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ASUS RADEON 9800 XT: Closer Look

So, I extracted the thing out of the box and gasped: it is more like a jewel rather than a trivial graphics card. The card looks most extraordinary with its silver figured plate mounted on the cooler and gold heatsinks that match the PCB color.


The cooling solution is called ASUS Smart Cooling. This well-designed system traces its origin to the cooler installed on the ASUS V9950, but has made a step farther. A flat heat-pipe takes the heat from the copper plate that contacts the VPU and memory chips surface to the heatsinks. The heatsinks are not part of the plate; they are screwed up to it. Two fans are blowing at these heatsinks. One of the fans is equipped with a rotation sensor Smart Doctor II uses. The engineers never forgot about the memory chips located at the back side of the PCB: a nicely shaped copper plate serves as a heatsink for them. The whole cooling system is reliably fixed in place. The front and back parts of the cooler are fitted together by spring screws. This prevents any damage to the fragile VPU die. A white thermal paste with good thermal properties serves as the thermal interface. ASUS Smart Cooling is very efficient and deserves all our praise and credit.

The manufacturer didn’t just use the reference design from ATI, but changed it a little. The difference turns clear when you look at the back side of the PCB. Instead of the square-shaped Rage Theater 200 chip, ASUS installed an older rectangular Rage Theater chip, which required some changes in the PCB wiring layout.

The memory installed on the card comes from Hynix. The chips have 2.5ns access time and work at 365MHz (730MHz DDR), although their nominal frequency equals 400MHz (800MHz). The total amount of graphics memory is 256MB. The VPU works at 412MHz. There is one peculiarity, though. The dynamic overclocking function, OVERDRIVE, doesn’t work with this card, just like ASUS Smart Doctor II refuses to run on graphics cards that follow ATI Technologies’ reference design. Choosing between the two, I would say the owner of the ASUS card shouldn’t be disappointed. OVERDRIVE is of little use, as it provides a small performance gain, and the VPU frequency goes down after the critical temperature is reached. In my opinion, the hardware monitoring system, ASUS Smart Doctor II, is much more useful.

ASUS Smart Doctor II – Keeping ASUS RADEON 9800 XT/TVD in Good Health

The new version of the exclusive hardware monitoring system from ASUS can do a lot. It can keep track of the fan rotation speed, control the voltages as well as the temperatures of the GPU and memory. This is what the interface of Smart Doctor II looks like:

The settings are flexible enough. You can enable the overheat protection system and set up the threshold values when the alarm signal should go off. You can set up the rotational speeds of the fans depending on the graphics chip temperature. I think this is a better and more functional monitoring and protection system than the one offered by ATI Technologies. Besides that, Smart Doctor can overclock the card, although in a narrow frequency range: up to 440MHz GPU and 770MHz memory. Interestingly, the model of the graphics card is shown as “A9800XT”. Such short names are typical of ASUS’ products.

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