Each of you has to face the choice of the proper graphics card for the home system sooner or later. Today the leaders of the 3D market are R3xx from ATI and NV3x from NVIDIA. The graphics cards based on top chips, such as ATI RADEON 9800 XT and NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra cost quite a bit of money but guarantee that all contemporary games will run without any problems on them. The cards from a better value price group, such as RADEON 9600/9600 PRO/9600 XT and NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600/5600 Ultra/5700/5700 Ultra cost a little less but at the same time offer lower performance.
But our life would be boring if the graphics card choice were limited by these few alternatives only. In order to introduce a bit of an intrigue, the manufacturers enriched their product range with the whole bunch of low-cost modifications: RADEON 9800 SE, GeForce FX 5900LE/XT and the like, so that it turns out really hard now to figure out if the card costs the money they ask for it or not.
In our today’s article we will take a closer look at the top-end graphics cards and their low-cost modifications, will pay due attention to their overclocking potential and their ability to be turned into a “fully-fledged” solution, and finally test them in all sorts of contemporary games in order to find out the best choice for your needs.
ATI RADEON 9800 XT/9800/9800SE Graphics Card Family
ATI RADEON 9800 XT
The today’s most powerful graphics processor in the ATI product family will be represented by ASUS A9800XT/TVD.
Top-end ASUS graphics cards usually follow the reference design and differ from the standard solutions by their higher functionality, such as the implemented hardware monitoring, for instance. RADEON 9800 XT based graphics card we are talking about now is also no exception.
This graphics monster from ASUS looks very neat and even miniature unlike the actual reference solution from ATI. The cooling system for the graphics processor and the memory chips consists of two parts. The cooler on the front of the PCB is designed on a copper footing with a heat pipe, aluminum heatsinks screwed to it and two fans. On the reverse side of the PCB there is a copper plate taking the heat off the memory chips. The important thing about this cooling system from ASUS is that it takes not too much room and allows installing any other cards into the PCI slot located next to the AGP.
The graphics card is equipped with 256MB of DDR SDRAM memory from Hynix with 2.5ns cycle time (Hynix HY5DU573222 AFM-25). The graphics processor and the memory of ASUS A9800XT/TVD work at 412MHz and 730MHz respectively.
We didn’t overclock this graphics card during our test session. Why? This is very simple. First, all juices have already been squeezed from RADEON 9800 XT, so that only extreme overclocking can ensure any tangible performance growth. And second, graphics cards of the kind are very rarely overclocked, because they are the top solutions in the product range and their owners have nothing to strive for :)