The PCB of the card is compact and simple, similar to the PCB of the RADEON 9700 PRO, but redesigned for stable work at high frequencies. There’s a row of pins to the left of the chip: it is the special-purpose interface for connecting a TV-tuner or additional TDMS-transmitter. We’ve already seen this all in the RADEON 9700 PRO.
The GPU boasts a new cooling system with a silver-colored needle-plate heat-spreader of a curious (parallelogram) shape. The fan now has more blades, while the blades themselves became thinner. ATI heard the indignant cry from overclockers at last and the heat-spreader has got a bump in its sole to provide a good contact with the die surface, although the protective gasket, which hindered proper heat transfer in the RADEON 9700 PRO, remained as it was. A normal thermal paste is used as the thermal interface instead of the “gum” every overclocker hates for its poor heat-conductive properties. The cooler is fastened rather offhandedly, there’s a real chance of damaging the GPU die. Moreover, the cooler itself looks low-powerful, incapable of performing its job well. We’ll see whether it is really so, shortly.
The memory chips are not cooled at all. The PCB carries eight memory chips from Hynix with 2.8ns access time. By default, the memory works at 340MHz (680MHz DDR) frequency, while the GPU is clocked at 380MHz.
The new power connector is a joy – ATI installed a standard 4-pin connector instead of the flimsy one employed in floppy-drives. There’s no danger you accidentally tear it off. Overall, the card can’t boast any extraordinary features, but it is a well-made, high-quality product.
2D Quality and Overclocking
The ATI RADEON 9800 PRO graphics card was displaying an excellent image in all modes, including 1600x1200@85Hz.
As for overclocking, I took to it quite cautiously (remember my apprehensions about the cooler?). I used an additional 92mm cooler that was blowing at the card from a side. The GPU worked stable at 445MHz (!), while the memory was somewhat worse – 378MHz (756MHz DDR). When I increased the frequencies further up, I got all manner of visual artifacts. So, these frequencies were the limit. The flimsy nature of the cooler showed up, though. After about an hour of continuous testing, artifacts appeared in 3DMark2001 and 3DMark03. The card was very hot then, in spite of the additional cooling, while the memory chips hurt to the touch. So, it’s simple: although the cooling system of the RADEON 9800 PRO handles the temperature well enough in its regular mode, I don’t recommend you install the card into a case without additional exhaust fans. You’d better even take a system case with a side fan, which blows at the expansion cards.
Thus, the ATI RADEON 9800 PRO deserves our appraisal for the quality of manufacture, exterior and equipment, but its cooling system is only satisfactory. It prevents the card from overheat, but the temperatures remain very high.