Sapphire Atlantis 9800XT

The Sapphire Atlantis 9800XT - Page 1

The Sapphire Atlantis 9800XT
Up Close and Personal with Sapphire's Radeon 9800 XT 256MB

By, Marco Chiappetta
December 30, 2003

In late September '03, ATi refreshed their fall line-up with the Radeon 9800 XT, knocking the then dominant Radeon 9800 Pro from its perch atop ATi's video card food chain.  We reviewed one of the first Radeon 9800 XTs to come out of ATi back then, and were thoroughly impressed with the card's performance and in-game image quality, but we did find the $500+ price tag a bit tough to swallow.  With this new XT branded card, ATi didn't pioneer many new features, but rather they refined their existing technology so it would run at higher clock speeds.  In doing so, they introduced a new, massive copper cooling solution with a variable speed fan that ensured the GPU and RAM hummed along at acceptable temperature levels.  The one new feature that was added to the 9800 XT, was an on-die thermal sensor that monitors the GPU's internal temperature.  The data collected from this sensor is used in conjunction with another new feature added to ATI's Catalyst drivers, dubbed "Overdrive".  The "Overdrive" feature dynamically overclocks the card, and if temperatures get out of control, the GPU fan spins-up and clock speeds are throttled back down to default levels.  ATi also struck a deal with the Game Developer Valve, to bundle Half Life 2 with all new XT models .  The hardware may not have been revolutionary at the time, but ATi ended up putting together an overall package that was compelling to hard-core enthusiasts, with adequate disposable incomes.  It then came as no surprise that a multitude of ATi's board partners like Visiontek, Asus, Gigabyte and Sapphire, soon announced that they too would be adding the Radeon 9800 XT to their product lines.

So far, we've had first hand experience with ATi's own Radeon 9800 XT and Asus' take on the card.  Today on HotHardware.Com, we're going to get up close and personal with Sapphire's version, the Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT 256MB.  This card sports all of the same features as ATi's model, but lacks the ViVo functionality found on Asus' card.  Sapphire's card, however, is available at a somewhat lower price point, and includes some extras not found with competing products.  Read on for the full report...

Specifications & Features of The Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT
ATi's Current Flagship GPU


RADEON 9800 XT Visual Processing Unit (VPU)
412MHz Core Clock

256MB of DDR SDRAM - 730MHz DDR

- Eight parallel rendering pipelines process up to 3.3 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

- 2nd generation N-patch higher order surface support
- Discrete and continuous tessellation levels per polygon for dynamic LOD
- DirectX 9.0 displacement mapping

- 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

- 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

- 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


- 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

The Bundle:


By now, we all know that a voucher for Valve's highly anticipated first person shooter Half Life 2 is being bundled with all ATi Radeon 9800 XTs, but with the Atlantis Radeon 9800 XT Sapphire took things a step further.  Not only are owners greeted by the coupon for Half Life 2, but they'll also find a full copy of Eidos' Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness as well.  That's about $100 worth of games for those that are counting, and yet there's still a bit more.  One of the best pieces of DVD playback software is also bundled with this card, Cyberlink's excellent PowerDVD.  Obviously, a driver CD is also included with the Atlantis 9800 XT, as well as another CD containing Sapphire's proprietary Redline overclocking / tweaking utility.  Rounding out the bundle is a user's manual, composite and S-Video cables, an S-Video to composite adapter, a 4-Pin Molex power cable splitter and lastly a DVI-to-DB15 adapter, for those looking to connect dual analog monitors to the card.

The Card & Some Screenshots

Tags:  Sapphire, App, LAN, SAP, 980, XT, AP

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