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Gigabyte Radeon 9800 Pro (GVR98P128D)
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Date: Jul 18, 2003
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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Gigabyte Radeon 9800 Pro (GVR98P128D) - Page 1

The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D
Powered by the ATi Radeon 9800 Pro

By - Marco Chiappetta
July 17, 2003

At the moment, gamers looking for a "Top-of-the-Line" graphics card, basically have two GPUs to choose from, either an ATi Radeon 9800 Pro or an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900.  Video cards based on these two GPUs are so evenly matched, they swap the first place position in most of today's popular benchmarks, depending on what resolutions or settings are used.  And to further complicate matters, the performance landscape changes slightly with each driver release.  It's very difficult to determine which product is superior or whether one is better for your personal needs versus another.  Today on HotHardware.Com, we'll be looking at a Radeon 9800 Pro based video card from Gigabyte, the GV-R98P128D.  For the sake of comparison, we've also benchmarked a similarly priced GeForce FX 5900.  In the past, we've been very pleased by Gigabyte's video cards.  The Maya II 9700 and 9500 Pros were both excellent performers, that came with top-notch bundles.  Has Gigabyte continued the tradition with the GV-R98P128D Radeon 9800 Pro?  Continue reading and find out...

   
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW

Specifications & Features of the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D Radeon 9800 Pro
Yup, It's A Beast Alright!
 
RADEON? 9800 Visual Processing Unit (VPU)
  • 380MHz Core Clock

MEMORY CONFIGURATION

  • 128MB of DDR SDRAM - 340MHz DDR (Effective 680MHz)

3D GRAPHICS FEATURES

  • Eight parallel rendering pipelines process up to 3.04 billion pixels per second
  • Four parallel geometry engines process up to 380 million transformed and lit polygons per second
  • High precision 10-bit per channel frame buffer support
  • 256-bit DDR memory interface
  • AGP 8X support

SMARTSHADER? 2.1

  • Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 programmable pixel and vertex shaders in hardware
  • 2.0 Pixel Shaders support up to 16 textures per rendering pass
  • 2.0 Vertex Shaders support vertex programs with an unlimited number of instructions and flow control
  • 128-bit per pixel floating point color formats
  • Multiple Render Target (MRT) support
  • Shadow volume rendering acceleration
  • Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL via extensions

SMOOTHVISION? 2.1

  • State-of-the-art full-scene anti-aliasing
  • New technology processes up to 18.2 billion anti-aliased samples per second for unprecedented performance
  • Supports 2x, 4x, and 6x modes with programmable sample patterns
  • Advanced anisotropic filtering
  • Supports up to 16 bilinear samples (in performance mode) or trilinear samples (in quality mode) per pixel
  • 2x/4x/6x full scene anti-aliasing modes
  • Adaptive algorithm with programmable sample patterns
  • 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes
  • Adaptive algorithm with bilinear (performance) and trilinear (quality) options
  • Bandwidth-saving algorithm enables this feature with minimal performance cost

HYPER Z? III+

  • Hierarchical Z-Buffer and Early Z Test reduce overdraw by detecting and discarding hidden pixels
  • Lossless Z-Buffer Compression and Fast Z-Buffer Clear reduce memory bandwidth consumption by over 50%
  • Fast Z-Buffer Clear
  • 8.8 : 1 Compression Ratio
  • Optimized Z-Cache for enhanced performance of shadow volumes

TRUFORM? II

  • 2nd generation N-patch higher order surface support
  • Discrete and continuous tessellation levels per polygon for dynamic LOD
  • DirectX 9.0 displacement mapping
 
VIDEOSHADER?
  • Seamless integration of programmable pixel shaders with video data
  • High quality, hardware accelerated de-blocking of internet streaming video
  • Noise removal filter for captured video
  • Integrated MPEG-2 decode
  • Hardware accelerated iDCT, motion compensation, and color space conversion
  • Top quality DVD and all-format DTV/HDTV decode with low CPU overhead
  • Back-end scaler delivers top quality playback
  • Upscaling and downscaling with 4-tap horizontal and vertical filtering
  • Filtered display of images up to 1920 pixels wide
  • Unique per-pixel adaptive de-interlacing feature combines the best elements of the ?bob? and ?add-field? (weave) techniques

