ATI 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro Vs GeForce Fx 5900 Ultra

ATI 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro Vs GeForce Fx 5900 Ultra - Page 3

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



Unreal Tournament's Fly By Demos are perhaps the most relevant gaming benchmarks we can show you at this point in time.  Not only are Unreal II and UT2003 extremely popular games but the game engine itself showcases leading edge DX8 3D rendering effects and impressive eye candy.  If you're looking for "real-world" performance metrics, this benchmark is the one to focus on, at least for now.  However, when Doom3 appears, you can be sure we'll be relying on it heavily around the lab here, for next generation Graphics Card performance analysis.

Unreal Tournament 2003 Benchmarks
Current, Mainstream Direct X 8 Gameplay

In these final tests, we've narrowed the field down to just the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card and the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra.  Here are the results...

Although the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card definitely "hangs" with the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra at standard settings, enable AA or Aniso Filtering and the GFFX 5900 Ultra begins to distance itself handily.  With 4X AA enabled the GFFX 5900 U has a 19% lead.  With 8X AF enabled on top of that, the gap closes to 12%.  You can't argue with those numbers but you can argue a bit with the IQ of the R9800 Pro 256, which has slightly cleaner looking AA overall.  Regardless, NVIDIA's top card has the horsepower to spare obviously and without question, a driver revision could indeed improve the IQ of the card.


More of the same is show here, only at 1600X1200 resolution, the GFFX 5900 Ultra shows its fill rate and memory bandwidth advantage, even with AA or AF enabled.  We should also note that our we were informed of a driver bug in NVIDIA's 44.03 Detonator FX drivers, that causes inefficient use of frame buffer memory, when triple buffering is enabled as well as AA, at resolutions above 1024X768 in this test.  The scores here are representative of triple buffer being turned off for both cards, while using a standard "high quality" ini file, that sets both cards to identical high quality rendering modes within the Unreal graphics engine.

The GeForce FX 5900 Ultra has an impressive 29% lead over the Radeon 9800 Pro card at default settings.  The lead then expands to 33% with 4X AA enabled but closes down again to 15% when you turn on 8X Anisotropic Filtering.  For sure, NVIDIA's card is much more heavily impacted by AF processing overhead.  However, it's still faster by a significant margin, no matter how you slice it. 

Let's think about our conclusion here, from the "fortunate enthusiast" perspective.  You're about to plunk down $499 on a Graphics Card ( MSRP for both the R9800 Pro 256MB and the GFFX 5900 Ultra, with lower street prices eventually) and you want a "no compromises" solution with the best frame rates and image quality.  Let's REALLY think about this, people.  We are definitely in a bit of a conundrum with respect to what our preference would be here at HotHardware.  Personally, I can't remember a time in my 5 year career here, as Founder of this site, where I have been so totally on the fence about a competitive product match-up.  Let's break this down.

On one hand, we have the "brute force" all out monster frame rates of the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra.  The card takes no prisoners and makes no excuses.  It consumes two PCI slots in your PC chassis, is louder (although a quantum leap improvement over the 5800 Ultra) and bulkier than the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card.  It punches out overall frame rate that is a notch above the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card, even with ATi's latest extremely mature Catalyst Driver suite, in almost all test conditions.  In the end, the 5900 Ultra may end up costing you more, because it clearly must cost more to build.  However, you don't care, you are the top end niche' of the Enthusiast PC market.  Cost is not an object.

On the other hand the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card takes up one slim PCI slot.  Its HSF assembly is nearly inaudible.  The card boasts easily the best looking Anti-Aliasing on the market right now (at least until NVIDIA releases a new driver that could clean things up) and when you turn on Aniso Filtering it comes within striking distance of the GFFX 5900 Ultra.  You want crisp, sharp, detailed gaming at high frame rates and you are willing to pay for it.  The Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB, with its sleek elegant design, looks pretty sexy too, just like your girlfriend's friend (or the other way around for you ladies in our audience).

We usually speak as a "team" here at HotHardware.  However, this time I'm going to make an exception and just plain level with all of you, personally.  As Computer Hardware Journalists and Media types, we have the ability to run THE best gear in our own rigs, anytime we want.  If we need to pull a card out for the test bench, so be it.  After the article is done, pop the card back in and reboot.  As such, I have my druthers on which 3D Graphics Accelerator I'm going to run personally.  I think my needs are fairly representative of a lot of our readers.  I like to work, surf the net, watch TV and play games on my computer.  When I'm on the desktop, I want the best 2D image quality money can buy.  I spend countless hours staring at the screen, on launch article for example.  When I game, I want the fastest frame rates and the best image quality.  Why?  Because I can have it, if I so choose.  So, where does this leave me with two of the top 3D cards at my disposal?  I am on the fence here and I can't seem to fall off one way or the other.  With the impressive frame rates of the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, I would have to lean that way, if and only if, NVIDIA can clean up their AA and take their Aniso performance up a notch.  If not, I would lean the way of the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card or a 128MB version for that matter.  The frame rates are right up there and the IQ is to die for.

Sorry folks, I know it sounds pretty indecisive but we're going to reserve formal comment on this match-up, at least until NVIDIA formally hits production with the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra in June.  Maybe then, with a new driver release, the tables will turn more definitively to the GFFX 5900 Ultra, since it is the faster of the two cards, without question.  However, frame rate isn't everything anymore.  You know that, I know that and so do NVIDIA and ATi.  What a coin toss and what a great problem to have.

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

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