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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [10.02.03]
Manufactured by: PowerColor 

Est. Street Price: ~$450

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The Tech

The 9800 Pro 256 adds a bit more compared to the regular Pro. Along with twice as much RAM, you get the DDRII variety. RAM speed is also boosted, but not by much.

To test the capabilities of the Pro 256, we will be comparing it to a couple of its predecessors, along with a GeForce FX 5900. We aren't un posession of a 5900 Ultra unfortunately, so bear that in mind when comparing the ultra expensive 9800 Pro 256 to the 5900. The regular 9800 Pro is more in line with the 5900 price wise.

Let's have a look at the specs of the cards we'll be benching:

  Core Clock Speed Pixel Pipelines mPixel Fillrate per second Tex Units per Pipeline Mtexel Fillrate per second Memory Speed Memory Bus Width Peak Memory Bandwidth
Radeon 9800 Pro 256 380 MHz 8 3040 1 3040 700 MHz 256 bit 22.4 GB/s
Radeon 9800 Pro 380 MHz 8 3040 1 3040 680 MHz 256 bit 21.8 GB/s
Radeon 9700 Pro 325 MHz 8 2600 1 2600 620 MHz 256 bit 19.8 GB/s
GeForceFX 5900 400 MHz 4 1600 2 3200 850 MHz 256 bit 27.1 GB/s
GeForceFX 5900 Ultra 450 MHz 4 1800 2 3600 850 MHz 256 bit 27.2 GB/s

I also threw the 5900 Ultra in there for reference. Compared to the regular 5900 we have, it has double the ram, although it's running at the same speed. The Ultra does increase the clock speed compared to the regular 5900, so we have two different trains of thought here with ATI and NVIDIA. Obviously NVIDIA is comfortable with the memory bandwidth capabilities of their 5900, and didn't see the need to increase that.

Just a side note on the 9800 256 that I noticed; the DDRII RAM running at 700 MHz gets incredibly hot under load. I always thought ramsinks were nothing more than gimmicks, and found it absolutely silly to share a heatsink with the core and RAM (the ram should never get as hot as the core, and if anything you are heating it up by sharing a heatsink). However as technology advances, I can see the need for ramsinks now. For cards like the 9800 Pro 256, ramsinks are essential (the non 256 does not have them).

The Test

Here is the system used for testing all video cards:

CPU: Pentium 4 3.2 GHz
Motherboard: DFI Lanparty 875
RAM: 512MB Kingmax DDR400
HDD: Seagate Barracuda IV 80GB ATA100
OS: WinXP with SP1 and DirectX 9b

ATI Catalyst 3.7 (WHQL Certified)
NVIDIA Detonator 45.23 (WHQL Certified)

All publicly available benchmarks can be found on our Downloads Page.

We did almost every test in 4 modes per card. These modes are ones that most gamers will actually use when they play games.

1024x768 - To produce a real gaming environment many will use
1600x1200 - To produce a high resolution gaming environment (for you boys with big monitors!)
1024x768 w/ 4xAA and 8x Aniso - A gaming environment most high end users will use
1024x768 w/ 6xAA and 16x Aniso - Another gaming environment which will stress out the ATI cards (the GeForceFX is not capable of this mode)

On with the show!

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