FULLSTREAM? video de-blocking technology

  • Noise removal filtering for captured video
  • MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and color space conversion
  • All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
  • YPrPb component output
  • Adaptive de-interlacing and frame rate conversion
  • Dual integrated display controllers
  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel 400MHz DACs
  • Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI and HDCP compliant)
  • Integrated TV Output support up to 1024x768 resolution
  • Optimized for Pentium® 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon? 3Dnow!
  • PC 2002 compliant

DISPLAY FEATURES

  • Dual integrated display controllers
  • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions and refresh rates
  • HYDRAVISION? software provides complete control over multi-display configurations with a user-friendly interface
  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel palette DACs operating at up to 400MHz
  • Integrated 165MHz TMDS transmitter supports resolutions up to QXGA (2048x1536) and complies with DVI and HDCP specifications
  • Integrated TV-Out support up to 1024x768 resolution
  • YPrPb output for direct drive of HDTV monitors

DISPLAY SUPPORT

  • 15-pin VGA connector for analog CRT
  • S-video or composite connector for TV/VCR
  • DVI-I connector for digital CRT or flat panel
  • Independent resolutions and refresh rates for any two connected displays

GENERAL FEATURES

  • Comprehensive 2x, 4x, and 8x AGP support
  • High performance quad-channel DDR or DDR2 memory interface supports 64/128/256MB configurations
  • Fully compliant with PC 2002 requirements
  • Optimized for Pentium® 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon? 3Dnow! processor instructions
  • Supports optional THEATER? 200 companion chip for NTSC/PAL/SECAM video capture
  • Highly optimized 128-bit 2D engine with support for new Windows® XP GDI extensions

 

   

Gigabyte included an impressive array of software and accessories with the GV-R98P128D.  Bundled with the card, were full versions of four games, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2, Motocross Mania and Serious Sam.  There were also "lite" versions of two more games included, 4x4 Evo and Oni.  We also found a very complete owners manual, a copy of PowerDVD XP 4 and the obligatory driver CD that also contains Gigabyte's V-Tuner overclocking utlity in the box.  In addition to all this software Gigabyte included a DVI-to-15 Pin adapter, a composite video cable, an S-Video cable, an S-Video-to-RCA adapter and a Molex power cable splitter.  The games may not be the most cutting-edge titles available, but all in all Gigabyte did a great job with the GV-R98P128D's bundle.

The Card & Some Gaming... 

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Gigabyte Radeon 9800 Pro (GVR98P128D) - Page 2

The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D
Powered by the ATi Radeon 9800 Pro

By - Marco Chiappetta
July 17, 2003

The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D Radeon 9800 Pro
You Look Very Familiar...

   

    

   

With the active cooler removed, it is virtually impossible to tell the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D apart from an ATi built Radeon 9800 Pro.  Gigabyte strictly adheres to ATi's Radeon 9800 Pro reference design.  Even the color of their PCBs is identical.  About the only thing that differentiates this card from it's "ATi built" counterpart is the gold heatsink / fan combo sitting atop the R350 GPU.  The external plate is equipped with single analog and DVI monitor connectors, as well as an S-Video / TV output.  Courtesy of the R350's inherent multi-monitor capabilities, this combination of connectors allows the GV-R98P128D to power two displays independently, either two monitors or a monitor and a television for example.  The BGA packaged memory modules populating the board are 2.8ns Samsung K4D26323RA-GC2A pieces, rated for 350MHz.  Unfortunately, there are no heatsinks mounted to the RAM, but as we've seen in the past with most other Radeon 9800 Pros, that shouldn't hinder overclocking much.  The GPU cooler is held in place with two plastic spring clips.  Removing it reveals the stodgy thermal interface material.  As you can see in the shots above it was making perfect contact with GPU before we removed it!

Screenshots with Antialiasing Enabled
Hulk Smash!

The main reason for buying a high-end video card like the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D Radeon 9800 Pro is gaming.  So, before we got down to benchmarking this card, we installed it into one of our test systems and spent some time playing a few popular games.  Over the course of about a week, we played a little Splinter Cell, Enter the Matrix and Hulk...

