the only thing keeping the coolers in place.  There are also two spring-loaded screws (visible in the second to last picture) that secure the entire assembly together and ensure the plates are properly mated.  As you can see on the external plate, the Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT has a single DB15 analog monitor output, along with DVI and TV-Out connectors.  Using the supplied adapter, this card can drive dual independent analog displays, or a single analog and single digital display simultaneously.  Owners of this card will also need to supply it with additional power, so make sure you've got an extra 4-pin Molex connector available in your system.  If not, don't fret - Sapphire includes a power cable splitter with the card.

Screenshots of Sapphire's Redline Utility v1.93
Lots of Options

     

     

 

As we mentioned earlier, Sapphire bundles a copy of their Redline utility with the Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT.  We normally don't get very excited over these proprietary, bundled apps, but we found the Redline utility to be quite useful.  With this application, users can tweak virtually every driver setting, along with some more advanced options that aren't available from within ATi's drivers alone.  Specific setting profiles are set for some popular games and benchmarking applications, which makes it easy to bounce between different options without having to manually configure each setting manually.  Users can also overclock their card with the Redline utility, with simple sliders available on the "Overclocking" tab.  Generally we found the Redline utility to a solid software addition and think it does add some value to the package, but we do have some gripes. 

First, the font used on all of the menus is a bit "cartoon like" for our taste.  There are other easier to read fonts that could have been used but this is a subjective issue so we won't dwell too much on it.  Secondly, the copy included with out card wasn't compatible with the Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT.  We had to download a new copy from Sapphire and request an installation code from their technical support department to get it working.  Obviously, we were able to get the Redline utility up and running, as is evident by the above screenshots, but Sapphire needs to take care of this problem with the bundle, to prevent end users from having to jump through hoops just to use the utility.

In-Game Screenshots With The Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT
Call of Duty

For more comprehensive image quality comparisons between a Radeon 9800 XT and GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, Click Here.
 


1024x768
NO AA

1024x768
4X AA

1024x768
6X AA

1024x768
4X AA / 8X ANISO

You can't evaluate a video card using benchmarks alone, so before we got down to the business of testing the Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT's performance, we spent some time with a few popular games.  There's no point is dropping serious money on a video card, if the games you want to play don't look the way you would like them to, especially when there are so many options at the moment.  We played some Medal of Honor, Max Payne 2 and Need For Speed: Underground with the Atlantis 9800 XT and every one of these games looked and played great.  We found these games ran best at 1280x1024 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering, with all of the in-game options maxed out, but your tastes may vary.  To demonstrate what Call of Duty looked like on this card, we snapped off a few screen shots at 1024x768, with the same settings we use while benchmarking (No AA, 4X AA, 6X AA and 4X AA + 8X Aniso).  Pay special attention to the wires dangling between the building, and you'll get a good idea of the benefits of anti-aliasing.  Looks pretty good, doesn't it?  The same can be said for Aniso Filtering.  Look at the cobblestones in the street area around the building.  The benefits are obvious and dramatic for both AA and AF.

The Test System, AquaMark3 & Halo

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