ATI 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro Vs GeForce Fx 5900 Ultra

ATI 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro Vs GeForce Fx 5900 Ultra - Page 1

Battle Of The 256MB Graphics Cards
Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB Vs. GeForce FX 5900 Ultra
ATi's Catalyst 3.4 Drivers and 256MB R9800 Pro Vs. The New NVIDIA Flagship

By - Dave Altavilla
May 20, 2003



On May 12th we showcased our review of NVIDIA's follow-on product to the NV30, the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, based on NVIDIA's NV35 core.  This card from the Santa Clara based design team, is a high end "enthusiast" offering targeted at delivering the best performance and image quality, regardless of cost.  As such, NVIDIA outfitted their new flagship with 256MB of DDR Memory at 850MHz.  Of course the Engineering and Marketing teams at ATi had full knowledge of NVIDIA's impending launch at the time and began readying their 256MB variant of the Radeon 9800 Pro.  However, as we reported to you back in March, in our Radeon 9800 Pro launch article and then again this month in our Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB piece, ATi was going the way of DDR2 at 700MHz with this new card, slightly faster and with better latency characteristics than the 128MB variant, which comes clocked at 680MHz memory.

At the time we were testing the new GFFX 5900 Ultra, we didn't get the new Radeon 9800 Pro 256 into our lab in time to include it in our battery of benchmarks.  Deadlines were looming and although it would have been possible in theory, to be able to include this new entrant from ATi, sleep deprivation took hold of our team and a last minute decision was made to uphold our "quality" in reporting to you, rather than quantity.  So here we are today, with a couple more hours of beauty-rest in our overworked and underpaid bodies and a head to head match up of THE fastest 3D Accelerators on the market today.  We're going to keep the chatter and technical analysis to a minimum in this showcase.  If you would like a refresh on where these base architectures came from, please click the links above.  However, we'll provide you a quick synopsis of the specifics for both cards as well.

Specifications & Features of The 256MB ATi Radeon 9800 Pro and The GeForce FX 5900 Ultra
They're big, bad and hella fast


Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB

RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB

  • 380MHz Core Clock


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


  • 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

    • 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


    • 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


    • 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


    GeForce FX 5900 Ultra


    • .13u Manufacturing Process
    • 256-Bit GPU - 450MHz Clock Speed
    • Flip-Chip BGA Package with copper interconnects
    • Up To 8 Pixels Per Clock Processing
    • 1 TMU Per Pipe (16 Textures per unit)
    • 2 x 400MHz Internal RAMDACs
    • 256-bit Memory Architecture


    • 850MHz DDR

    • 256-Bit Bus Width

    • 128MB & 256MB Memory Capacity

    • 3rd. Generation Lightspeed Memory Architecture

    • Effective bandwidth - 27.2GB/s actual @ 850MHz

    • 256MB of DDR/DDR2


    • CineFX 2.0 for Cinematic Special Effects
    • "UltraShadow" Hardware Shadow Acceration
    • 2x floating point pixel shader performance of NV30
    • 256MB High Speed Frame Buffer
    • AGP 4X/8x
    • DVI + VGA + TV / VIVO
    • Full DirectX 9.0 & OpenGL Support

    CINEFX 2.0

    • 64-Bit Floating-Point Color
    • 128-Bit Floating-Point Color
    • Long Program length for Pixel and Vertex Shading
    • Unified Vertex and Pixel Shading instruction set
    • Unified Driver Architecture
    • nView 2.0 - Multi-Display Technology
    • Digital Vibrance Control 3.0
    • 2nd Generation compression & caching
    • Intellisample HCT
      Next Generation Antialiasing, Anisotropic Filtering and Compression
    • Hardware Acceleration for Shadows


    HotHardware's Test Setup
    Canterwood and the fastest P4

    Pentium 4 Processors at 3GHz  - 800MHz System Bus
    Motherboard and RAM Config
    Abit IC7-G "Canterwood" Motherboard
    512MB of Kingston HyperX PC3500 CAS 2 RAM
    CAS Timings were 2-2-2-5
    NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra  256MB
    NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra  128MB
    ATi Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB

    Other Hardware and Software:
    Seagate Barracuda V SATA 120GB HD
    Windows XP Professional w/ SP1
    NVIDIA Detonator FX Drivers Version 44.03
    ATi Catalyst 3.4 Drivers

    Intel Release Chipset Driver  v5.00.1012
    Intel Applications Accelerator RAID Edition v3.0.0.229

    3DMark 2001 SE Benchmarks
    Direct X 8 Performance

    In our first series of tests, we ran Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 SE and 3DMark 2003. Frankly we're a little uncertain with respect to validity of this suite of benchmarks, as rumors and accusations fly in the media of NVIDIA's alleged "optimizations" (or cheating depending on who you talk to) on both 2001 and 2003 benchmarks.  We have yet to prove out some of these claims ourselves in our labs, so for now we'll include these scores as a component of our total performance metric between the two cards.  These scores are only a piece of the complete picture and since the tests are "synthetic" in a general sense, they only correlate loosely with respect to real world gaming performance.



    The GFFX5900 Ultra and the 256MB R9800 Pro are neck and neck here, when you look at the standard scores, without Anti-Aliasing in the mix.  Actually, the R9800 card has a more significant lead in the default benchmark, until you invoke 4X AA.  Then the GFFX5900 Ultra pulls ahead by a healthy margin, with its higher over all memory bandwidth most likely giving it the edge.

    Next Up - 3DMark 2003 and Serious Sam SE

    Tags:  ATI, Radeon, GeForce, Ultra, force, fx, 980, pro, ULT

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