   

 

When gaming with the GV-R98P128D, we set the resolution to 1024x768 and enabled 6X AA and 16X Anisotropic filtering (Note: AA is broken in Splinter Cell.  Only Aniso was enabled).  All of the games performed flawlessly at these setting.  Frame rates seemed smooth and jitter-free throughout.  Splinter Cell was great and Enter the Matrix was decent, but we had the most fun with the Hulk.  There's just something about running and smashing stuff that makes me smile!  We snapped off a few screenshots with the Hulk to give you an idea what the game looked like with the settings mentioned above.  The explosions and fire looked great, and thanks to the Radeon's 6XAA, edges are crisp and "jaggy-free".

It's time for Some Benchmarks!

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Gigabyte Radeon 9800 Pro (GVR98P128D) - Page 3

The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D
Powered by the ATi Radeon 9800 Pro

By - Marco Chiappetta
July 17, 2003

Next up, we have some Splinter Cell benchmark scores, using the Oil Rig demo created by the folks at Beyond 3D.  This test is heavily dependant on Pixel Shader performance.  Pixel shaders are used to render the realistic looking ocean water that surrounds the Oil Rig in the demo.  As Dave mentioned in his recent review of ATi's All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro, Antialiasing is "broken" with Splinter cell (at least with the current version).  Due to this fact, we do not have any AA scores listed in the graphs below...

Benchmarks With Splinter Cell
Another DirectX Game In Action

Even though this game was ported over from the Xbox, which is powered by an NVIDIA GPU, the Radeon 9800 Pros still managed to walk away with a decisive victory.  At both resolutions, the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D outperformed all of the other cards.  It held a 13% lead over the 5900 at 1024x768 and an even larger 20% lead at 1600x1200.  The Radeon 9600 Pro performed admirably, but simply could not keep up with the "Big Boys" in this test.

Head-to-Head Performance With Comanche 4
Did anyone see the Comanche Bike on "American Chopper"?  Very cool stuff...

We continued our DirectX testing with another DirectX game, Novalogic's combat helicopter simulator Comanche 4.  Comanche 4 makes use of DX8 pixel and vertex shaders to produce some of the realistic visuals used throughout the game.  Unlike the previous tests, this benchmark is heavily influenced by CPU and system memory performance at lower resolution.  When the resolution is raised, and AA and Aniso are enabled, however, it's a while different story!

Once again, the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D was the "Top Gun".  It outperformed all of the cards in all but one of the tests.  At 1600x1200 with 6XAA enabled, the GeForce FX 5900 nudged pasted the Radeon 9800s, but that was the only test where the FX held the lead.  In the Non-AA tests, the Radeons and FX performed similarly, but once Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering were enabled, the Radeon 9800 Pros pulled ahead.  The performance deltas varied depending on resolution, but in some cases, like at 1600x1200 with 4XAA enabled for example, the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D was about 17% faster than the 5900.

UT2003 & Quake 3 Benchmarks 

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Gigabyte Radeon 9800 Pro (GVR98P128D) - Page 4

The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D
Powered by the ATi Radeon 9800 Pro

By - Marco Chiappetta
July 17, 2003

For our next DirectX test, we used Epic's visually impressive Unreal Tournament 2003.  When testing with UT2003, we use a special utility that ensures all of the cards are being benchmarked using the exact same in-game settings and "High-Quality" graphical options.

Performances Comparisons With UT:2003
Head Shot!

The Radeon 9800 Pros also performed very well in Unreal Tournament 2003.  At both resolutions, with and without AA and Aniso enabled, the Radeon 9800 Pros surpassed all of the cards in every test but one.  At 1024x768, with 4XAA and 8X Aniso enabled, the GeForce FX 5900 pulled ahead but it couldn't hold onto the lead anywhere else.  When we raised the resolution, however, the Radeon 9800 Pros took over.  The Gigabyte card enjoyed its largest advantage of 46%, at 1600x1200 when 6XAA was enabled.

Benchmarks / Comparison With Quake 3 Arena v1.32
Doom3, Doom3...Where For Art Thou Doom3?

