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

We continued our testing 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.  We used the "Extreme Quality" script created by the folks at Beyond3D to be certain all of the cards were tested using the same in-game settings and graphical options.  We ran the tests at 1024x768 and again at 1600x1200, with and without AA enabled.

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

At 1024x768 without Antialiasing enabled, this benchmark belonged to the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra.  When we upped the resolution and turned on AA, however, the 9800 Pros took over.  With 4X AA and 6X AA enabled at 1024x768, the 256MB Radeon was approximately 4.7% and 4.9% faster then its 128MB cousin.  The 256MB 9800 Pro's lead grew to over 8.1% with the resolution set to 1600x1200 with 4X AA enabled, but dropped backed down to 2.2% with 6X AA enabled.

Overclocking With The 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro
Sure it was Fast, But We Made It Faster.
 

RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB
OVERCLOCKED (428 / 810)
 

RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB
DEFAULT CLOCK SPEEDS

At default clock speeds, the 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro is an extremely fast video card.  We have to admit that seeing this card released with the same core clock speed as the 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro was a bit of a let down though.  Every video card we have tested based on an R3xx GPU has had quite a bit of headroom left, so we were hoping ATi would release this card with higher clock speeds than previous models.  To remedy our pain, we installed Rage3D Tweak and overclocked our 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro until our test system was no longer stable.  We were able to take our card all the way up to a core clock speed of 428MHz, with the memory clocked at 810MHz (405MHz DDR).  That's a full 48MHz (12.7%) higher than the default core clock speed and 110MHz (15.7%) higher than the default memory speed!  Note: Overclocking Results MAY NOT be typical of cards sold at retail.  We ran 3DMark03's default benchmark with the card overclocked and saw a significant 7% increase in the overall score.  The card actually overclocked much higher than this, but performance decreased and there were a ton of visual artifacts.  We suspect one (or multiple) pixel pipelines stopped working at higher clock speeds.

Overall we were impressed with the 256MB ATi Radeon 9800 Pro.  However, It is tough to justify spending the extra money for a 256MB video card at the moment.  We're certain the extra memory will come in handy in the future, when more demanding games like Doom III or Half Life 2 are released, but for now there isn't much of a benefit unless you're running at higher resolutions with Antialiasing enabled.  Presently, the 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro can be found for approximately $400 at some on-line retailers.  When it ships, the 256MB model's street price is expected to hover around $500.  Deciding whether or not the extra performance is worth the $100 price premium is ultimately up to you, but we suspect most owners of Radeon 9500 class cards, or better, won't be upgrading anytime soon.  We'll also have to wait to see what NVIDIA has up their sleeves with the NV35 (although a little bird tells us we won't have to wait long).  In the end though, ATi does have an impressive product on their hands.  Thanks to the R350 core, and a mature driver package, the 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro offers top-of-the-line performance and arguably the best image quality available from any consumer level video card currently available.  The extra memory should also insure a longer life-span and will enable "super" high-quality modes in some games through the use of larger, more detailed textures.  Until the competition proves otherwise, enthusiasts looking for the ultimate gaming video card should look no further than the 256MB ATi Radeon 9800 Pro.

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Tags:  ATI, Radeon, 980, pro

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