ATI 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro

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The 256MB ATi Radeon 9800 Pro
It's Here!  But What Does the Extra Memory Mean to Gamers?

By - Marco Chiappetta
May 12, 2003

Gamers and Enthusiasts always seem to be looking for their next major upgrade.  There's almost a quest for that one piece of hardware that's going to give them bragging rights and make their buddies green with envy.  Every time a new processor, chipset or video card is announced, someone, somewhere begins to save their money in eager anticipation of the product's eventual release.  In March, when ATi unveiled the 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro, they mentioned a 256MB version of the card was also in the works.  The 128MB variant proved to be the "fastest" video card available at the time of its release, so naturally enthusiasts everywhere were excited by the prospect of a Radeon 9800 Pro with double the amount of RAM.  We're sure some of them even set aside a few dollars for one of these cards without really knowing what the official specifications would be.  What speed would the memory be clocked at?  And what type of memory would it be?  Would the core be running at the same speed as the "standard" Radeon 9800 Pro?  And how would the extra memory affect performance?  Questions like these were posted in many forums and message boards across the web.  Well, we've finally got one of these cards in the lab and will attempt to answer these, and many more questions for you on the upcoming pages.  So, without further delay, we bring you the 256MB ATi Radeon 9800 Pro...

Specifications & Features of the 256MB ATi Radeon 9800 Pro
Yup, It's A Beast Alright!
 
RADEON? 9800 Visual Processing Unit (VPU)
  • 380MHz Core Clock

MEMORY CONFIGURATION

  • 256MB of DDR 2 SDRAM - 350MHz DDR (Effective 700MHz)

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

         

         
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW

The 256MB ATi Radeon 9800 Pro's board layout is similar to the 128MB model, but with a few notable exceptions.  The front and back sides of the PCB each have eight, 16MB DDR-II modules installed, clocked at 700MHz (350MHz DDR).  The 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro has DDR-I type memory clocked at 680MHz (340MHz DDR).  The increase in memory clock speed brings total bandwidth up to 22.4GB/Sec, versus 21.8GB/Sec on the 128MB card.  The core is clocked at 380MHz on both versions of the 9800 Pro, which is cooled by the same aluminum HSF.  The 256MB board also has the added benefit of heatsinks installed on the RAM.  Don't expect every 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro to look just like ours, however.  We're sure a few OEMs will design custom cooling solutions and may even release cards with different clock speeds than the "ATi Built" model we have here.  As you can see in the pictures above, the 256MB board is slightly longer than the 128MB version, but it is not quite as large as a GeForce 4 Ti4600.
 


HIGH-QUALITY


VERY HIGH-QUALITY

So, what does having 256MB of memory installed on a video card mean to gamers?  Well, there are three main benefits.  First, having more memory available means game developers can use larger, higher quality textures without having to swap data in and out of system memory.  The screen shots above are from Asheron's Call 2.  The shot on the left represents the game's "High Quality" graphics mode.  The shot on the right is of a "Very High Quality" mode available to owners of video cards with 256MB of RAM.  The differences between the two images are clearly evident.  The "Very High Quality" shot is far more detailed and realistic.  The second benefit to having more available video memory is being able to run at higher resolutions with Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filtering enabled.  With the 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro users will be able to enable 4X AA at resolutions all the way up to 2048x1536 and with 6X AA up to 1920x1200.  Lastly, there will be less of a performance penalty for enabling AA or Aniso Filtering at high resolutions.

Next Up - Image Quality... 

Tags:  ATI, Radeon, 980, pro

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