Well, that's enough DirectX testing for one review.  How about we move on to some OpenGL tests with the benchmark that never dies, Quake 3 Arena?  We installed the latest point release, v1.32, and ran some tests using the built-in timedemo, "demo four".  Before running these tests, we set Quake 3 to the "High Quality" graphics option with Tri-Linear filtering enabled, and then we maxed out the texture quality and geometric detail.

At 1024x768, without AA and again with 4XAA enabled, the GeForce FX 5900 held onto small leads, but the scales tipped in favor of the Radeon 9800 Pros when AA and Anisotropic filtering were enabled simultaneously.  It's almost the same story at 1600x1200 where the Radeon 9800 Pros surpassed the competition at every configuration, except for the 4X AA test when the 5900 racked up a victory.  The Radeon 9600 Pro also performed well in this test, especially at 1024x768.  It even managed playable frame rates at 1600x1200.  Who says you need to spend a fortune to enjoy gaming at high resolutions? :)

Some Serious Sam, Overclocking & The Conclusion... 

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Gigabyte Radeon 9800 Pro (GVR98P128D) - Page 5

The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D
Powered by the ATi Radeon 9800 Pro

By - Marco Chiappetta
July 17, 2003

We continued our benchmarking with Croteam's Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.  We configured the game to use OpenGL (this is one of the few games that can use either DirectX or OpenGL) and ran a series of tests using the built-in "Little Trouble" demo.   To ensure the playing field was level, we used Beyond3D's "Extreme Quality" script which maxes out the texture and filtering quality with all of the cards tested.

Head-to-Head / Performance With Serious Sam: TSE
Lots of Guns, Action and Explosions!

The GeForce FX 5900 eclipsed the Radeon 9800 Pros by about 8% at 1024x768 in Serious Sam: TSE, both with and without Antialiasing enabled (The FX doesn't offer 6X AA in OpenGL, hence the N/A in the graph).  The tables were turned when we raised the resolution to 1600x1200, however.  At 1600x1200, the 9800 Pros pulled ahead of the FX by roughly the same 8%, regardless of which AA method was in use.  Once again, the Radeon 9600 Pro performed well, but was clearly outclassed by the high-end cards.

Overclocking With The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D Radeon 9800 Pro
Fast = Good.  Faster = Better!

Obviously, the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D is fast.  The Radeon 9800 Pro powering this card is arguably the highest performing GPU currently available, but there is always some room for improvement!  We set out to see just how much headroom was available, by overclocking the card until visual artifacts started to appear during the benchmarks.  We ended up overclocking the GV-R98P128D's core up to 422MHz and the memory up to 373MHz (746MHz DDR).  These speeds are 11% (core) and 10% (memory) higher than default.  Actually, the GV-R98P128D overclocked even higher than this without crashing, but there were visual anomalies galore.  To demonstrate the benefits of overclocking the card, we ran the Gun Metal benchmark at 1024x768.  When overclocked, the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D was about 9.7% faster, almost catching the GeForce FX 5900.

The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D Radeon 9800 Pro is an excellent product.  With the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D, gamers are blessed with all of the power and visual splendor of an ATi Radeon 9800 Pro, but Gigabyte includes a handful of games and an overclocking utility at a lower price point than an "ATi Built" equivalent.  As of today, the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D can be found for roughly $355 US at various on-line resellers.  The "ATi Built" Radeon 9800 Pro is selling for about $369 US.  $14 may not be a significant amount of money to most people, but it is money than can be spent elsewhere!  The Gigabyte GV-R98P128D proved to be very stable throughout our benchmarking process, it had a good amount of overclocking headroom, great image quality, "best of class" performance and the included accessory and game bundle was better than most similar products, at any price point.  In the end, we don't have anything really negative to say about this card.  We would have liked to have seen a more recent game bundled with the card to show of its true power, and heatsinks on the RAM would have been a welcome addition, but there is no denying Gigabyte has done a great job.  Based on its bundle, performance and competitive price, we're giving the Gigabyte GV-R98P128D Radeon 9800 Pro a HotHardware Heat Meter Rating of 9.5.

    

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